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Category:    Home > Reviews > Jazz > Piano > Standards > Multi-Channel Music > Leslie Pintchik – Quartets (2007/Super Audio Compact Disc)

Leslie Pintchik – Quartets (2007/Super Audio Compact Disc)

 

PCM 2.0: B     DSD (high definition audio) 2.0: B+/5.0: A-     Music: B+

 

 

When we last heard Leslie Pintchik, it was form her remarkable debut album So Glad To Be Here (2003) released in the Super Audio CD format (aka SACD) at a time when it was competing with the DVD-Audio format.  Since then, DVD-Audio has all but been abandoned (occasionally showing up as part of a set like The Beatles’ Love) but SACD became a permanent staple with audiophiles.  If her first album received massive press notice back then, her new album Quartets (2007) makes her a sort of sole survivor of audio excellence.

 

Her new album, if anything, is the kind of musical and sonic progress music fans had hoped for with the new possibilities of fidelity and to think with all the innovative artists in each genre out there that a Jazz Pianist new to album recording would have one of the most important albums of the year again is another great triumph doe women in the industry up there with Aimee Mann and K.T. Tunstall.

 

If “vivid” was the word that best expressed my impressions of the debut album, “stunning” is the one I use to describe her sophomore effort.  In the ensuing years, with tours and the luxury of being able to think through what she wanted to do next, the result is an even more advanced work that shows off her advanced grasp of both music genres and a prowess for piano that has only advanced since 2003.

 

If you look at the songs included on the album, most of which she wrote herself, they seem deceptively simple:

 

1)     Happy Days Are Here Again

2)     Too Close For Comfort

3)     A Simpler Time

4)     Not So Fast

5)     Over Easy

6)     Private Moment

7)     Fugu

8)     Small Pleasures

9)     Somewhere/Berimbau

 

 

However, they are anything but, played with a warmth, grasp, grace and panache that few Jazz albums ever come close to.  Bassist Scott Hardy, who wrote track seven and was involved with the previous album, is back as part of the two quartets that play both halves of the album.  Percussionist Satoshi Takeishi is also back.  If it was not enough that their chemistry has only grown closer, they have more exceptionally skilled musicians joining them, including Mark Dodge on Drums (tracks 1, 2 ,3, 7 & 9) as the first quartet, then Steve Wilson (alto & soprano sax) filling in for Takeishi (tracks 4, 5, 6 & 8) for the other quartet.

 

Eloquent is the best way to describe the overall work, a class act that even someone who never bought a Jazz or Piano album or even listens to either music type is bound to be instantly impressed by how consistently amazing this album is.  On the standards, like Happy Days Are Here Again, a new irony is drawn from the classic that several people (most recently Barbra Streisand (even including a duet version with Judy Garland) in the mid-1960s) have made their own.  By playing it for its deepest nuances, Pintchik has revealed a new beauty that is as ironic as it is sad, as if the hopes for happier days may never be achieved.  In Streisand’s case, it was about the dream of the song possibly being realized as The Civil Rights Movement moved in.  Long after it has faded like The Great Depression that inspired the original in the first place, it has become a universal standard and by not adding vocal plays the song like it is still alive, ready to once again return to power one day with the reliability of an old friend.  What a beautiful way to start the album.

 

It is followed by another Jazz Vocal favorite as instrumental, Too Close For Comfort.  This time, instrumental liberties are taken and it is to the songs advantage as new pieces not normally associated with the hit work very well within it.  The originals on this album are beautiful and show a love of music, but are so well made and played that they sit alongside the covers like expensively bound books on a bookshelf of the kind you always want to keep.  Then the album concludes with two songs back to back, the first of which Streisand made into her own far more recently, Somewhere from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.  A coincidence as far as we can tell, but with a slower build and Berimbau as the conclusion of that closing track, a fine ending to a set you will wish never ended.

 

Before we tell you about how sonically superior this release is from the Ambient Records label, we ant to let you know (before we forget) that you can read more about it, the previous SACD and the artists involved at either the www.ambientrecords.com or www.lesliepintchik.com websites to learn more about this impressive disc, one I strongly recommend you obtain just to hear the music.

 

 

As before, the PCM 2.0 CD tracks are good, with a nice clarity and fullness for the old 16bit/44.1kHz format, but the 5.0 DSD (Direct Stream Digital) Super Audio CD mix (criticized for being surround restrictive on the previous release) is amazing.  If the previous SACD remained one of my favorites in any audio format, the producing by Hardy & Pintchik (with major input by A.T. Michael MacDonald) has produced one of the best audio albums ever released.

 

Many classics have been issued in multi-channel SACD (and its stunning giant Direct Stream Digital (DSD) 2.8 million-oversampling 1-bit technology) from Elton John, The Who, Steely Dan and Carole King that brought great albums to unbelievable life form the original masters, but few artists making there latest works took advantage of the format or made it work.  The few who did included Donald Fagen, Beck, Nine Inch Nails and Ryan Adams, showing how far you could take the sonics and demonstrate how good music could and should sound by now.  So Glad To Be Here was an album that came close to the best their releases had to offer, but Quartets is so much a next-step SACD that it is as much a demo as any of those releases, even when they decide not to use the surrounds all the time.

 

On the best systems, it sets new highs for how good instruments can sound and for all the Classical and Jazz releases we have heard (which are many more than we have reviewed,) that speaks volumes.  The articulation, smoothness and warmth are tip rate and prove that SACD and DSD are far from dead.

 

Recently, as the high definition video “war” we have covered as extensively as any other press around has moved on, two new audio formats were introduced to match the HD video that HD-DVD and Blu-ray could deliver.  One is Dolby TrueHD, which is simply an upgraded version of DVD-Audio’s MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) system that goes great with HD, while DTS has issued a lossless version of DTS-HD dubbed DTS-MA (Master Audio) that is also very advanced and has (like TrueHD) delivered some stunning 5.1 and even 7.1 mixes that give films and even concerts (and their cousin, Musicals) new realness and fullness like never before.

 

However, there is nothing like pure music to playback without the editing and mixing narrative and even concert discs require.  Having heard the best the newest DTS and Dolby offer, DSD still has its sound advantages and the 5.0 DSD on Quartets could go few rounds in sonic clarity and articulation (if not surrounds) with the best movie soundtracks in the HD formats like Batman Begins, Hairspray, V For Vendetta, Immortal Beloved, Ghost Rider, The Spider-Man Trilogy, 300 and any concert HD-DVD or Blu-ray to date, including two I liked despite some compression and some lack of surrounds: Yes – Live At Montreux (HD-DVD so far) and Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds – Live At Radio City (Blu-ray) which simply benefit from more room for the audio to breathe on their above-standard-DVD trappings.

 

Quartets is demo material just on a sonic level, but that it is great music that really delivers is fantastic and it deserves to be a huge hit, audiophile and home theater favorite for years to come.  Those in the know won’t miss it.  You shouldn’t either.

 

 

For more on So Glad To Be Here, try this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1730/Leslie+Pintchik+-+So+Glad+To+Be

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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