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Thursday, October 12, 2017

VINCENT BÉLANGER - PURE CELLO

Audio Note Music – ANM 1601 (UK) (2017, March)

Ratings:

Global Appreciation: 9.7
- Music + interpretation: A+
- Recording: 10
- Mastering: 10 - Lacquer Cutting: 9.5
- Pressing: 9.5
- Packaging: above average


Category: Classical
Format: Vinyl (2x180 gram LPs at 45 rpm)
 

Credits:

Executive director Michel Plante
Produced, edited, and mixed by Jacques Roy

Recorded by Stephan Ritch and assisted by David Cope
Recorded at Clark Chapel at Pomfret school in Pomfret, CT, USA, June 8 to 12, 2015

Mastered by Guy Hébert with Stephan Ritch
LP lacquers cut by Philip Gosselin at Lab Mastering in Montreal, Canada

Plated and Pressed by Optimal in Germany
Cover photo by Luc Robitaille
Inside photos by Stephan Ritch
Sleeve Design by Unseen Works

 

Named official 'musical ambassador' for Audio Note Music, Canadian cellist Vincent Bélanger is part of an all too rare breed: an authentic audiophile/musician. Dedicated to raising awareness around his beautiful bicentennial or so instrument, the busy 38-year-old is on an ongoing mission to bring back the fun and excitement of listening to live classical music, while going to great lengths to transpose that essence to record. Playing since the age of eight, it is only since 2011 that he discovered the fine art of great recorded sound. Nowadays, he is well known among the 'hifi circuit'–his many show-stoppers wherein he plays in synch with or alternates between a recording and himself, seems to be one of his signature stratagems. Of course the degree of success of the old "Is it live or is it Memorex?" query lies as much in the reproductive chain quality than the recording itself.



Which brings us to the latter part of that equation, in this instance the LP titled Pure Cello–the first and only record release (as of writing) from the renowned UK high end company led by manic music lover, and record collector extraordinaire Peter Qvortrup. Back in June 2015, and with a $30k cost breakdown budget, what started out as a–$10k goal Indegogo–crowdfunding project to produce an entire album of solo cello, blossomed into an ambitiously impressive release. This is the protagonist's fourth album, after Bélanger & (Anne) Bisson's Conversations [Universal Music Canada CM5-2222] in 2016–she being a well known show regular from Québec with 'audiophile-approved' pedigree, and like Vincent, was once featured through Montreal's premier label Fidelio Music. The latter team released his first album titled , back in 2011–though at the time available in digital format only; it is presently in preparation for future release on vinyl.
 

Regarding that particular format, Bélanger–being born near the dawn of the 1980s–was way passed the golden age for vinyl, nor never knew the generally good multitrack analog sound of that previous decade. In fact it is safe to say that with the exception of MoFi, Analogue Productions, Classic Records, and a few independent labels, he grew up in the era of what can be considered vinyl's 'crappiest age', not only in terms of cheap pressing quality, but also right smack in the loudness war's conflict affecting both CD, and vinyl! Thankfully, somebody or something convinced him that in this day and age, when done properly, vinyl still rules. Initially suppose to be released as a 331/3 rpm, they soon opted for the advantages of cutting at 45 rpm on four sides instead of 'squeezing' the grooves to fit two sides–though costlier in manufacturing and consequently passed on to the consumer, it was the right decision to make when ultimate sound is your main priority.

Another ironic twist one could say, was the deliberate choice of not surrounding himself with the typical classical 'circle' of technical personnel, be that for production or engineering. Bélanger often finds the modern classical or chamber recordings too distant sounding, and thus 'robbing' the listener of the presence one gets at a live concert, close up to the musician. I totally share the same sentiment, which is the reason why I try to sit in the very first rows, regardless of musical genre, and position my loudspeakers close up with vectors crossing right in front of my head, resembling in part Audio Note's recommendations, though far from the corners. What is interesting is that the cast of assembled accomplices were chosen rather from the audiophile, and pop/rock community, and the recording philosophy more in line with a jazz recording, i.e. miked quite close to the instrument.

 
Of equal consideration is his view that the 'new guard' of musicians–contemporaries of his so to speak–are risk averse, relating to repertoire or interpretation; commonly playing it safe or conservative to a point of blandness. It reminds me of one of the all time greats–Russian-born American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky–who was not afraid of taking certain stylistic liberties to better deliver the drama, passion, and power of the piece, solidly supported by his impressive sustained vibrato. The master probably figured out early on that the 'medium' through tape, records, and even the distance separating the performance from the audience dilutes the emotional aspects of the partition, and therefore one must judiciously compensate to fully restore the full expressive force from the composer, channeled through the performer. One could even extrapolate this thesis in the home reproductive system, concluding there are multiple minute losses in the entire complex recording chain–while some choosing horns for emphasizing the musical drama, and tension of the music, but I digress.


 
Audio Note's David Cope chose the charming Clark Chapel close to the Pomfret school in Pomfret, Connecticut USA for its superb acoustics as well as the deep level of sound isolation provided by the six-inch thick doors, and surrounding stone walls–a visual delight as well. Les Studios Opus' Jacques Roy produced, edited, and mixed the session, while Plurison's Stephan Ritch, who is also a freelance sound engineer recorded it with assistance from Cope. Two pairs of mics were chosen: a primary pair of Lauten Horizon LT-321 tube condenser cardioids in what at first glance resembles a typical Blumlein configuration, i.e. capsule to capsule facing one another 'polar-rotated' at 90 degrees–which normally would employ two 'crossed-figure-8's–but the 321 being a cardioid, classifies it more into the 'XY' pattern (at 180 instead of the typical 90 degree alignment) placed roughly at head level, inclined 45 degrees, 22 inches from the cello, plus a pair of DPA 4003 omnis spaced 10 feet apart, approximately 20 feet away towards the back for room ambiance. The Lauten visually distinguishes itself by sporting a 'lollipop' head capsule instead of the typical rectangular Neumanns or common fare. Its high sensitivity enables lower gain from the preamp, plus a wide bandwidth pretty flat down to 30Hz, and a broad 2dB plateau from 4 to 15kHz, brings a bit of 'bite' to the instrument–more so than a regular ribbon mic. Both mic sets were amplified by separate solid state Moon Audio 3500 MP preamps–renowned for their extremely low noise, non-colored, and flat frequency, extending up to 250kHz. The output(s) sent to an Apple's Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro using an Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt DAW at 24-bit/192kHz resolution. Cabling was AN SOGON LX silver.

 
Fortunately for us, Bélanger is as demanding of sound quality as he his of his musicianship. Maximizing the time they had at their disposal in the chapel, he spent nearly 8 hours playing while the team recorded the entire session. At a later date, producer Roy–a veritable modern-day Macero–selected, and even edited Bélanger's best takes in order to deliver us the 'perfect performance'. Try as I might, I could not detect any edit or musical oddity whatsoever–we are very far from the infamous "Take Five" splice just preceding Morello's improvised drum solo. The repertoire encompasses the baroque period from Bach to more modern material with Spanish cellist Cassadó, passing through the 19th century with German cellist Grützmacher–in which 12 etudes have their debut recording–and composer, pianist, organist, and conductor Max Reger, better known for his organ works than the cello.
 
 
In the end, it took three masterings, and two or three lacquer cuttings to give the go-ahead! Karisma's Guy Hébert handled the former while Philip Gosselin from Le Lab Mastering in Montreal, Canada, accomplished the latter on his fully refurbished Neumann VMS-70 lathe equipped with SX-74 cutter head. He is the sole cutting engineer among seven mastering engineers–him included–quite an impressive number all working under one roof; even more so considering the plethora of self-produced music, and myriad mastering apps available online these days. Keep in mind, we are not talking New York, Nashville or L.A., but Montreal, Québec! Plating and pressings were provided by Optimal's plant situated in Germany, and limited to 2000. Ironically, Montreal's metropolis briefly had a vinyl pressing plant a few years ago known as RIP-V, but as destiny would have it, its acronym anticipated its own demise. 



Unseen Works designed the album sleeve. Luc Robitaille captured the musician, cello in hand, spread between the front and back cover on a white bare background. It reminded me of some classical-new age or pop covers from the 1980s and 1990s, which in my opinion, does not convey the true high calibre material lurking within this release. They appear to have been inspired conscientiously or not by Nancy Donald and Hooshik's design of Céline Dion's Falling Into You from 1996. My preference would have veered more towards an authentic B&W photo or a darker background with the cellist in 'deep thought' or actually playing in the chapel, visually winning over its natural target audience, which is the audiophile community. On a more positive note, the sleeve opens as a gatefold, wherein 13 photos–mostly B&W–frame a central larger one in color, tastefully taken throughout the couse of the day by Ritch, informing us on the team's personnel, equipment, the chapel's beautiful interior, and even the actual cutting of the master lacquer at a later date. Inserted in one of the sleeve's openings, is a full-sized glossy sheet containing brief infos regarding the musical selections plus Bélanger's bio, both in English on one side, and french on the reverse. The LP's are safely housed in what is my preferred method: i.e. wedged-corner paper with poly lining the inside, providing protection plus strength.


All four labels match the front cover's hues (as did Dion's LP also). Closely examining the vinyl, inscribed in the dead wax are 'LAB PG' for Montreal cutting engineer Philip Gosselin as well as A1 B2 C3 D1 respectively indicating I presume which of the master plates were chosen to make the stampers. This unmodulated area averages a radius around one-inch wide, with side B closer to 7/8 of an inch–each side roughly varying between 10 and 13 minutes, the latter approaching the maximum time recommended for 45 rpm with limited bass content. I think Gosselin got just the right compromise between maximum groove spread vs minimal inner-groove distortion, and in effect, I could not perceive any diminishing of high frequency purity throughout. I had the rare opportunity of borrowing two copies from friends, to compare with mine: all three were perfectly flat, beautifully black, and very shiny, with no scuff marks. Most sides were devoid of any ticks, except for one copy that had a few minor ones near the end of side B, plus another copy that had a small 'v-shaped dent' about half an inch from the outer groove affecting both side A and B in the same spot for a few platter turns, heard in the form of a 'low thud' as if someone was gently 'tapping his foot' at the recording venue. That said the vinyl surface noise floor was nearly as quiet as the best MoFi's pressed by RTI, which suggests that Optimal are capable of generating great quiet pressings but need to improve somewhat there QC methods if they wish to reach the pinnacle of vinyl manufacturing. Also on all three copies, I could detect a faint 'cyclic' noise throughout side A–the remaining sides seemed ok or at worst barely perceptible. I could not confirm but was told that this low level noise does not appear on the CD version, inferring that it was not present at the recording site, and therefore is part of the vinyl chain, either at the cutting lathe or during plating procedures. Note that with the vast majority of albums, the music content and–in 'pre-dolby days'–analog tape hiss, would cover these minor noises. But because of the nature of this recording–i.e. a solo cello, the musician exploring extreme dynamic phrasings, a pure digital, direct to MacBook Pro pathway, and hence no tape hiss–everything is laid bare to hear, especially so if your system is dead quiet like mine is, and puts the onus on every step of the project. That said, in the end it did not diminish my listening pleasure.

Now onto the listening: It is by far the best cello recording I have heard anywhere regarding sound, and one of if not the best, most natural sounding LP in my roughly 8000 record collection. The tone, and textures eminating from the bow, strings, f-holes, and resonant wooden belly, bespeak a deep degree of realism rarely encountered through any format medium. Bélanger's passionate performance of this rarely recorded repertoire, makes it just as enjoyable from a musical standpoint–running the full gamut of emotive range, from mere melancholy to bold bowing bravura, with every (Audio) Note resonating in between. He brings a breath of fresh air to the sometimes stale state of playing we get from certain classical musicians since the last couple of decades. It demands a lot of dexterity, forcefulness, finesse, not forgetting an absolute command of one's instrument to pull off this outstanding level of mastery. Just one example are the double-stops delivered on side D, leading us to wonder falsely if two are actually sharing the score, such is the quality of execution. We can sense the presence and physicality–his every efforts, easily captured by the main mics, and see-through sound. The entire recording-production team proved adept at mixing just the perfect proportion of proximity vs room ambiance. As a result, we get to relish the intimacy, power, and pizzicati precision of the cellist close up, plus Clark Chapel's consonant colors embellishing the soundstage, and informing us on the venue's inner dimensions–ultimately transporting us to its first pews in Pomfret, Connecticut. The sound is neither overly warm nor 'clinical' cool, but simply neutrally natural–nothing hints at any 'digititis'. In fact, it sounds a lot like a direct-to-disc LP but without the added pressure that the musician, and cutting engineer usually encounter during these sessions, which not surprisingly affects the performance. A one-step plating instead of the normal three-step would have been interesting also. Contrary to most music labels, Audio Note was wise enough to conserve the full frequency response, and vast dynamic range of the recording, not compressing in any direction the session. High praise also must be credited to Hébert, and Ritch for the fine mastering, engineer Gosselin at Le Lab Mastering for skillfully cuttting the master lacquer, and the artist himself for refusing to settle for anything less than the best.

A must-have in any collection. Kudos to all!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

BILL EVANS TRIO - SUNDAY AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UD1S 2-002 Box (2017, June), #2103 of 3000
Originally released on Riverside – RLP 9376 (1961, Oct.)

Ratings:

Global Appreciation: 9.6
- Music: A
- Recording: 9.2
- Remastering + Lacquer Cutting: 10
- Pressing: 10
- Packaging: Deluxe


Category: jazz
Format: Vinyl (2x180 gram LPs at 45 rpm)


Musicians:

Bill Evans - piano
Scott LaFaro - double bass
Paul Motian - drums

Additional credits:

Produced by Orrin Keepnews
Recorded at The Village Vanguard, NYC
Engineered by Dave Jones

Originally mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Remastered and cut by Krieg Wunderlich at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in Sebastopol Ca

Plated and Pressed by RTI, Ca, USA
Album Design by Ken Deardoff

Cover art by Donald Silverstein



Recorded live at the Vanguard in Greenwich Village, NYC, on a famous Sunday afternoon and night of June 25, 1961–the legendary venue situated on Seventh Avenue South, served host for a historic moment in time. Playing a total of 13 songs in the smoky, triangular-shaped basement, this was the last day of a two-week gig, and sadly ten days before Scott LaFaro's tragic car accident. 'Village' along with its counterpart Waltz for Debbie–drawn from the same sessions–have long been considered quintessential live trio recordings; both for masterful musicianship, and deep audiophile admiration for their natural timbres, and airy ambiance. For these reasons alone, both albums should share similar shelf space in one's LP collection.

 
Produced by Orrin Keepnews, and captured magically by recording engineer Dave Jones–with three mics, mixed in an Ampex MX-35 tube mic/line mixer-preamp onto an Ampex 350-2 or 351-2 two-track running Scotch 111 at 15 ips–alongside subtle tinkling glass intrusions, minimal chatter interventions, and 'polite' applause; this was Evans' fifth release for Riverside–his first appropriately titled New Jazz Conceptions [Riverside RLP 12-223]–and remaining a best seller ever since.







It showcases the impressive intuitive interplay between him, bassist LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motion–both of which he first collaborated with, back in 1957 and 1955 respectively. Not surprisingly there have been numerous reissues since its initial inception.

This is the second limited edition 'UltraDisc One-Step' 45rpm box set released by Mobile Fidelity after the stunning sound success of Santana's Abraxas [UD1S 2-001], sold out within its first month–manifestly to be the same scenario here. As in the latter case, the two LP's are housed, and presented in a deluxe one-inch thick, black carton box with gold-colored lettering and trimmings, framing the original b&w cover art–by famed photogapher Donald Silverstein–in a reduced 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch slightly sunken square.


Upon opening, a dark grey foam hides the inner jewels; under which, two elegant 10 x 12 inch, high quality b&w photos–by American photographer Steve Shapiro. Renowned among other things for his work documenting the Civil Rights Movement, and in his first year as a freelancer–one captures the trio backstage; the other, the maestro hunched over the 'ivories', intensely immersed in the moment.


Next in line is a thin cardbord with pictograms explaining in great detail the unique 'one-step' process. This is followed by a double-sided, full-sized cardbord printed replica of the original front and back cover art, with MoFi's ubiquitous strip added at the top instead of the usual "Stereo Riverside".


Finally we reach the treasured vinyl, inserted in individual numbered cardbord sleeves similar to the box cover art, with the track titles printed on the back side, and the LP's further protected, by MoFi's inner HDPE sleeves inside a white folded cardbord. As usual with MoFi, no attempts were made to duplicate the original Riverside label, replaced instead with the same design as their other UD1S LP.


Lastly a second foam, 'cushions the blow' of box handling. While other labels may 'throw in' a t-shirt, a CD or a free digital download card, MoFi sticks with the essentials, valued by demanding audiophiles: outstanding record protection mated with a classy refined presentation. In other words my friends, this is the 'Rolls Royce' of vinyl packaging!


I do not have an original pressing to compare with, but I do own the 2002 Analogue Productions [AJAZ 9376] double 45rpm done by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman which is generally excellent, rating it around an 8.7–the bass lacking some weight and precision compared for instance to another Evans release [AJAZ 9487] by the same technical team that sonically surpasses it. All four sides of the MoFi were stunningly shiny, black, with no scratches, nor scuff marks.

I visually compared the modulated groove vs dead wax space betweem both 'Village' audiophile reissues in question. Below are the approximate 'linear' measurements in inches 'rounded off':
A. P.: Side A = 3 1/8 mod. groove + 5/8 wax.
MoFi: Side A = 3 mod. groove + 3/4 wax.
A. P.: Side B = 2 7/8 mod. groove + 7/8 wax
MoFi: Side B = 2 1/4 mod. groove + 1 1/2 wax
A. P.: Side C = 2 3/4 mod. groove + 1 wax.
MoFi: Side C = 2 1/4 mod. groove + 1 1/2 wax.
A. P.: Side D = 2 7/8 mod. groove + 7/8 wax
MoFi: Side D = 2 7/8 mod. groove + 7/8 wax

We can ascertain that certain sides (like D) are identical in spacing ratios while all the other sides favor a bit more distance from the label on the MoFi cutting, the latter playing it 'safer' regarding the high frequencies, inner groove distortion, and 'pinch effect' which typically increase as the groove radius decreases.

In a nutshell, whereas a normal 'three-step' release utilises the following chain: [lacquer + father + mother + stamper], the 'one-step' method skips the father and mother intermediary steps, going from lacquer directly to stamper or 'convert' in this case. Because of the limited number of pressings that the delicate convert can withstand in the typical press before audible deterioration creeps in–supposedly somewhere around 500 or so for 180g LP's–it implies that a minimum set of 5 converts per side must be created from a set of 5 lacquers per side to meet the expected target of 3000 copies. This not only takes the remastering/cutting job five times longer to perform but also exposes the precious original master tape to more wear and tear–the iron oxide, binder (glue), and acetate, mylar or polyester carrier coming apart sometimes with time, aka 'binder breakdown', and remedied only by 'baking' the tapes for precise times and temperatures. Considering all of the above, the $100 asking price seems well justified, and I would not be surprised if they make less money or profit on these than their regular releases.

It also suggest that there could very well be minor differences in sound among the 5 'plate' sets, and as such, differences in sound between box sets, relative to the 'batch' number that the consumer happens to get–more so than the usual MoFi release or any other label following the normal three-step process, all else being equal (which admittedly is rarely the case, especially regarding vinyl because of the multitude of variables from master tape before reaching your platter, and everything subsequent to that). One can also ponder if for example the fifth cutting run is either 'penalized' because of the tape wear or rather privileged for getting the EQ and groove-spacing 'spot-on'; then again are all the parameters/choices 'locked-in' for the total 'project run' to maximize uniformity? What about the cutting stylus–does it get changed for every set? So many questions, so little time.

Following that logic, there are at leasts 5 sets of A, B, C, and D. Now one would presume that the first batch (#1 to 600) would be etched 'A1; B1; C1; D1' and the last batch (#2400 to 3000) would be 'A5; B5; C5; D5'. Strangely that is not the case, for my #2103 copy bore the respective matrix / runout stamper etchings:

'UD1S2-002 A5; B2; C1r; D1 KW@MoFi'

...whereas the copy entered in Discogs' database #144 indicates: 'A1; B4; C3; D4'

 
I ignore the significance of 'r' after the 'C1' but the KW as usual stands for engineer Krieg Wunderlich, who in this instance worked alone instead of being assisted by Shawn R. Britton–as was the case with the Santana–if the credits are complete. I was curious to find out if the level of superiority first encountered between the two Santana versions (see selection #1 of my Top 500 SuperSonic List) would repeat itself this time to the same degree with a different recording; let's now find out...

In the very first moments the recording begins, you can hear and feel a brief low vibration that instills a sense of venue scale and stage presence–curiously encountered on the said Santana within a similar time frame–but completely absent on the A. Prod LP. Immediately, what startles the listener is the quality and quantity of the double-bass which is astounding by any measure, and clobbers the A. Prod. in that specific area, with a triad of unwavering solidity, pitch precision, and presence like I've never encountered before on record–with the exception of the Santana, and Diamond Version's Boxset [TOP 500 #3]–which in my opinion 'steals the show' right from the opening bars. Kudos to Krieg Wunderlich who must have used judicious amounts of precise parametric EQ or perhaps even some finely focused dynamic EQ to obtain this extreme level of 'addictive' refinement. This brings LaFaro so much more upfront 'in the mix', the 'dude' dominating stage left; his dexterity along the fingerboard and strings is mesmerizing, making him much easier to follow–for that alone making my purchase all the more justified. What sets him and the trio apart from other bassists and trios of that era is the seminal role he and Evans had in redefining what a jazz trio stands for–from tradionally accompanying the piano in a supportive way to 'equal partners' in melodic explorations instead of simply rhythmic backing, as was still pretty much the norm then. His tragic departure at age 25, all the more devastating given his immense talent, and the musical imprint he left behind.

 
The piano and drums also 'move closer' gaining greater presence, along with better contrasts due in large part to the blacker background of the 'dead-silent' RTI pressing, made from MoFi's noise-free converts. Not one tick or pop was detected from start to finish. Going back to the A. Prod. is akin to being displaced 'ten rows further back'! If you tend to sit in the first or second row at live venues like I always do, the MoFi gets you so much closer to the 'real deal'. On the other hand if you tend to sit midway or far from the stage, the softer sounding A. Prod. could be more your cup of tea, though admittedly at the sacrifice of musical performance detail. Keep in mind that if you never get the chance of listening to the MoFi UD1S, you probably will find the A. Prod. quite enjoyable.

Evans' piano playing tends to concentrate more in the middle and higher registers, so do not expect to hear bluesy 'Basie-esque' hefty lows a la Pablo productions or you risk being disappointed; instead impressionistic influences such as Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, and Gould–another 'huncher', and admirer no less–come to mind. This should not come as a surprise given his early training in the great classical repertoire.

 
In the mid-1950s he would cross paths with pianist, composer, and arranger George Russell who was in the midst of conceiving his Lydian Chromatic Concept, relying on tonal gravity, and the Lydian mode or musical scale, hence opening the gates for modal jazz. Later on this would serve him well as he put theory to practice under the guidance of Miles, culminating in the all time best selling jazz album–Kind of Blue. Always self-critical, and often lacking confidence in his musical abilities–like so many jazz greats of those years–he got hooked to heroin.


Similar to the Santana UD1S, the tonal balance is full range, reaching deep down into 'seismic territory', then up to 'insect territory' with tons of wonderful detail. If your system is hyper-detailed to begin with, you may find both UD1S titles just a bit over the top. My system is not voiced in that direction but rather ever so slightly, in a 'downward slope', leaving the bass and low mids 'in charge', which fits just right with these thoroughbreds, and most releases. For those in the former camp, you may try lowering a touch the tonearm's VTA at the main bearing end if it is adjustable, and only if the detail density, detracts your focus from the 'big picture'. The overall sound envelope is neither romantic, nor overly-analytic, but rather 'ruler flat'–by the latter I do not mean boring or compressed, but balanced with no obvious emphasis or gaps. It shares some semblance with an outstanding direct-to-disc sound–fast, dynamic, etc.–but with added 'meat to the bone', i.e. not only 'lean muscles'. If it were a film, it would definitely be a technicolor IB print with full saturated hues.

To conclude, Mobile Fidelity's second UD1S release–Sunday at the Village Vanguard by Bill Evans Trio–is a worthy successor to their debut–Santana's Abraxas [UD1S 2-001]. 'Master cutter' Krieg Wunderlich pulled it off once more bringing a sound improvement almost as large, where I would rate it a 9.7 about–refrained only by Motion's nearly uninterrupted use of the brushes on the cymbals that produce a constant 'sandish sound' which I found a bit obtrusive in the long run. Of course that is part of the recording, and therefore is out of MoFi or anybody else's hands; it is simply more apparent or present when you eliminate two steps from the pressing process, and prior to this release, I had not noticed it as much. When he does shift towards the snare, the result is realistic in tone, and dynamics. Even though I couldn't compare with an original Riverside pressing, I am fully confident in stating that it is impossible that the latter would surpass or even approach the quality of this remastering. In some cases, original mids and highs sometimes preside, but in this instance the (one) step is simply too steep to climb, be it just for the bass alone!

Both UD1S titles garner a global appreciation rating of 9.6 or more, taking into account the original recording quality, remastering+cutting advancement, vinyl quietness, sophisticated box art presentation, allied to artistic creativity, highly refined musicianship, and historical perspective. By sheer nature of the musical genre–an explorative, intuitive jazz trio–this latest one is a notch less 'spectacular' when compared to the colorful fusion of latin, rock, psychedelic, and percussive elements found in the Santana LP. Like the latter, it will be a tough act to follow.