Tag Archives: RTI

Listening Report: 1975 Bill Evans Trio Concert, On A Friday Evening, 180-Gram Vinyl, Qobuz / Tidal Streams

There is often a great divide between “audiophiles” and “fans” when it comes to archival releases. The former want their music to sound as good as possible with the performance often being only of secondary importance while the latter appreciate the full performances delivered in any format possible, warts ’n all…

I really first came to understand this notion back in my days as active Dead Head and collector of their live concerts. It was always a joy to get new shows but when you got a tape of a great performance that also sounded amazing, well that was the heavenly crossroads everyone dreamed about.  

In recent years there have been some wonderful archival releases issued as producers and archival sleuths like Zev Feldman dig deep into the recesses  of private collections and other previously unknown or long-rumored archival treasures which have presented themselves to the universe. 

I’ve reviewed a number of them by no less than Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. To read some of those reviews, click on the artists names to jump to the reviews I’ve done over the years.

Regarding the last name on that list, there happily seems to be a well spring of great recordings surfacing of late. Last year I wrote about the fabulous and rare 1968 set from Ronnie Scott’s club in London (click here for that) and there have been numerous others over the years.  In May, my associate Ken Micallef wrote about the new Bill Evans CD boxed set — Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (1956-1980) — which includes a 1975 live set of very high quality.  You can click here to read Ken’s review of the set but in short I concur with his perspective on the recording and performance. 

The good folks at Craft Recordings kindly sent me the new two-LP 180-gram vinyl version of that concert — recorded at Oil Can Harry’s in Vancouver, B.C. — which has been released separately, titled On A Friday Evening.  It is a wonderful recording which sounds to my ear like it was professionally engineered through a mixing board and onto analog tape (this was years before digital tape, folks). I can tell its not an audience recording because there is stereo panning on Evans’ piano apparent at times.  

However, part of the reason On A Friday Evening sounds as good as it does is because of a restoration step the producers wisely used from Plangent Processes.  This is a terrific technology and service that has been used by no less than Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and many others to correct issues — often significant issues — with the original tape due to motor speed fluctuations in the original recording, electrical variances (which can, again, affect motor speed) and other anomalies inherent to the tape and specific machines on which it was recorded. 

The result is a very tight sounding and in-tune recording that effectively brings the listener that much closer to what the original performance sounded like.  I have written about Plangent Processes before but if you want a fairly technical dive into it click here to read an article our former Editor Steven Stone wrote several years ago.

Kudos to Jamie Howarth at Plangent Processes for his work and to mastering engineer Paul Blakemore who clearly did an exemplary job on this nearly 50 year old recording. 

The whole set here is excellent but I particularly like “Saren Jurer,” “T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” (Eddie Gomez’ bowed bass solo is wonderful!)

The 180-gram vinyl pressing made at RTI is dark, well centered and quiet, so no problems on that front either.

If you don’t have a turntable but are into the high resolution streaming experience and have both a DAC plus certain subscriptions, you can find On A Friday Evening streaming on Tidal in MQA format and on Qobuz Hi Res (both stream at 192 kHz, 24-bits). The music sounds exemplary there and very warm as digital streams go (click here to jump to it on Tidal and here for Qobuz).  

Both the streams and vinyl versions have their pluses and minuses so I’m not going to rank one over the other. But for a couple quick examples, on the streams the stereo separation seemed more distinct to where it becomes very apparent that Evans’ piano was likely mic’d in Stereo, allowing you to hear the pan of his playing across the keyboard (left to right across your speakers). However, I preferred how the drums sounded on the vinyl version, particularly how the cymbals decayed.  So, not surprisingly there is a give and take on different platforms and services. Use your ears and go with what ultimately feels best to you. 

All that said, On A Friday Evening  should be high on your must get list if you are fan of Evans’ music or if you are simply an audiophile seeking high quality live recordings to show off your system.  This one is a keeper. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Classic Chet Baker, RTI-Pressed Kevin Gray Remastered Craft Recordings Vinyl (Part 1)

Before I get to the review portion of this exploration of the new remasters of classic albums by the legendary jazz musician Chet Baker, I thought it would be important to put the need for these reissues in perspective.

You see, my curiosity was peaked as to why these albums might be getting the analog, Kevin Gray Cohearant Audio mastering treatment here and now. There are several reasons, I suspect. The obvious one being that in 2019 these recordings were put into a boxed set with a bonus disc of outtakes and alternates from the period — so this is the first time those new remasters are available individually.

In keeping with similar reissue series from Universal Music and their Blue Note Tone Poet and Analog Productions imprints, these releases from Craft Recordings — the boutique audiophile arm of Concord Music which owns the catalogs of Riverside, Fantasy and Prestige Records among others — are albums which have achieved near legendary status among both jazz aficionados and audiophiles alike. 

And one resultant of that status is the reality that finding original pressings of these albums out in the wilds is next to impossible for all but the most fastidious of crate diggers.  I mean, I’ve been out there (pre Covid, at least) digging regularly and have only found a handful of good Chet Baker gems in the past 10 years (and almost none on the Riverside label). 

There have been many reissues of these albums over the years in varying quality and there are even “gray market” versions of some of these albums made from dubious sources and often using alternate artwork, yet charging full prices. So it is in the label’s and the fan’s best interest to issue a quality product to make sure people aren’t ripped off by unscrupulous marketers taking advantage of expired copyright laws overseas.

Accordingly, original pressings of Chet’s albums in Good to Near Mint condition go for quite a lot of coin on the collector’s marketplace. I spot checked what the titles in the new reissue series are going for at the time of this writing earlier this week, so click on any of the underlined titles in the next paragraph to jump to those pages for reference.

There were only three original Stereo pressings on Discogs  of Chet Baker In New York, selling for upwards of $250! Sellers of three Stereo copies of Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner & Loewe are asking for upwards of $125 each. There is one copy of Chet Stereo going for $136 — even the 1963 repressing of that album is asking upwards of $400!! The Monos are more abundant (six copies) yet very pricey!  Heck, the more recent 45 RPM two LP set of Chet from Analog Productions is going for upwards of $500!  The one Stereo copy of It Could Happen To You, Chet Baker Sings was going for nearly $600 and Mono copies ain’t cheap either!

So, yes there is clearly a need for these reissues for the rest of us who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a single rare original issue! All the pressings I have received for review are 180-gram, remastered at Cohearant Audio by Kevin Gray. The albums are all pressed at RTI and the packaging is exemplary with high quality, period accurate thick cardboard sleeves with pasted on artwork just like original copies (probably nicer than originals in some ways, actually). The black Stereo labels also seem accurate, only the serial numbers have inevitably changed.

And, how do they sound?  Generally, they are consistently quite beautiful — clean and rich, some delivering a nice sense of air around the music. The pressings are dead quiet, so there are no issues with quality controls that I can see/hear. While I don’t have original pressings to compare these albums to, I suspect they are a bit brighter than the 1958-59 editions (higher quality vinyl, audiophile grade pressing, less compression used in mastering, etc.).

Chet Stereo is my favorite of the batch with its lovely sound design which compliments this expressive music nicely. I like how the then-new Stereo reverb applied to Baker’s trumpet ricochet’s from one channel the other without feeling gimmicky. His horn playing works sympathetically with the band which on many cuts includes legends like Bill Evan on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar and Paul Chambers on bass. This album has classic oozing from every corner…

I did notice one curious reality, a detail likely of interest to those seeking a pristine presentations of the music. 

I had to listen to “It Never Entered My Mind” very closely many times to confirm whether what I was hearing was some sort of drop-out on the original magnetic tape at points or perhaps such clarity that it might be fluid gathering in Chet’s trumpet. Comparing the new reissue LP to versions on Qobuz and Tidal, I am leaning toward thinking it is physical wrinkle on the source tape used.  

Allow me a moment to be a wee bit obsessive about this while I offer some details…

On Qobuz, listen to this first version (click here) at around the 3:48 mark and you’ll hear the slightly garbled-wrinkled-tape sounding distortion similar to what I’m hearing on the new LP reissue. Yet, if you listen on another version also on Qobuz — click here, from the “Keepnews Collection” series — it does not have that anomaly.  There is a third version which sounds more clearly like a tape edit as it alters the sound stage for a moment (click here). There is a version with it on The Legendary Riverside Albums version (click here) streaming in 192 kHz, 24 bits. I suspect what I’m hearing is a physical tape edit wearing out, which happens over time.

For those of you on Tidal, compare this CD quality version (click here) with another containing the audible (likely) splice (click here). The Legendary Riverside Albums version streaming in 96 kHz  24-bit MQA format also has that anomaly (click here). 

Ok, thanks for indulging my obsessive audiophile-collector moment, but those of you who geek out on original pressings and getting the best audio quality may appreciate this microscopic focus.  

The question of course remains which tape source is the original? I would guess that the tapes with the audible splice — wrinkled or other wise — are probably the closest to the original. Just guessing, but I would suppose that perhaps later editions were digitally repaired. If any of you out there have further insights into this, please let us know in the comments below. 

Anyhow, Chet Stereo is a great album. Stay tuned as next week I’ll explore the other three albums in this fine reissue series, It Could Happen To You – Chet Baker Sings, Chet Baker In New York and Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner & Loewe.

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Drummers Drumming: Jack DeJohnette & Idris Muhammad Rock Rhythms From Different Directions

The good folks at Craft Recordings’ rich Jazz Dispensary subsidiary unearthed a handful of tasty jams toward the end of last year including near-forgotten albums by two of the greatest drummers in music history.  Issued in limited colored vinyl editions of 1,000 in conjunction with the equally dedicated team at Vinyl Me Please, these albums were all mastered from original tapes, with lacquers and 180-gram colored vinyl pressing done at the respected RTI (Record Technology Incorporated) plant.  

Jack DeJohnette’s Sorcery is a 1974 gem that pushes a lot of boundaries into free jazz, groove and near-psychedelic free-for-all. For the latter, I use the word “near” because if you’ve listened to Charles Mingus, Frank Zappa and later period John Coltrane you’ve no doubt heard explosive momentum like this. That isn’t a bad thing, mind you but I wanted to paint a picture with words so you know what to expect. 

Sorcery is a diverse album with moments of beauty and sadness (“Four Levels Of Joy,” “The Reverend King Suite”) and elation (the chanting on “The Right Time”). “Epilog” wraps the album with a sweet funky jazz fusion groove that is only missing Jean Luc Ponty soloing spacey electric violin over it. The lovely stone grey vinyl is perfectly quiet and well centered so the music just jumps out of the speakers. The fidelity varies as this was recorded at some different studios including Bearsville in Woodstock, NY. its not a bad sound at all here but don’t go into this expecting a Rudy Van Gelder (RVG) vibe. Sorcery is its own thing with much magic and wizardry happening courtesy of players like John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Bennie Maupin.  Not surprisingly Sorcery has been sampled a lot (click here to explore whosampled)

Idris Muhammad’s Black Rhythm Revolution on the other hand is a RVG jam recorded from 1971 that gets right down to the funk-sou-groove from the opening notes of “Express Yourself.”  For those not in the know, the formerly-named Leo Morris was an important player coming out of New Orleans having played on Joe Jones massive hit “You Talk Too Much”) and perhaps most notably –according to the wiki and some sources — Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” (note: the wiki and other sources also indicate that Wrecking Crew legend Earl Palmer played on that track so keep that in mind). He worked with Jerry Butler and even was in the cast of Hair for three years in New York, he also toured with Lou Donaldson. 

Black Rhythm Revolution is a groover through and through including a smoking cover of James Brown’s “Super Bad” — this album is worth the price of admission just to hear the snap of his snare drum here.  “Wander” has some incredibly over-the-top Tom Tom pitch-bend soloing going on in the middle of what turns into an epic sound safari.

Surprisingly this particular album hasn’t had seen a lot of sampling traction according to WhoSampled.com but others of Muhammad’s album have so that might explain some of the demand for an album like this. With guitar work by no less than Melvin Sparks and Clarence Thomas on saxes plus great trumpet work by Virgil Jones, Black Rhythm Revolution is a winner. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review