Author Archives: Marc Phillips

The Moore-McColl Jazz Society, Electric Fantastic | The Vinyl Anachronist

The long-lasting appeal of old-fashioned blues rock, full of blistering riffs from hollow-bodied Gibsons, Hammond B-3s and the mandatory three-piece horn section, the kind of music G. E. Smith used to play on his Telly when he was leading the SNL Orchestra and heck, even the Blues Brothers themselves, has always perplexed me. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with this music while growing up in Southern California–aside from Steely Dan, perhaps. This was the music for the young people in towns like Chicago and Detroit, where big, joyful and raucous music was the order of the day. The Moore-McColl Jazz Society plays that sort of music, the kind that borrows the ingredients from many different kitchens and serves you up something unique. The real secret to this nebulous musical genre is more than identifying all those elements–soul, R&B, rock and roll, blues and jazz–and showing how adept you are at playing each one. On their new album, Electric Fantastic, the Moore-McColl Jazz Society adopts that strategy. Singer/keyboard player Beth Moore and singer/guitarist Chance McColl got together last year to record their takes on various jazz and blues genres and assembled not just a band, but a society, to [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Madre Vaca, Winterreise | The Vinyl Anachronist

Just a few days after writing a review on jazz arrangements for Prokofiev, I’ve stumbled upon another CD in the review pile that takes classical compositions and arranges them for a jazz ensemble. In this case we’re talking about the eight-member “jazz collective” known as Madre Vaca and their new album Winterreise, which uses music from Franz Schubert to draw a complex and varied study of melancholia while using many different types of ensembles. Drummer-pianist Benjamin Shorstein arranged these pieces to take advantage of Madre Vaca’s ability to create a multitude of perspectives, with constantly changing moods and sounds. Schubert based his own composition on 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller, which focus on “the story of a rejected man who left his beloved’s home to wander away in the middle of a winter night.” That sounds dreary and full of sadness, but Madre Vaca approaches this subject matter as a way to reflect on our emotions, and how we are sometimes led down a path that’s dark, scary and cold. Through the use of such strong voices as saxophone (Juan Rollan), trumpet (Steve Strawley), trombone (Lance Reed) and guitar (Jarrett Carter), Madre Vaca seems determined to show us the lifelong [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Naim Audio Mu-so 2nd Generation Wireless Music System | REVIEW

  The Naim Audio Mu-so changed the way I listen to music. That’s not hyperbole, a ready-made pull quote that Naim can use in their print ads. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to borrow a Naim Mu-so QB, the smaller cube in the line-up, for a few months. I wasn’t that excited about the Mu-so when I first encountered it. To me, it was a fancy table radio. It did a lot of cool things, but these were mostly the things in audio I didn’t do at the time, like digital streaming. That Naim Audio Mu-so QB had been set up for me in advance, so I plugged it in and started exploring. I didn’t even have a proper owner’s manual for it. I just started poking around, and slowly I started to understand why I would want something like the Mu-so in my daily life. The first discovery was internet radio, something that didn’t interest me in the least before the Naim arrived at my office—the place where I ultimately planned to use it. Over the next few weeks I explored the thousands of stations playing all sorts of genres from all over the world. If [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Spirabassi’s Improkofiev | The Vinyl Anachronist

What’s an improkofiev? For that matter, what’s a spirabassi? Spirabassi‘s Improkofiev has one of those inscrutable album covers, letters going every which way, so it’s hard to figure out what this CD’s about without listening. Here’s the low down: soprano sax player Stephane Spira has teamed up with pianist Giovanni Mirabassi, along with drummer Donald Kontomanou and bassist Steve Wood, to record this album, which is called Improkofiev. It includes a jazz arrangement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1–a favorite composition from one of my favorite classical composers. Spirabassi is the name of this quartet, and Improkofiev refers to the fact that only “excerpts” of Prokofiev’s angular yet stunning themes appear. My first reaction to ideas explored in Spirabassi’s Improkofiev was oh, this is like the Jacques Loussier Trio performing all those fabulous jazz arrangements for popular Johann Sebastian Bach compositions. Spirabassi doesn’t restrict itself by sticking solely to Prokofiev, which I have to admit is an album I would buy in a second. Instead, the quartet runs through a few tracks first before launching into the three-part suite, giving us superb and lush interpretations of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1, Carla Bley’s “Lawns” and a couple of original tunes from Spira. The [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Leslie Ann Jones, dCS Legends | The Vinyl Anachronist

With the first round of our coverage of the dCS Legends series, I did an interesting and possibly misguided thing. When I mentioned the recording engineers honored by dCS, I’d trot out their Grammy-winning LP and listen to it. Why would I do that when we’re talking about dCS, a company at the pinnacle of digital playback? Unfortunately, I still haven’t had seat time with the dCS Bartok that the rest of our staff adored, so I have to come up with a purer way to acknowledge the work of the next honoree–Leslie Ann Jones, Director of Music and Scoring at Skywalker Sound. It just makes sense to listen to the Grammy-winning output of Leslie Ann Jones by streaming Qobuz, especially when you consider the Skywalker Ranch technology that has flowed into the entertainment industry. (Does anyone else miss getting blasted by that THX demo in big movie theaters?) But when you look at the Grammy winners, you’ll notice a lack of the bombastic: Alben Berg: Lyric Suite by Kronos Quartet, Dianne Reeves’ Goodnight and Good Luck, and three other mentioned above. I own the Alban Berg album on CD, but as I mentioned I decided to stream it. I [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Event Horizon Jazz Quartet, Event Horizon | The Vinyl Anachronist

Event Horizon, the eponymous debut album from the Chicago-based quartet, arrived under strange circumstances. I had just read an article on the 1993 space-horror film of the same name, and how it has achieved cult status over the last few years because it’s so twisted and graphic and ultimately disturbing despite mediocre reviews and general box office floppage. After watching some of the more gruesome scenes on YouTube, I had just come to the conclusion that I sorta kinda wanted to see it. And then this album appeared, and I asked “Kismet?” I wondered if Event Horizon, the jazz quartet, was as foreboding as the film–I immediately thought it would sound like a combination of Art Zoyd and Ornette Coleman. Instead, we get a lively and imaginative jazz quartet that prides itself at being fluent in several musical genres while staying ultimately true to jazz. Ostensibly led by “reed player” Jim Kaczmarek, Event Horizon is a quartet where all four members contribute equally. That’s unusual since this debut album is comprised of original compositions, which usually suggests a singular vision in the world of jazz. According to Kaczmarek, he’ll come up with an idea and the others–keyboardist Scott Mertens, bassist [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

HANA Umami Red – Sales Begin Today

The announcement of a new flagship Hana cartridge has most of us at Part-Time Audiophile in a frenzy. We all want to review the new $3950 Hana Umami Red, and I think we’re going to have to enter Thunderdome to determine which of us gets the honor. I think I should advance to the finals, since I’m the one who just reviewed the extraordinary Hana ML and loved it. Also, I’m the editor-in-chief, dammit, and what I say goes! Some long-forgotten bit of altruism deep inside of me squeaks, in a tiny little voice, “Let someone else review the Hana Umami Red. Spread the love that is Hana cartridges.” Here’s the thing: the Hana ML costs just $1200, and we feel it’s one of the best cartridge values there is. That goes for all of the Hana designs, which start at an incredible $475. These are Japanese cartridges, made in Japan by a master craftsman who has figured out an efficient design that doesn’t have to cost a fortune to buy. So the question became: “If Hana can make a cartridge this good and sell it in the US for just $1200, imagine how good an, oh say, $3950 Hana [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Dave Askren and Jeff Benedict, Paraphernalia | The Vinyl Anachronist

Paraphernalia: Music of Wayne Shorter from guitar player Dave Askren and sax player Jeff Benedict was released back in May–it’s another one of those wonderful releases that almost slipped through my fingers during my recent cross-country move. I remember being very impressed with it on first listen and putting it at the top of the review pile, but those piles were shuffled around and packed up and driven 3100 miles. I’m lucky I found it again. I’m lucky that I listened once more to find out why I originally felt it was so special. I feel like this is a tale I’ve told before, maybe just a few days ago. First of all, the sound quality on this CD is nothing short of oh yeah, baby. I’m talking reference quality, the kind of CD I’d bring to a high-end audio show back in the day. Lots of contemporary jazz releases have excellent sound quality, possibly because there is a huge overlap between audiophiles and jazz lovers. This is better than that. Jeff Benedict and Dave Askren are joined by bassist Jonathan Pintoff and drummer Chris Garcia, and they play deep into their instruments, coaxing precise sounds that don’t necessarily rely [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Louis Armstrong, Live In France | The Vinyl Anachronist

Many years ago, an audiophile buddy of mine said that the difference between an audiophile and a music lover is that the audiophile won’t truly appreciate mono recordings, especially those that are considered historically important because they represent a lost moment in time. The tide has changed somewhat, especially since many audiophiles have been prompted to appreciate monaural recordings reissues–Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, I’m looking in your direction–when the tonality is preserved. Louis Armstrong Live In France, another essential from Dot Time Records, poses a dilemma for audiophiles–will you buy something like this? Is it of value to you? It should be. Louis Armstong Live in France captures an important moment for the titular trumpet player and bandleader. Taken from performances at the 1948 Opera de Nice Festival, this LP shows another side to Armstrong, the intense and unrelenting side. According to trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton, who was there, he was “quaking at the ferocity with which he directed the band. If Sid Catlett’s drums started to intrude too heavily upon a solo, Louis would turn to him and hiss like a snake.” In other words, Louis Armstrong Live in France is all about the music, the heated performances and [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Goldring Ethos Phono Cartridge | REVIEW

I wasn’t supposed to review the Goldring Ethos phono cartridge. It merely hitched a ride with the Thorens TD-1601 turntable and arm combo that I have in for review. Anthony Chiarella, who represents both companies, had it mounted on the ‘table before it shipped. He told me that it was a match that everyone had really enjoyed while testing out the Thorens. Goldring? Sure, I was more than happy to keep the Goldring Ethos on the arm for the time being. 25 or 30 years ago, when I was deep deep deep into Brit hi-fi, Goldring was certainly a contender when it came to refined MM phono cartridges that were also affordable. Classic models such as the 1012 and the 1042 were great choices for the lesser Regas, especially if you felt like some of the cartridges from Rega lacked a bit of excitement (which I sometimes did). Goldring MC models such as the Eroica, Elite and Etile, have been favorites among my British pals over the years. I never bought a Goldring, but I came so close at least a couple of times. (I can say that about a lot of products, I suppose. Forty-plus years in this hobby [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile