Friday, July 3, 2009

Michael Fremer Review

I am very proud to continue our new feature (look for this every Friday), music reviews that are written by the senior contributing editor of Stereophile magazine- Michael Fremer. It has been a pleasure to speak with Michael and learn more about audio sound and equipment. In fact, his new DVD, "It's A Vinyl World, After All" has hit the shelves and is selling out very quickly. This is a must have for anybody who loves vinyl, it is a true masterpiece.

Additionally, make sure to stop by his site, and bookmark it for further exploration. I certainly want to thank Michael for the exclusive rights to reprint his fantastic material.

Gil Melle (reissue)
Patterns In Jazz

Blue Note/Music Matters MMBNLP 1517 2 180g 45 rpm mono LPs

Produced by: Alfred Lion
Engineered by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mixed by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mastered by: Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman at AcousTech

Review by: Michael Fremer

The Modern Jazz Quartet would never have been signed to Blue Note. The group’s Bach-influenced button-down counterpoint was a bad fit with Blue Note’s gospel and blues influenced soul-jazz.

This unusually cool, reserved, Blue Note odd-lot created by the late musician, artist and electronic instrument builder Gil Mellé, has more in common with The MJQ, something Bill Evans and Jim Hall might have conjured up, or a dry martini ala Paul Desmond than a wailing Blue Note.

The deliberate, mathematical arrangements built around mellow, introspective but swinging duets mostly for the upper registers of the baritone sax and a hollow bodied electric guitar exude ‘60s intellectual cool and the smug self-satisfaction espoused by Playboy in its newness, which not coincidentally, was its status when this album was recorded in 1956.

Mellé on baritone sax, chases Joe Cinderella’s guitar, backed by drummer Ed Thigpen and bassist Oscar Pettiford, plus occasional trombone interludes from Eddie Bert on what is easily one of the most appropriately named albums you’ll ever hear.

The vibe sometimes veers beyond the boundary of accessibility and into game show theme territory but that’s part of the charm, and mostly it’s a charmingly ‘50’s-hip affair.

Van Gelder’s mono production is easily among his best, especially his capture of Mellé’s big, wet, sax and Cinderella’s guitar. Drummer Thigpen, three years away from joining the Oscar Peterson Trio. is miked distantly and mixed well back in space. Both Mellé and Cinderella get forward, three dimensional and superbly well-textured billing as do Bert’s infrequent but welcome trombone parts. You’ll feel the guitar strings being struck.

Joe Harley told me he and Ron Rambach had found this “oddball” Blue Note and fallen for it. I have fallen as well, but I’d say calling it “oddball” is kind of misleading. For a Blue Note it’s an “oddball,” but in the context of the MJQ, Paul Desmond and Bill Evans and Jim Hall, it’s familiar, almost easy listening.

If you have a good mono setup, especially a mono cartridge, this is a no-brainer. If you don’t, it’s a no-brainer.

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