April 2002

Bucky Pizzarelli - Swing Live
Chesky CHDVD222
Released: 2001

by Jeff Fritz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment *****

[Reviewed on DVD-Audio]Bucky Pizzarelli’s Swing Live on DVD-Audio is an astonishingly good work. Quite simply, this is the best multichannel music disc I’ve heard so far.

The performance features Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Peter Appleyard on vibes, Bernard Purdie on drums, Allen Vache on clarinet, and Michael Moore on bass. The recording was made at the Makor, a small New York City jazz club, back in February of 2001. It’s a classic swing performance recorded in front of a live -- and lively -- audience.

You’ll hear the interplay between some jazz greats -- and some solos that exude talent and enjoyment of the art of musicianship. The rhythmic exchanges between the drums of Purdie and the other players, as well as the vibrant clarinet work of Vache are highlights. Swing Live makes you move. In fact, you just have to get out of your listening seat and exercise your grooving ability. There’s so much life in this performance that you can see the looks on the faces of the artists as they were playing, by simply listening. You just know they are enjoying themselves immensely, and its transferred to the listener fully. That’s what its all about.

Sonically speaking, this is an ultra-minimalist recording that relies on the acoustics of the venue for the magic. There are no odd mixing decisions that question the authenticity of the music. The crowd and natural ambience are what you will hear in the surrounds. It’s imperative that you have your channel balances set appropriately, which may mean reducing the levels of your surround speakers a bit more than would be the case during, say, the playback of a movie soundtrack. The sound is immediate and crisp, but with none of the grain or noise that plague many live recordings. There’s abundant natural decay that makes the walls disappear. It’s wickedly good.

I have to applaud David and Norman Chesky and recording engineer Barry Wolifson on some of the decisions they made when producing this disc. Swing Live is termed a "2/4/6" disc, which denotes the speaker configurations that can be used for playback. First, this is primarily a 6.0 recording. 6.0 is Chesky’s surround configuration of choice, whereby the front and rear speakers are supplemented by two side speakers located 55 degrees off a center-oriented listener. For those who do not have this setup, they include what they term a "5.1 compatible 4.0" DVD-A track for those of us with 5.1 home-theater-oriented systems. Either way -- in 4.0 or 6.0 -- both the center channel and subwoofer are omitted.

Most listeners will probably use the 4.0 track and it is the default. There is also a 96kHz/24-bit stereo track (also in DVD-A) for those of you with a two-channel (2.0) setup. The 4.0 mix is clearly more dynamic and enveloping than the stereo track, which loses the venue to a large extent. Finally, there are 4.0 and 2.0 tracks for DVD-Video players.

These are great jazz performers recorded in multichannel, using what is obviously cutting-edge technology, produced by extremely talented and committed professionals. If that is what you are looking for, Swing Live is the ticket. And if you can’t make the trek this year to New York to hear some live jazz, you can still hear Bucky Pizzarelli and crew in a close approximation of the real thing. Excuse me, I have to go to the bar -- uh, fridge -- and get back to the music.