Mixed Media September Online Supplement

Getting High With Matt Nathanson

It would be easy to suddenly declare Matt Nathanson some kind of overnight sensation. The fact is that Nathanson released his debut album back in 1993. After four albums and ten years, Nathanson finally appeared on a major label with Beneath These Fireworks, on Universal and then was dropped from the label. However, his two most recent albums, both on Vanguard – Some Mad Hope in 2007 and Modern Love from this year – rocketed the singer-songwriter onto the charts.

What’s great about Nathanson’s story is that he stuck to his guns, making heartfelt music featuring fine songcraft and an unassuming and distinctive vocal style. Achieving all this success on Vanguard, a label that puts more emphasis on quality music instead chart position, makes the victory even sweeter.

Nathanson recently brought his show to Long Island, opening for Train and Maroon 5 at Jones Beach as a last-minute replacement for Gavin DeGraw on August 12th.

Nathanson and his tight band quickly won over the crowd, who was obviously familiar with songs such as “Come On Get High” and the more recent “Faster.” His newest hit, “Faster,” shows how a clever use of rhythms make a song very accessible.

Throughout his short set, Nathanson, an engaging and relaxed performer, brought just enough rock edge to his music.

The next time Nathanson comes through the area, he very likely will be a headliner and should not be missed.

Solid Gold

With the success of the iPod and iTunes, it would appear that the days of the CD are numbered. Thankfully, not only is there a revival in long-playing, 12-inch, vinyl records, but one company seems intent on also championing high-quality CDs.

Audio Fidelity is releasing classic recording, pressing them on 24-KT gold discs, mastering them on HDCD and including beautiful packaging. The company is also releasing vinyl albums using 180+ virgin vinyl. These limited- edition, numbered releases are succeeding because many music fans simply want better sound reproduction than is available from standard digital downloads.

Four recent releases from the company represent distinct listening experiences for discerning music fans.

Arguably, the jewel in the crown is the company’s reissue of Stevie Wonder’s double album Songs In The Key of Life from 1976. The double album boasts superior HDCD sound, a feature not found on all CD players or DVD players and easily can claim the best non-Blu-Ray audio sound mastering available. What might be Wonder’s best album in many respects sounds better on CD than on vinyl. The original vinyl release sometimes suffered from groove-cramming. Also, the original release came with a 45 of bonus tracks, and because it had an inferior pressing vinyl 45, it sounded poor. Now, those bonus tracks are available in pristine digital-quality sound.

Two other CD’s in the series represent two different sides of classic 1970s music: No Secrets from Carly Simon from 1972 and Straight Shooter from Bad Company from 1975.

For all of Bad Company’s occasional bombast, there’s no denying the power of the group’s first two albums, particularly Paul Rodgers’s vocals. This second album is often overlooked in favor of their self-titled debut. For fans of 1970s rock, the availability of this album in an audiophile pressing is a rock-and-roll fantasy come true.

At the other extreme is No Secrets, one of the best albums of the 1970s and a cornerstone release of the singer-songwriter movement. Simon’s fantastic voice and Richard Perry’s state-of-the-art production make this an album that is perfect for audiophile treatment. Oh, and the album cover photo isn’t too bad either.

To taste one of the company’s vinyl offerings, a perfect start would be Herbie Mann at the Village Gate. Live jazz is probably one of the best kinds of music to listen to on vinyl. The warm, intimate vibe and true natural room ambience of this sorely missed Greenwich Village venue, come alive in this Tom Dowd-produced recording celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Masterworks Reissues Classic CTI Jazz Classic

For a number of years in music history, record labels, run by real music people, defined the sound and evolution of the business, particularly with jazz. Some of the labels include Blue Note, Verve, Fantasy, Prestige, Contemporary and Impulse, among others, although majors like Atlantic, Columbia and RCA also boasted celebrated jazz catalogs.

One of the last great jazz labels is CTI, who as headed by producer Creed Taylor, released the bulk of its classic recordings during the 1970s.

Sony’s Masterworks division recently released some of the legendary recordings from CTI as part of a 40th anniversary celebration of the label. All of the CD’s boast superior sound; not surprising given Taylor’s production prowess. They are also all beautifully packaged and many include bonus tracks. In many cases, some of these albums could be considered the last important recordings from some of the greatest names in jazz history.
If there was only one release in this series every serious jazz fan must get it would be Stone Flower from Antonio Carlos Jobim. This is one of the many CTI releases from Jobim during the period when A&M distributed CTI. Jobim’s albums were also released during this period through Verve and Warner Brothers. This is often considered a transitional period for Jobim. His music became even more lush and his influence continued to spread.

A release from CTI’s heyday that is familiar to even non-jazz fans is Prelude from Deodato from 1972. Eumir Deodato is also Brazilian, and like Jobim, achieved hit crossover success. “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001),” an adaption of the Richard Strauss composition, originally popularized in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, became a huge hit. This rhythmic, jazzy interpretation of a classical piece included the crack support of Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham. Deodato’s orchestral arranging abilities and visionary instrumental approach still must be considered revolutionary all these years later.

Another must-have disc in the series is Paul Desmond’s self-titled release recorded in 1974 and is his penultimate solo studio album. It came at the end of his most prolific period as a solo artist. While Desmond’s recordings with the Dave Brubeck Quartet are honored as his greatest achievement and are considered some of the most popular jazz recordings of all time, his solo work for a slew of labels should not be overlooked. Along with Stan Getz, Desmond brought one of the most beautiful tones to the saxophone of any jazz player who ever lived.

Desmond fans will also be advised to seek out three other releases in this series that he plays on: She Was Too Good To Me, from Chet Baker; Concierto, from Jim Hall; and Giant Box from Don Sebesky.
There are many other great releases from this series including two classics from George Benson: Beyond the Blue Horizon and White Rabbit.

Two other must-have releases from this series include Sunflower from Milt Jackson and God Bless The Child from Kenny Burrell.

Finally, look for the two-CD set California Concert, recorded at the California Palladium from 1972. It features an all-star cast of George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Stanley Turrentine, Hank Crawford, Johnny Hammond, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham and Airto.