February 3, 2012

Excellent Music - Part 2

Let’s continue on with a few more albums that I came to love in the past year.

1. Marcus Miller – Silver Rain

Marcus Miller is a jazz musician and composer. He played as a bassist on Miles Davis' jazz band. Now he has a prolific solo career as well as working with other artists.

I clued onto Marcus Miller from his bass guitar performance with Lee Ritenour in the ‘Legends of Jazz Showcase with Ramsey Lewis’ bluray disc.

‘Silver Rain’ is from the jazz-rock genre. Many tracks on this album indeed rock pretty hard. If your system is not well sorted out (e.g., bass boom, poor separation), this album will easily degenerate into a mess.

I finally ‘got’ this album when I played it through the PMC IB2i loudspeakers which were at my place for a few weeks for a write-up. With the PMC, my room was pulsating with tight, well defined, deep bass notes from Miller’s playing. His two very short solo bass guitar tracks (tracks 1 ‘Intro Duction’ and 14 ‘Outro Duction’ alone were worth the price of the album.

A fun track is track 2 ‘Bruce Lee’, which uses melodies we easily associate with Bruce Lee’s movies. Miller also showed his ingenuity in re-arranging Beethoven’s serene ‘Moonlight Sonata’ into a harder-edged composition played with modern instruments.

2. Nils Lofgren – Acoustic Live

Nils Lofgren is most noted as a guitarist on Bruce Springsteen’s band. He also has a solo recording career with many recordings under his belt.

This particular recording is of one of his live performances, in which he is the lead vocal and plays the acoustic guitar and piano.

This recording captures the live atmosphere vividly. The listener’s involvement is enhanced by the interaction of Lofgren with the audience and the people's spontaneous response. The track that best demonstrates this is track 5 ‘Keith Don’t Go’, Lofgren showed his guitar playing prowess to great success, the pyrotechnics elicited shouts of excitement and applause from the audience. It is quite an immersive listening experience.

3. Dean Peer – Ucross

This album has long been regarded as an audiophile classic.

It consists entirely of Dean Peer’s own compositions and solo playing on his bass guitar. I have been looking for this album for some time after hearing his ‘Lord’s Tundra’ on Stereophile’s Test CD 3, but could not find it in local music stores. Finally I found it on Dean Peer’s own website.

The music, playing and recording quality of this album is superb. The sound fills the entire front portion of my listening room, not just with the music notes, but also oodles of atmosphere and air. The decay of the notes and the silence in-between complete the sonic picture and left the listener with a fulfilling listening experience.

You not only get startlingly transients, slam, speed, and deep bass but you also get beautiful ambience and texture.

4. Reference Recordings – Dallas Wind Symphony Sampler

All audiophiles know Prof. Keith Johnson’s classical music recordings on his Reference Recordings label.

This album consists of selections from his works with the Dallas Wind Symphony with the customary high recording quality.

Puchong Wong showed me a quote about this album from an issue of the Taiwanese hifi mag Audio Art – “Don’t buy this CD if your amplifier is not powerful enough, your loudspeakers are not big enough and your room is not huge enough.” Now, that should give you an idea of the kind of orchestral music on this album.

Indeed, on the opening track, the timpani whacks will startle first time listeners, and the bigger your system and your room are, the bigger the sound you’ll get.

Enjoy your music in 2012!

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