lundi 21 décembre 2009

Les Blue Note XRCD, une série jazz exceptionnelle? Steve Hoffman le pense...

Hommage senti de Steve Hoffman pour un de ses confrères, l'ingénieur de la série des XRCD Blue Note Alan Yoshida, dont les quatre premières rééditions viennent de paraître.

Voici ce que l'ingénieur de mastering préféré des amateurs de classic rock avait à dire:

First off, I feel like a kid in a candy store with these XRCD's. My Music Matters 45 RPM LP versions of the Blue Note catalog will be buried with me but these XRCD's I can listen to any time, any where, even in the car or on my kid proof kitchen Scooby Doo disk player. Cool beans!

Now before I start, let's get one thing out of the way (the proverbial elephant in the room).

"Would you have loved to master these XRCDs yourself?"

Steve: Of course. Who wouldn't?

Reviewer: "Are you mad or something that Alan Yoshida at Ocean Way got the gig?"

Steve: Not in the slightest. He is probably the best digital mastering engineer in the world today and will do the Blue Note catalog proud on XRCD.

OK, now that we got
that out of the way, let's move on.

Joe Harley and Robert Bantz cooked up these XRCD releases and I'm glad they did. In the past I've been critical of some of the XRCD mastering but never of the format. My buddy Kevin (ex-DCC'er) used to work at JVC and gave me a giant stack of the jazz XRCD's a few years ago that I (for the most part) enjoy to this day. I remember back when I was cutting the Analogue Productions 45 RPM
"Greatest Jazz Albums Of All-Time" series we had the master tapes of Bill Evans "Village Vanguard" and Kenny Dorham "Quiet Kenny" in the studio. For a kick I brought in my XRCD's of those two albums and sync'ed up the masters with the XRCDs. I expected nothing and got everything. They pretty much MATCHED. Shocked, I took a GOOD look (I never read credits) at who mastered these JVC disks. Same guy did them all: Alan Yoshida.

So, I sez to myself, like Doug Sax, here is a name that can be trusted.

Flash forward a few years and Joe Harley and I are with the Music Matters Blue Note team working on some of our 45 RPM releases and Joe casually mentions to me about the XRCDs of the same material that he is working on over at Ocean Way (old United-Western). I was at first surprised that he wasn't doing them at AcousTech with Kevin Gray and I so I asked him who was mastering them. He told me it was Alan Y. and I immediately relaxed. Heck, I did more than relax, I made a mental note to grab them when they came out (a sincere compliment, trust me).

So, now the first four are here and they are fabulous, inside and out.

Hank Mobley/Soul Station
Horace Parlan/Speakin' My Piece
Sonny Clark/Cool Struttin'
Tina Brooks/True Blue.

First thing I did when the package arrived was to take them into my mastering studio ( and fire away. I was tense. I'm probably the first reviewer of these XRCDs that have actually heard first hand the true original Rudy Van Gelder master tapes. First note I heard of the Tina Brooks made me sink back on my couch and smile. Phew! Wonderful sound.

All four of them sound amazing, having been engineered by the prolific Rudy Van Gelder, live to two-track at 15 ips 1/4" tape (non-Dolby).

Alan Yoshida is fanatic about tape alignment and these Blue Note tapes have NO alignment tones on any of them so I'm sure the largest part of Alan's day is getting these reels in perfect alignment (with the moon and stars) so playback is perfectly neutral. Whatever subtle mastering changes Alan has made he has done so with the help of Joe Harley so our ears are in good hands. Joe has worked with Alan for many years and the relationship works well..

What can I say about the music? As Paul McCartney said about The White Album
"It's friggin' BLUE NOTE!"

The artwork and packaging is first rate and just like our Music Matters 45 RPM vinyl versions, the original photographic negatives were used in artwork design. I've never seen better!

I think there will be initially 20 or so of these and who knows? If the series is successful there might be more.

My buddy and Blue Note freak Joe Harley is part of this
Audio Wave Blue Note team and he along with Robert Bantz (president of Elusive Disc and now Audio Wave Music) and engineer Alan Yoshida along with Scott Warpool and the BN maven Michael Cuscuna deserve to be congratulated on this supreme effort. I know it is not easy dealing with major record labels and there must have been some intense backroom scenes in order to make this happen in a digital manner. I appreciate the effort and so will you.

I recommend these highly. If you want the best digital versions of these great Blue Note albums, grab these. In my opinion they are the best that have ever been done and probably the best that ever will be. They can't stay in print forever so don't delay!

I'm looking forward to hearing the rest as they come out.

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