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Gryphon Diablo 300

We Get RequestsVerve/Analogue Productions CVRJ 8606 SA
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: **** 

This 1964 set can polarize jazz lovers. Many find it the consummate recording of this trio, which had been together five years when it was taped. Others think the repertory is trivial. Peterson chose for this set such popular favorites as "Quiet Night of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)," "People," "The Girl from Ipanema," "The Days of Wine and Roses," and "My One and Only Love." Balancing these chestnuts are some slightly less familiar standards: "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "D & E," "You Look Good to Me," and "Time and Again." Here's the formula: Peterson usually makes a clear statement of the tune up front, then goes off on one or more of his incredible variations, manipulations that give him a chance to show off his fleet, refined, and graceful fingerwork. Bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen are virtuosos in their own rights, but also know how to fit in as part of the ensemble. To say that the three are tightly knit is to understate the obvious.

The Voice that Is!Impulse!/Universal Music/Analogue Productions CIPJ 74 SA
Format: Hybrid SACD

Musical Performance: ***1/2
Sound Quality: ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The posthumous reputation of jazz singer Johnny Hartman (1923-1983) got a boost in 1995, when Clint Eastwood chose some of his recordings for the soundtrack to The Bridges of Madison County. Hartman had never been a household name. Hardcore jazz fans probably know him best for John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, the sole album by the saxophonist to feature a singer. Coltrane knew Hartman from their brief stints in Dizzy Gillespie’s late-1940s big band, and in 1963 he brought the singer to Impulse! Records, where Hartman would record two more LPs.

Tania Maria: "Tempo"Naïve NJ621711
Format: CD

Musical Performance: *****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: *****

You might have heard of Tania Maria as a Brazilian bombshell whose fusion performances have been spicing up jazz clubs and recordings for 30-plus years. On this album she has just one partner, double bassist Eddie Gomez, known to many for his work with Bill Evans. Tania Maria is earthier than ever on Tempo, on which her singing, piano playing, and composing skills can be easily heard.

Cat Stevens "Tea for the Tillerman"A&M/Analogue Productions CAPP 9135 SA
Format: Hybrid SACD

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Tea for the Tillerman was Cat Stevens’s fourth album, and his second with producer Paul Samwell-Smith. Stevens had enjoyed some success in England in 1966 with his first LP, Matthew and Son (Decca), but had been dissatisfied with the production of his second, New Masters, the following year. He was leaning toward a simpler, folk-rock sound, and his producer had made an overly elaborate record that didn’t even chart. After a lengthy recuperation from tuberculosis in 1969, Stevens changed record labels (Island in Europe, A&M in the US), released Mona Bone Jakon in July 1970, and then, just four months later, became an international star with the release of Tea for the Tillerman.

Getz/GilbertoVerve/Analogue Productions CVRJ8545 SA
Format: Stereo SACD/CD

Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2

In the early 1960s, after tenor saxophonist Stan Getz heard Brazilian jazz played with a new beat called bossa nova (Portuguese for “new trend”), he and guitarist Charlie Byrd collaborated on the album Jazz Samba (1962). Having gotten a taste of bossa nova in the soundtrack of the mesmerizing Brazilian film Black Orpheus (1959), US listeners and musicians were primed for something new and innovative, and Jazz Samba was one of those rare jazz albums that topped the pop charts.

Further ExplorationsConcord Jazz CJA-33364-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Chick Corea’s Further Explorations echoes the title of Bill Evans’s Explorations, his 1961 recording with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro for Riverside Records. Motian, who died late last year, is on hand for this live recording with Corea and bassist Eddie Gomez, who played with Evans for 11 years. The trio worked together to choose material from Evans’s discography for a series of live performances at New York’s Blue Note in May 2010. In September 2011, Universal Music in Japan released this two-disc set of selections from those performances, and Concord has now made it available in the US.

A few months ago, I commissioned a new audio rack -- a double-wide, overbuilt, steel-and-wood monstrosity. Well, I recently got a call from the craftsman, Jason Trauzzi, who told me it was nearing completion. He was building the rack from 2” square-section steel tubing, a top shelf of 2”-thick walnut, and three lower shelves of 1”-thick walnut. The smartphone photos he sent me were stunning -- I figured I’d better get the rest of my ingredients in order.

Last February, my mother died. Her passing wasn’t unexpected -- she was 84 and not in good health. Still, it took me by surprise, and shook me up far more than I’d anticipated. The two years and more that I’d had to prepare myself didn’t mean squat. I’d thought I was ready, but -- there was no way to be ready for the death of my last remaining parent.

Last November, I accompanied Doug Schneider to the Warsaw Audio Video Show (read our coverage here). The AVS was wonderful -- a huge affair hosted by a city whose history goes back a thousand years. We found tons of new, exotic products, and the show -- and our coverage of it -- were raging successes.

When discussing a turntable, it’s common practice to lump together in that term every bit of gear that precedes the phono stage. The turntable includes the platter and the motor that spins it, and often the tonearm as well. Then there’s the cartridge, which is an honest-to-god system component all by itself. The internal tonearm cable is most often captured -- but unlike the old silver plastic record players of my youth, most modern turntables have some sort of junction to facilitate the connection of aftermarket interconnects. So add an interconnect to the list of components that make up this rigmarole. And I guess we can continue to add to this catalog -- let’s include any item that remains in contact with the turntable while the record is in play, OK?

This is my column, so I get to make the rules.