Marc Rushton reviews Sort Kones for StereoNET

Review Banner- Sort Kone_blogThe best part of performing a product demonstration is the opportunity to turn a skeptic into a believer, or better yet… an evangelist! That is precisely what happened at the Sydney HiFi Show to StereoNET reviewer, Marc Rushton. Although he had his reservations, Nordost Sort Kones made a strong enough impression on Marc that he was motivated to hear them at home, in his own system. The results were clear:

“Track after track delivered more emotional renditions of familiar music, clearer harmonics in acoustic pieces, and an overall feeling of a system that had just found perfect phase. The width and depth of the soundstage had increased and the ever-telling foot-tapping had started.”

Marc’s Sort Kone review is now available to read on the Nordost website here: Sort Kones —A Sceptic’s Backflip

You can find more great Nordost reviews on our Reviews Page

Upcoming Dealer Events (Fall 2017)

Keep your calendar opened and your eyes peeled for these great upcoming Nordost events!


September 23rd

4pm

JS AUDIO

4919 St Elmo Ave

Bethesda, MD 20814

Contact: Steve, Joe, or Blu

(301) 656-7020

JSAudio@JSAudio.com

www.jsaudio.com


November 2nd

5–9pm

OVERTURE AUDIO

2460 W. Stadium Blvd.

Ann Arbor, MI  48103

Contact: Tom Jankowski

(734) 662-1812

tomj@overture-audio.com

www.overture-audio.com


November 16th

5–9pm

F1 AUDIO

311 E Dundee Rd

Palatine, IL 60074

Contact: Jamie Pauls

(847) 772-3140

jamie@f1audio.com

www.f1audio.com


November 30th

5–9pm

HOLM AUDIO

2050 West 75th Street

Woodridge, IL 60517

Contact: Mike Holm

(630) 663-1298

jkholm@aol.com

www.holmaudio.com


 

Nelson Brill Attends the 2017 Lowell Folk Festival

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Brill attends the oldest running folk festival in the United States to hear music from “the streets of  Zimbabwe, Morocco and Cuba to the blues alleys of Chicago.”


FOLK MUSIC FLOURISHES AT THE 2017 LOWELL FOLK FESTIVAL AND IN A GLOWING JAZZ PARTNERSHIP

By Nelson Brill

AUGUST, 2017

maxresdefault

The unbounded nature of folk music, with its global reach and its rich stories of love, struggle and glory, continues to astound. The vitality of folk music was heard in all its myriad forms at this year’s 31st edition of the venerable Lowell, MA. Folk Festival (“Festival”) the oldest running folk festival in the United States. This year’s edition, running from July 28-30th, was lit up with music that careened from the streets of  Zimbabwe, Morocco and Cuba to the blues alleys of Chicago.

UnknownArriving at the Festival’s “Dutton Street Pavilion,” C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band were performing under a huge tent rocking the classic tunes “Caldonia” and “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” with infectious zydeco sway. Chenier’s accordion churned out flowing chords while his muscular partner on his “Frottoir” (a version of a washboard worn with a shoulder strap – first designed by C.J.’s father, Clifton Chenier, in 1946 Louisiana) provided the intense zing of a backbeat. Chenier sang with a rotund voice (containing ardor and grit) that punctuated the swirling music of his band. The capacity audience danced and swayed to the joyous grooves while Chenier’s accordion swept them along with his swashbuckling accordion.

IMG_1966-768x576

shakethetreeboston.com

Over at the Festival’s “Boarding House Park” stage, Toronzo Cannon and his quartet delivered a scorch of another variety: searing electric Chicago blues. Cannon utilized a rolling guitar style in which he slid his fingers seamlessly from one fret to another or hit hard a cluster of repeating notes in a circular, rapid-fire pattern.

20170726_121721_FolkFest_Toronzo-Cannon_PC-Dragan-Tasic-768x540

lowellsun

His rousing voice accompanied his guitar swagger and his songs of lost love and “bad contracts” – all delivered with gut-thumping heat. The classic Elmore James’ tune, “Look Over Yonder’s Wall [Hand Me Down My Walk’in Cane]”, was a pile-driving romp with the band’s young keyboardist battening down the hatches with his percussive, two-fisted barrelhouse runs.

In contrast to the molten heat from Cannon’s guitar, the guitarist fronting the band Mokoomba, (a band hailing from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe), delivered the lightest of dancing notes and stutter-stepping phrases on his instrument. Mokoomba’s music combined expressive calls and vocals with the resonant pulse of congas and hand-held percussion to create undulating light grooves upon which members of the band surfed with their great high-stepping dance moves.

26043526226_3851bef8e7_k-768x513

pri.org

Congas (and a variety of other indigenous drums) were also the resonant foundation underlying singer Betsayda Machado’s spirited performance of Cuban and Venezuelan folk music with the band, “La Parranda El Clavo”.

010817gfest-088

npr.org

Machado possessed a radiant voice (with a beautiful mix of expressive full power and tonal delicacy) and she joined with several other singers in performing Spanish songs and Yoruba chants that floated over the many drum calls below (accentuated by the whirling steps of dancers onstage).

At the Festival’s “Saint Anne’s Churchyard” stage, Americana folk and blues were nestled in the bows of the band Shadowgrass, who drove their bluegrass hard and fleet. These four young musicians took the capacity audience by storm with their sparkling banjo soars, acoustic guitar flourishes and a nimble, thumping bass that rode it all to glory.

The Festival would not complete, however, without hearing some of that sweet driving Memphis soul delivered hot and fresh by the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band.

20170726_120243_FolkFest_Stax-Music-Academy-768x512

LowellSun

These young musicians tore up classic hits like “Rock Steady” and “I’ll Take You There” with soaring vocals (from their two powerhouse female vocalists and their male vocalist with a baritone as smooth as honey) propelled by a backing band of churning brass, guitar and drums. As the sun went down, the Stax Alumni Band took the Festival home with their deft vocal harmonies and their horns strutting in sharp, playful majesty.

0718_blake-1-768x432

wbur.org

The rich veins of Americana folk and blues were also explored in another recent performance by two consummate Boston area musicians who create their own sweet and pungent stew from the griddle of folk roots music, poured creatively into their vessel of jazz improvisation. On July 22nd, vocalist Dominique Eade and pianist Ran Blake (both colleagues and educators at New England Conservatory’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, www.necmusic.edu), took to the welcoming stage of Thelonious Monkfish, (“Monkfish”) and delivered a sparkling recital before a transfixed capacity audience.

Unknown-5

Derek Rubinoff

Monkfish (www.theloniousmonkfish.com) is a delectable restaurant and music venue run by its amicable, music-loving proprietor Jamme Chantler and his musical coordinator, Scott Goulding, himself an accomplished jazz drummer with bands such as the dynamic Yoko Miwa Trio that frequently appears at Monkfish. (Pianist Yoko Miwa and her Trio have a new album out this summer entitled Pathways and it is a stellar outing with great melodic beauty and creative artistry to explore [See www.yokomiwa.com]).

The sound at Monkfish is very good and at the Eade/Blake recital, another NEC alumnus, Jeremy Sarna, manned the sound controls to produce a sound that captured the partnership of Eade and Blake in soaring flight. The sound had excellent tactile detail, a natural balance to piano and voice and offered a clear window to hear every crisp isolated note and thunderous resonant cloud in Blake’s intrepid piano explorations.

81ctVoKytCL._SY355_

At their Monkfish performance, Eade and Blake celebrated their new duet recording Town and Country [Sunnyside; www.sunnysiderecords.com), an audiophile gem which is particularly noteworthy in its sound quality for its capturing of ambient space: an empty NEC Jordan Hall with all of its splendor of flowing air and deep resonance.

Their Monkfish recital roved from every corner of this recording’s expansive folk and blues territory. The concert opened with William Schumann’s “Pretty Fly and Lullaby,” with Eade perched on the most gentle of free-flowing high notes and runs, (with some creative bird call-like sounds whispered into her mix). “Winter in Madrid” was another garland of high fleeting vocal gifts from Eade: her voice here resembled a young tern learning to fly at an ocean’s edge. Her voice dove, swerved and dipped to express the beauty and depth of her songs with creative and unpredictable zest. Blake’s piano was like the partnering wind to her wings: his spontaneous bellows of chord colors, pedal holds or prickly jumping notes always sent Eade flying in a new vocal direction or swoop.

DominiqueEadeJHC0060s-225x300

jazzedmagazine.com

The rich folk, gospel and blues songs from their Town and Country recording sometimes rang out with thunder in Blake’s prodigious keyboard crashes or, at other times, were drenched in the lightness (like nourishing, falling rain) from Eade’s slippery bebop scat. “Moon River” glowed with Eade’s voice lustrous and strong (tethered to Blake’s bluesy chords). “Elijah Rock” also glowed with gospel fervor on Eade’s sassy and brazen vocals that concluded with her retreating from her microphone to echo the phrase “Lord, Lord” in cascading light calls. On Dylan’s “Its Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, Eade turned her voice into a talking, penetrating slipstream of words that rang with condemnation, sarcasm and knife-sharp edges as Blake responded with arresting stop and start keyboard quips that rang out like shotgun blasts.

The music on Town and Country seeps into every emotional crevice of Americana roots music: it can be prickly; it can be warmly inviting or it can be blistering in its condemnation of human suffering. Johnny Cash’s “Give My Love To Rose” (a moving ballad on the human cost of imprisonment) and “The Easter Tree” (an old English protest song against racist violence with the stark imagery of a lynching at its core) lurched on Blake’s spare piano notes and Eade’s pouncing vocals. (Eade concluded “Easter Tree” by holding the last word- “Stone” – for several seconds to deliver a wallop of vocal power and intensity). “Memphis,” Blake’s short instrumental composition for Martin Luther King, shuddered with thunderous clouds of ominous chords contrasted with the lightest of piano touches- as if to portent the spark of new possibilities.

In contrast to these penetrating numbers, Eade and Blake also performed a light and glittering “Moonlight In Vermont” (a highlight of gentle sway and lilting creativity) and Eade performed a riveting scat solo piece in which she played an imaginary wind instrument (with her fingers outstretched before her) concocting percussive sounds up and down her nimble register.

The recital came to a close on the meditative theme of a beautiful spoken word/singing tribute to another Americana folk hero: the sage activist Henry David Thoreau (whose bicentennial is being celebrated this year). In this unfurling poetic moment, spoken text and vocals curled around Blake’s floating clouds of soft velvety piano colors until they disappeared in a final wisp of Eade’s fragile held soar.

DominiqueEade-200px

 


If you would like to read more reviews like this one, visit Nelson’s blog at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


 

Questions and Answers (August 2017)

Our product specialists receive questions on a daily basis about Nordost products, their application, and hifi in general.  We thought that we would take a minute to share some of our most recent and frequently asked questions here so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!


Q: I live in a small apartment, so managing my audio cables is always an issue. I have read that Nordost warns against coiling speaker cables and power cords, as well as avoiding contact both from other cables and walls. That can be difficult when you’re working with my space constraints! Can you offer any advice for me to keep my cabling tidy while avoiding interference and sound degradation?

A: If your speaker cables are longer than what you need, we suggest running them in a serpentine pattern so that they rest on their edge (minimizing surface contact). Placing them like this will ensure that you don’t coil them, and that they resonate freely.  If you use our Sort Lifts, this will improve their resonating properties, and decrease their contact with the floor even more. Power cables are a bit trickier, but you should still avoid coiling them.  Also, make sure that if they are near the speaker cables they cross the speaker cable at a 90 degree angle, so that they don’t run parallel to each other.

IMG_1672

 Q: How much time is required to break in a power cord?

A: Power cords have the fastest burn in time of any cable, thanks to the amount of current flowing through them. Typically, they are good to go within 48-72 hours of continual use. When breaking in any other Nordost cable, we recommend 168 hours for our Leif and Norse 2 ranges, and 336 hours for our Reference cables. Although, it’s best to go to your local authorized Nordost dealer and ask about the ability to burn them in on our VIDAR machine (however, this service is not available for power cords).
vidar1-255x300

 

Q: What is the difference between the QV2 and QK1?

A: These two product address different frequencies.  The QK1 adds harmonics at high frequencies, and is a mechanical device. The QV2 adds harmonics at midrange and upper bass frequencies, and is an electronic device. For more information about these products please visit the QRT section of our website.

Picture 588

 

Q: I am looking to buy a power cord, but I don’t know what length to get: 1 or 2 meters. Do cables at different lengths sound different?

A: The jump from a 1 meter to a 2 meter cable is the most noticeable jump when comparing any length.  While a 1 meter power cord won’t sound bad by any stretch of the imagination, the 2 meter cable will sound smoother, since the resonance is being spread out over a longer length.

Picture 759

The Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show 2017 – Recap

The Hong Kong High-End Audio Visual Show is always a highlight of our year.  It was a pleasure working with Radar Audio, our outstanding distributor both in Hong Kong, as well as mainland China, to set up a world-class system with the help of Magico, dCS, and Constellation Audio.  Together, we put on a a full weekend of amazing demonstrations for show attendees and press.  If you couldn’t make it to this impressive event, here are some of our favorite pictures from the show:

2017 hk av show pix for nordost 11 2017 hk av show pix for nordost 12 2017 hk av show pix for nordost 13 2017 hk av show pix for nordost 14 2017 hk av show pix for nordost 15 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Thank you to the Radar team, for all your help, from everyone at Nordost!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nordost is headed to Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this October

650x77

Nordost is very excited to be exhibiting this year at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, at the Denver Marriott Tech Center in Denver, CO  October 6-8th! Come and see us in the Humboldt Peak Room, where we will be offering live cable comparisons and product demonstrations, including power products and resonance control devices, throughout the show. Our presentations will focus on the newly released QKORE Ground Unit, which has garnered enormous success since its launch at Munich High End this past spring. The QKORE is the most effective, comprehensive grounding solution in the industry. It provides an artificial, “clean” earth using both electrical and mechanical approaches to eliminate stray high frequency noise and voltage-generated magnetic fields from your sound system, leaving a clean reference behind. Take advantage of this opportunity to hear, first-hand, what proper grounding can do to a top-shelf sound system.

Making Your Marque: The 12 Most Important Products in the History of High End Audio (PART 2)

12 most important products_part 2


I hope all of our Nordost readers enjoyed Part One of this blog and, strange as it might sound, I hope that NOBODY agreed with all of my choices! In Part One, I explained my reasoning for choosing “The Most Important Products” but I need to say again: my choices are not carved in stone; rather, they’re my opinion, based upon my knowledge of the components that preceded, as well as those that followed, my selections. It is my fondest wish that readers of this blog will sit down over dinner, drinks and some serious listening sessions and not only debate my choices but refute them.

High End Audio has a rich and fascinating history distinguished not only by the products themselves but by the personalities of their designers, critics, and the dealers that sold them. The process of discussing and debating my choices is actually more critical to the future of High End than my process of selecting them is. Enjoy!  – Anthony Chiarella


 

quora.com

photo: quora.com

Quad ESL 57

“From a theoretical point of view, an electrostatic is an ideal way to make a loudspeaker – it matches the air perfectly and it’s all predictable, as ordinary loudspeakers are rather variable. It has some problems which are rather difficult, mainly due to the stretching of the diaphragm. It mustn’t shrink and that sort of thing. Very high voltages, 10,000v, make it difficult, but it’s an ideal – I think most loudspeaker manufacturers have looked at it and said ‘What a lovely way to make a speaker, but it’s not very practical’. And a lot of manufacturers have tried it, too, and most of them have said ‘This is not profitable. Get back to putting loudspeakers in boxes and start selling ‘em lad!’” – Peter Walker, Quad Founder, Hi-Fi News

Introduced in 1957, the world’s first production, full-range electrostatic offered a higher performance alternative to every dynamic, box-type loudspeaker of that time. In pioneering an exotic, purist technology in the quest for ultimate reproduction of classical music, Quad didn’t simply pave the way for subsequent electrostatic and planar loudspeaker manufacturers, it became, arguably, the first true High End Audio company.


 

carpwrangleronline.weebly.com

photo: carpwrangleronline.weebly.com

Celestion SL-600

More than any other loudspeaker, the SL-600 was the ultimate expression of the design concepts first proposed by the BBC LS3/5A; namely, a point-source whose compact enclosure and closely-positioned drivers eliminated most of the problems endemic to larger loudspeakers. Certainly, the SL-600 wasn’t the best “mini-monitor” ever made. Wilson’s WATT and Celestion’s own SL-700 quickly surpassed it—but, in its use of avant-garde technologies, including the first dome tweeter designed with the assistance of laser interferometry and an inert cabinet built from an exotic, honeycomb-aluminum laminate called “Aerolam,” the SL-600 gave the compact speaker credibility, not only for use in “Bang-for-the-buck” systems, but for inclusion in the finest and most expensive rigs, as well.


 

 

ultraaudio.com

photo: ultraaudio.com

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Rack System

Anyone who believes that equipment racks are merely accessories, and not true audio components, has never heard an HRS product. Designed by Mike Latvis and built in Buffalo, NY, HRS products elevate (pun intended) EVERY aspect of system performance— and Mike can scientifically prove it! Over the past four decades, there have been all sorts of attempts, from Target to Torlyte to CWD to Stillpoints, to use audio furniture to improve system performance, but HRS demonstrates that every one of them was inadequate. Actually, I could have chosen any HRS Rack System but the SXR seems to provide the best performance-per-dollar, and also leaves enough cash in the budget for HRS’s matching Isolation Bases, which are required to complete the system.


 

http://www.soundstage.com/

photo: www.soundstage.com

Wilson Audio Specialties WATT

At a time when state-of-the-art loudspeakers (Inifinity IRS and RS-1B, Magnepan Tympani, Wilson’s own WAMM) tended to be enormous, dauntingly expensive monstrosities, audiophiles started plunking Dave Wilson’s recording monitor atop Entec Subwoofers (in the days before Wilson’s “Puppy” woofer was available).  This created a system whose resolution, transparency and spatial description rivaled those behemoths at a fraction of the price and, more importantly, did so with a footprint of slightly more than one square foot per channel. By enabling apartment dwellers and other décor/budget-sensitive music lovers to mount the summit of high end performance at a time when that luxury had been reserved for those with no budget or space constraints, the WATT was a truly seminal product, as has been proven by Wilson’s meteoric success ever since that speaker’s introduction.


 

 

elg-6

photo: audiomatch.nl

dCS Elgar

With the help of fine digital products by Krell, Levinson, Audio Research and other iconic manufacturers, the CD had, by the early ‘90s, become the software format of choice…even among audiophiles. Still, digital was considered inferior by the high end cognoscenti when dCS’s first consumer product bowed in 1997. Designed by a company credited, not only with the world’s best studio processors, but also with the developing threat-avoidance technologies for fighter jets, the Elgar was perhaps the most thoroughly engineered digital product in history.  This statement was supported by the fact that it stayed in production, and defined the state-of-the-art, for nearly a decade— no mean feat for a computer! By elevating digital reproduction to a position of parity with world-class analog, dCS’s Elgar deserves its place on this list


 

photo:   www.rewindaudio.com

photo:  www.rewindaudio.com

Technics SL-1200

Of my twelve selections, this is bound to be the most controversial. The SL-1200 wasn’t the first commercially available direct drive turntable.  Its big brother, the SP-10, earned that distinction in 1970.  Nor was its sound quality universally applauded by audiophiles, a fact which Technics both acknowledged and addressed when it introduced a modernized version in 2016. It was, however, among the most beloved audio products ever made (the most robust, too!), as well as one of the longest-lived, with a production run that stretched from 1972 to 2010. Muse to the Hip Hop movement, the SL-1200 also inspired the current crop of state-of-the-art direct drive turntables by Continuum, VPI, Brinkmann and others.


 

Nordost Playlist – July 2017

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this July.

playlist_july17

  1. Lift Me—The Bengsons—Hundred Days
  2. Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer—Stevie Wonder—At The Close Of A Century
  3. Redbone—Childish Gambino—“Awaken, My Love!”
  4. Bem, Bem, Maria—Gipsy Kings—¡Volare! The Very Best of the Gipsy Kings
  5. Benzin—Boogarins—MANUAL
  6. Emotions And Math—Margaret Glaspy—Emotions And Math
  7. Number One—Portugal. The Man (feat. Rickie Havens & Son Little)—Woodstock
  8. Butterflyz—Alicia Keys—Songs In A Minor
  9. Make Me (Cry)—Norah Cyrus, Labrinth—Make Me (Cry)
  10. Friends—Francis and the Lights feat. Bon Iver—Farewell, Starlite!

 

Questions and Answers (QKORE)

Our product specialists receive questions on a daily basis about Nordost products, their application, and hifi in general.  With the introduction of our new QKORE Ground Units last month, we received an influx of great questions from customers.  We thought that we would take a minute to answer some of our QKORE related question here so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!


Q: Hello, I have recently purchased one of your new QKORE Units (1 outlet to QB). I was wondering whether there is any suggestion about placement on/around the stereo rack. More specifically, does it have to be in the middle of the rack, like QX4, or can it be placed outside the rack on the floor? Since I also own a QX4, can the QKORE and the QX Unit be placed side by side?

A: QKORE units can be placed pretty much anywhere within your system; they don’t have the same placement needs as the QX Units. However, they do benefit from being on a proper shelf in your audio rack, or on Sort Kones, instead of sitting directly on the floor. To address your second question: Yes, your QKORE Unit can be placed side by side with QX4 or QX2 Units.

QKore_Front and Back

Q: I am trying to determine which QKORE would work best for my system. Would I be able to connect my QBASE Unit to my QKORE Unit if I purchase the QKORE3?

A: Our QKORE6 Unit is designed with two Low Voltage Attractor Plates, so that it can address both primary (AC) and secondary (DC) ground. The QKORE3 Unit is only intended to address one aspect of ground at a time. Therefore, if you connect your QBASE Unit to your QKORE3 simultaneously with your electronics, you will not achieve the desired effects. The benefits to your system will be much greater if you use both a QKORE1 and QKORE3, or if you purchase the QKORE6.

02-QKORE 3 backs

Q: I have an external ground rod, can I still benefit from the QKORE?

A: While the QKORE1 is especially ideal for someone looking to ground their QBASE but who does not have the opportunity to install an external ground rod, you can absolutely gain additional benefits from using QKORE Units. It’s similar to the improvements that you will see when going from a designated ground for your system to an external ground rod. Adding a QKORE to this setup will be another step-up in performance. When adding the QKORE3 or QKORE6 to your system, you will see benefits that are not addressed by an external ground, since these products also improve the secondary ground, where the audio circuit is.

lg-QRT-QKore1_with wire

Q: I read that the QKORE either comes with one or two QKORE Wires in the packaging. Why would you not provide us with all of the cables we need to set up the QKORE in our system?

A: The QKORE1 includes a 2 meter QKORE Wire with Banana to Banana terminations, the QKORE3 includes a 2 meter QKORE Wire with Banana to RCA terminations, and the QKORE6 includes one of each. However, it would be impossible to foresee which lengths and terminations would be necessary in each individual’s system. There are 18 different termination combinations available, not to mention variations in cable length.

lg-qrt-qkore-wire

Nelson Brill Reviews Two Bass-Centric Acts in Cambridge

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Brill covers two bass-centric performances at the Regattabar in Cambridge, MA, featuring veteran bassist, Ron Carter, and newcomer to the scene, Linda May Han Oh .


 

TWO BASS-CENTRIC JAZZ BANDS SWING WITH PLAYFUL PURPOSE

By Nelson Brill

MAY 29, 2017

Unknown-1-1 The power of an acoustic or electric bass is limitless. It can, in the hands of an eminent string master, power a walking blues romp or, in the hands of a young bassist taking her first turn as a band leader, it can serve up a stew of gut-thumping colors propelling her original compositions.

roncarter.net

roncarter.net

As for an eminent master of the acoustic bass, there is no one like the impeccable Ron Carter, who celebrated his 80th birthday with his artful trio (Donald Vega on piano and Russell Malone on guitar) in a sparkling performance on April 28th at the Regattabar in Cambridge, MA. (www.regattabarjazz.com). Sporting a dapper suit (accented with a purple pocket square), the lanky, joyous 80 year-old immediately alighted on his bass with delectable bounce and rhythmic splendor. His nimble fingers tenderly flirted with his strings, creating buoyant and soulful song lines. The intimate setting of the Regattabar (and the superb sound that house engineer W.J. Edward Emerson was able to concoct from Carter’s small amplifier elevated on a stand) allowed for the capacity audience to lean in and hear every soft purr, fleshy pluck and pungent roll from Carter’s bass.

montrealgazette.com

montrealgazette.com

Carter and his sympathetic band mates swung heartily into music that paid tribute to some of Carter’s departed past colleagues: bassist Oscar Pettiford, guitarist Jim Hall and trumpeter Miles Davis. Their tribute to Hall, entitled “Brazilian Opus No. 5”, was highlighted by Carter’s extended solo in which he ensnared all the warmth of this slow-brewing bossa nova with nimble dexterity. He located notes down low (with gentle plucks and lingering harmonic holds) and then effortlessly slipped up to his highest register (with an elastic “portimento” or huge slide) grabbing a cluster of notes with his outstretched fingers. “Brazilian Opus” concluded with Carter’s trademark touch: a rigorous singular bass note struck on just the right note and pitch to sum up the arc of the band’s creative excursion.

pinterest

pinterest

Cushioned within all this alluring bass drama was Vega’s subtly eloquent piano. Throughout the concert, Vega displayed a plush keyboard attack that relied on understatement in his creative feel for the backbone of each melody. He twisted each strand of melody into creative braids of fleeting piano lines that always fell into satisfying patterns of light tension and release.

latinlife.com

latinlife.com

The Trio’s version of Pettiford’s “La Verne Walk” was a slippery, sliding delight that had all three musicians crackling with collective energy and virtuoso solo moments. All the sunshine in this tune was captured in Carter’s cavort: he pulled strings to bend them in elastic deep rumbles; he slid and slurped in playful bluesy holds and chased the melody with buoyant touches and spidery licks.

latinlife.com

latinlife.com

Carter’s ineffable bounce led the way into Malone’s gleeful solo in which Malone first created the delectable sound of a washboard by rapidly strumming his strings and lightly tapping his hollow body guitar to create a wooden percussive rush. He then found a perch on one note, repeating it for several seconds, only to flow into a rapid, funky descent that ended on the same one note perch. The crowd roared in approval as a smiling Carter took up this same one-note on his bass and threw it into his quiver of colorful declarations to send Pettiford’ swinging piece homeward.

motionbluejakarta.com

motionbluejakarta.com

The Trio ended their set on a version of Benny Goodman’s “Soft Winds” that showcased the Trio’s ability to hit prankish hard, with the lightest of touches. Vega’s piano solo was filled with undulant waves of blues chords rising from his depths to his highest registers; Malone dove in with his sly funk and crisp strumming and Carter added his penetrating undertow of walking bass lines. This thunderous action receded when Carter’s bass veered into the lightest of purrs and touches, sending Vega and Malone into peaceful curls of their own, high and sweet on their instruments. The final note (which Carter held serenely) sung out with regal force punctuating this great musical companionship.

alchetron.com

alchetron.com

Carter has been involved in more than 2,000 recording sessions. A few of his most recent recordings are recommended for their audiophile quality and their beautiful ensnaring of Carter’s spirited versatility.

51AD7kYvTUL._SY355_-300x300

One of my older favorites is Carter’s 2003 Entre Amigos SACD/CD recording on the (always reliable) audiophile quality label, Chesky (www.chesky.com). On this superb recording (suffused with the warmth and air of the recording venue), Carter’s bass softly entwines (from a layered rear position) with the expressive vocals of Rosa Passos and the acoustic glory of several other virtuoso musicians to mine the unfolding grooves of some classic Brazilian tunes. The relaxed feel of this session is fantastic with Passos’ lithe and expressive vocals crisply captured up front, meandering in and out of Carter’s probing bass.

51sGdieCeEL._SS500-300x300 Carter also showcases his versatility on his most recent recordings: he joins in a warm and simmering duet with saxophonist Houston Person on Chemistry [HighNote Records] and then joins forces with a boisterous band led by trombonist/composer Steve Turre on Colors For The Masters [Smoke Sessions Records]. Chemistry is a stellar recording and one of the last produced by the recently departed recording master, Rudy Van Gelder, at his legendary New Jersey studio. Although I would have liked more upbeat numbers from this swashbuckling duet, (slow ballads predominant), the session is a beautiful example of two masters conversing on an intimate scale where every curling breath of Person’s soulful sax is tactilely felt and where every one of Carter’s pungent touches is heard nimble and radiant.

71WAxVld6L._SX425_-300x270In contrast to Chemistry’s intimate session, Colors For The Masters takes off on the boundless energy of a stellar band in flight. The band is supremely assured with glittering pianist Kenny Barron, master drummer Jimmy Cobb and Carter leading the rhythmic charge in accompanying Turre’s resolute trombone and Javon Jackson’s brawny tenor sax. This vital recording packs a soulful punch as it veers from the raucous to the voluptuousness, delivering animated keyboard grooves, glowing horns and, underlying them all, Carter’s bracing bass lines.

Another bassist, (who may take a thing or two herself from the Carter playbook) is the intrepid young bassist, Linda May Han Oh, who brought her venturesome band (pianist Fabian Almazon; guitarist Matthew Stevens; saxophonist Greg Ward and drummer Rudy Royston) to the Regattabar’s intimate stage on April 15th to celebrate the release of their latest recording, Walk Against Wind [www.lindamayhanoh.com].

allaboutjazz.com

allaboutjazz.com

The band’s performance featured many of Oh’s original compositions from Walk Against Wind (her first recording as a band leader) and several of these pieces were commenced with Oh taking an extended solo on her acoustic bass. Her bass playing has this special quality of a wide-open, adventurous feel, where anything is possible. She combines long trailing runs (effortlessly spun up and down her flexible register) with angular, jostling isolated notes. She can stop on a dime; pluck big and resonant and then fall silent for a few seconds, mixing up her tempos with impeccable touch and a natural feel for the groove.

allaboutjazz.com

allaboutjazz.com

Her style fully complements the overall feel of her creative compositions: the slow bluesy feel of “Lucid Lullaby” (with her bass plush and swelling with resonant plucks and evolving colors) or the buoyancy of her Brazilian tinged “Fire Dancer” (where she combines dancing light notes and plucks to sashay with Royston’s delicate cymbal and wood rim hits).

jazzafterhours.com

jazzafterhours.com

The musical synergy  that was exchanged between Oh and her simpatico band mates at this concert was a delight. Royston, a propulsive engine of delectable lightness and  passion on his drum kit, always kept his eyes on Oh. He accented her every spontaneous string dip and soar (or surprising pause) with his own interwoven percussive glory – sometimes silvery and sometimes volcanic.

allaboutjazz.com

allaboutjazz.com

The Cuban-born Almazon, (who I have written glowing about in these pages before), also kept his eyes glued on Oh, ready to send his restless piano lines into the fray. On “Walk Against The Wind,” Almazon grabbed the heartbeat of the song and took off on a breathless piano solo. His exploration melded funk, blues and Afro-Cuban influences into a swirling crisp dance that was as unpredictable as it was radiant.

51T7kXwtGEL._SS500-300x300 Take note that Oh, Almazan and Royston can be heard in all their triple threat glory on a recent recording that they made with alto saxophonist Jim Snidero entitled  Main Street [Savant Records]. This recording delivers great presence and up-front vitality to all instrumental timbres and textures. One highlight- “The Streets of Laredo” – delivers a full dose of what Oh, Almazan and Royston can do both individually (on each of their searing and elastic solos) and in collective presence with Snidero’s reedy, sharp explorations.Towards the end of the performance at the Regattabar, Oh took up her electric bass and she and her band hurled out some full throttle funk on Oh’s original “Perpluzzle”. The highlights here were Stevens on his searing guitar solo, (sending out some heady angular and off-kilter note bends and power chords) and saxophonist Ward pile driving the funk with his soaring sax holds. Oh smiled from behind her electric bass, content to pressurize the proceedings with the raw vitality of her playful bass lines.

vanityfair.com

vanityfair.com

 


If you would like to read more reviews like this one, visit Nelson’s blog at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.