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Positive Feedback ISSUE 2
august/september 2002


Releases by Kenny Burrell and Andre Previn
By Dave Glackin


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Kenny Burrell Soul Call

JVC’s XRCD team—Akira Taguchi (producer), Alan Yoshida (mastering engineer), and Joe Harley (creative direction)—consistently produces some of the best-sounding CDs out there, and has once again done an outstanding job with this disc. In JVC’s XRCD process, every step of the manufacturing process is carefully optimized and controlled. The process is based on JVC’s 20-bit, 128-times oversampling K2 analog-to-digital converter. A K2 is used to regenerate the signal, after which a Sony PCM-9000 is used to store the data on magneto-optical disc, as opposed to the grungy U-matic tapes so often used to send recordings to mastering labs. At the dedicated mastering facility, another K2 is used to convert from 20 bits to 16 bits using its "super coding" mode, which eliminates clock jitter. Regulated AC power feeds are used throughout the chain. As I discovered years ago, the XRCD2 process improves somewhat on the original XRCD process.

Kenny Burrell’s signature purity, fluidity, and dexterity are captured perfectly on this disc. He is widely recognized as one of the top guitarists of all time, and Rudy Van Gelder, the recording engineer on this album, is justifiably famous for his gorgeous-sounding jazz recordings. On Soul Call, Burrell is accompanied by a combo consisting of piano, bass, drums, and conga, and most of the players get a chance to shine. The up tempo number "Mark One" showcases Burrell’s incredible playing, and it also gives Will Davis, the pianist and author of the piece, a chance to show what he can do. The riffs that Burrell apparently tosses off are amazing, and Davis provides a good pianistic foil. The title tune evokes a slow, sultry summer afternoon, leaving a peaceful feeling after the fade. That reverie is then broken by my favorite cut, "Kenny’s Theme," which may get you up and dancin’. This piece really gives opportunities for the players to show off, and for the first time we get to hear what the bassist and the conga player can do. (I’d be pissed if I were the conga player, though, as he is mostly buried in the mix.) "Here’s That Rainy Day" slows things back down again, making me want to pop the top off a Negro Modelo, sit back, and relax. The bonus track, "O Henry," again picks things up, with Kenny’s fingers really flying across the strings.

If you’re a jazz fan but have never heard Kenny Burrell, Soul Call will provide a great introduction. If you already like Kenny Burrell but do not have this album, I think you’ll enjoy it immensely.

Sound 9 Performance 9 Music 8


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Andre Previn and His Pals West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein, one of my favorite American composers, wrote the music to West Side Story in the 1950s. Given what has happened since, it might be a little tough to fathom a jazz improvisational version of a musical about love and gang warfare, but that’s what this is. The performers, Andre Previn (piano), Shelly Manne (drums), and Red Mitchell (bass), were some of the top musicians of their generation. Manne was consistently voted the best drummer in the business during the late 50s, when this was recorded (specifically 1959, at Contemporary Studios in Los Angeles). Andre Previn, possibly better known for his contributions to classical music, was also one hell of a jazz pianist, and Red Mitchell really makes his acoustic bass sing. The three instruments are very well reproduced, with a sense of real players in a real space, and good dynamics. You are likely to recognize tunes such as "Tonight," "I Feel Pretty," and "Maria," which have become ingrained into the musical fabric of America. For me, the most fascinating thing about this album is that these jazz greats turn the music for a popular musical into something quite different, and most enjoyable.

If you know and like the music to West Side Story, I recommend that you buy this CD for its fascinating and upbeat interpretations. If you’re a jazz lover and want to explore something a little different, this recording may just be your cup of tea.

Sound 9 Performance 10 Music 8