I have been thinking of authoring another installment of Lovely Recordings but have not yet had the time to sit down and do so. However, there is one recent release which is so good in terms of the music, musicianship and sound quality that it deserves a mention on its own.
Namely the Yuko Mabuchi Trio recording from Yarlung Records. In the liner notes, Ms. Mabuchi notes that she is a fan of two of my favorite jazz pianists, Oscar Peterson and Monty Alexander, and it shows both in terms of her playing and how she presents the material. Only Monty could pull off making "Feelings" into compelling piece or turn "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" into a stomping jazz swing piece. Ms. Mabuchi does the same thing with my favorite piece here, a fantastic re-imagining of Sara Bareilles' "Seriously" into a reggae flavored soulful affair.
The sound here is superb, recorded live in a small theatre using DSD 256. The detail, sense of space and most importantly, dynamics, are thrilling. It is rare in the audiophile world to get such a perfect pairing of compelling music and sound quality.
I downloaded the album from NativeDSD at DSD 128 resolution. Highly recommended.
French Vintage HiFi
Welcome to the best of the digital world. A Native DSD256 file recorded by pianist extraordinaire Yuko Mabuchi and her Trio. Played back on the newest Merging+NADAC Player with Roon. The Merging Technologies room at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver with the Definitive Technology BP2000TL speakers certainly gave it justice.
This album thrilled the RMAF attendees who visited our room. Wonderful recording.
The Absolute Sound
If the eponymous debut album by the Yuko Mabuchi Trio can be seen as a coming out party, it’s hard to imagine the musicians squeezing anything more out of the event. The nearly hour-long set includes some well-known jazz standards, including a gorgeous On Green Dolphin Street and an exuberant romp through Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas. During a solo piano medley, Mabuchi’s reconstruction of Take the “A” Train displays a fertile imagination and a confident left hand. A sly reading of Sara Bareilles’ Seriously shows Mabuchi’s ability to spot a pop song that translates nicely into the jazz idiom. Her interpretive skills also surface on a composition by TAS music reviewer Mark Lehman, Waltz Noir; here the trio uses a classical composition as a launch pad for some highly evocative noir jazz. If Mabuchi’s playing can be described as tasteful, economical, and lyrical, it should also be noted that her rapid single-note runs are impeccably executed. The performances benefit from an exceptionally realistic recording that stands out for its in-the-room ambience and tonal clarity. So far this year I’ve heard a dozen recordings by piano trios, and Yuko Mabuchi Trio stands up against any of them.
Yuko Mabuchi plays the ivories with the touch of an angel and the understanding of an artist many times her young age. She is backed by seasoned musicians with strong drive, plus an acute sense of playing with, and not over, the pianist.
This is Yarlung’s third jazz album recorded like you wish all performances were recorded: listening is just like being there. All that's missing here is the expensive tickets and a sticky floor!
The selection of mostly standards and stand-outs is delightful and hard to leave. I liked every one of them, particularly the "All The Things You Are," "Take The A Train," "Satin Doll Medley," and "St. Thomas," a Sonny Rollins classic. The "Japanese Medley" was hauntingly gorgeous and intriguing. I played it twice in my first listening pass.
The album is all about Yuko Mabuchi, and the bass and drums rarely step out from a supporting role. When they do, it is lovely to hear. The recording is natural and neutral with a bullet. I hear no tinkering or sweetening that does not belong there.
Definition is top notch. Ambient cues, imaging solidity, and airiness are state of the art. The soundstage is huge and lifelike, and you will be drawn into it. I could easily hear the size of the venue.
The Yuko Mabuchi Trio Concert album has my highest recommendation. Should knock your socks off in hi-rez!