• SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Hegel's H160 Integrated Amplifier-DAC (April 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- MartinLogan's Neolith Loudspeaker (February 2015)

MoveTelarc International TEL-33814-02
Format: CD

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

 

Move is Hiromi’s second disc with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips, aka the Trio Project. Even with Hiromi’s acoustic piano dominating, Voice (2011), her first CD with this group, had more pronounced rock elements than her other jazz-trio recordings. Move continues that trend, and manages to balance even more deftly the muscle of rock music with the complexity of jazz improvisation.

Atoms for PeacXL Records XLCD583
Format: CD

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

 

It’s uncommon to hear new music that stands out from the proverbial pack. Almost everything is derivative in some way or another, and for good reason. Different can mean provocative, but it almost always guarantees commercial failure. Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring provides perhaps the most illuminating example of this. During its very first performance, in Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the audience rioted in response to the avant-garde, thoroughly dissonant composition. Critics were equally unconvinced, one going so far as to label the forward-thinking piece “a laborious and puerile barbarity.” Tough crowd. Stravinsky, of course, would go on to achieve worldwide acclaim. Like so many mavericks, his unique compositions fell on conditioned ears and immutable minds that were unable to appreciate what he had to offer.

SmashConcord Jazz CJA 33676-02
Format: CD

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

 

It took me a while to warm up to Patricia Barber, but Café Blue and Nightclub won me over, especially in their recent vinyl incarnations. As much as I’ve come to enjoy her work, though, I wouldn’t have described it as emotionally engaging until now. Smash, her 11th release and her first for Concord, takes as its themes love and loss, and as a consequence Barber leaves behind the sense of ironic distance she sometimes conveys in her earlier recordings. She also casts her stylistic net wider, including elements of rock music in ways that enrich her songs rather than create a feeling that she’s selling out.

FadeMatador OLE994
Format: CD

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

 

The indie-rock group Yo La Tengo will be 30 in 2014, but the three-member band from Hoboken, New Jersey, formed by the husband-wife team of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, shows no sign of becoming stale. Fade is their 13th studio album, and its title at first struck me as apt -- the music kept fading from my consciousness as I played it in the background during a few cold weekday evenings. The gentle guitar melodies and lazy drumwork offered a rhythmic listening experience that at first I misheard as uninspired. Repeated listening and reflection made it apparent that this album is the result of three decades of musical refinement.

Piazzolla!Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi JV 570007
Format: CD

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

 

Argentine composer and bandoneón master Ástor Piazzolla introduced jazz and classical influences into the traditional tango and gained international fame, as well as the respect of other musicians. His appeal and ambitions crossed genres, and as a result he wrote for symphony orchestras as well as smaller groups. His music has been interpreted by musicians as disparate as Yo-Yo Ma and Gerry Mulligan, not to mention scores of Latin-American artists, and his extensive discography includes over 70 recordings and nearly 40 film soundtracks. Piazzolla claimed that Tango: Zero Hour, his 1986 recording with his Quinteto Tango Nuevo, was one of his best, and he was right. It’s probably his most popular disc in the US, and is as close to essential as music gets.

Lifehouse AlmeriaGeffen B 001778502
Format: CD

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

 

Lifehouse’s breakout album, No Name Face, was released in 2000, when I was in 10th grade. I loved it. Their hit “Hanging By a Moment” was only the third song in history to have been named “No.1 Song of the Year” on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, despite never having actually reached No.1 in the magazine’s charts. I have no recollection of Lifehouse after No Name Face, primarily because I never bought any of their subsequent four albums. But with the release of Almería, I endeavored to reassociate myself with this Los Angeles-based rock band to see how they’d fared in the 12 years since.

Dulce et Decorum EstMichael J. Media
Format: CD

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

 

Five Minneapolis musicians comprise the band War Poets, but Rex Haberman, a longtime songwriter with three discs to his credit, is at the center of the band’s debut album. Haberman wrote or cowrote all 17 songs on Dulce et Decorum Est. Even a casual listen, however, reveals how important collaboration was to this two-disc set. Matt Kirkwold and Jenny Case helped with some of the songwriting, and played, respectively, guitar and bass. Coproducers Kevin Bowe and Stephen McKnight also share a couple of bylines with Haberman, and play guitar.

Luka BloomCompass CPS4586
Format: CD

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

 

Luka Bloom was born Kevin Barry Moore in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, in 1955, and took his stage name after moving to the US in 1987. "Luka" was supposedly chosen for Suzanne Vega’s song of that title, while "Bloom" stems from the main character of James Joyce’s magnum opus, Ulysses. The folksy singer-songwriter has but a hint of his native accent in This New Morning, and it is an easy record in which to become immersed.

Live in HollywoodConcord Picante CPI-341110ADV
Format: CD

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

 

Bandleader and conguero Poncho Sanchez signed with Concord Picante in 1982, after his boss at the time, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, recommended Sanchez to the label’s president. He has remained with Concord for 30 years, and Live in Hollywood is his 26th release for them. Sanchez had several chances to jump ship, but he’s stayed put, and this recording is his gift to Concord, his testament to his loyalty and theirs. Sanchez and his eight-piece band performed the music on this disc at the Hollywood & Highland Summer Concert Series, in July of this year, in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Dr. Chesky's . . .Chesky Records JD355
Format: CD

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

 

The name Chesky should be familiar to audiophiles. Not only is David Chesky an accomplished musician and Grammy-nominated composer, he is also a record producer, and the cofounder of Chesky Records and the online high-resolution music store HDtracks.com.