Fidelio Audio is back, following its stunning Julie London tribute (Doreen Smiths In The Still of the Night -- one of our best of 2001) with Shadows, a much more straight-ahead jazz recording of alto saxophonist Loescher in a pianoless trio with two of Canadas finest jazz musicians, bassist Frédéric Alarie and drummer Michel Lambert.
Taking one part Sonny Rollins, two parts Lee Konitz, and adding a dash of Johnny Hodges (for flavor), the Loescher Trio reaches deeply into that tried-and-true collection of Americana, The Great American Songbook, for the music recorded on Shadows. And Shadows does far more than just rehash familiar material, albeit with superb sonic quality -- Loescher, Alarie and Lambert twist, turn, bend, fold, spindle and mutilate these well-known tunes, never straying too far from the melody. And that is a neat trick.
Take "My Funny Valentine," for example. As many a jazz lover will testify, there is no more definitive version of this tune than the ones recorded by Miles Davis in the mid-to-late 1950s. It was almost his signature song, and its hard to listen to any interpretation of it without thinking of -- and comparing to -- his versions. Yet the Loescher Trio finds new ground to cultivate here. Starting slowly, gently, they state the melody without sticking strictly to it, presenting it as if by inference. With Lambert dancing on his drum kit and Alarie holding down the pulse while providing accents for the others to play off, Loescher pokes, prods, and explores this song in its entirety, always keeping his flights of inventiveness, as Goldilocks said, "juuussst right."
And as far as the sound goes, Fidelio Audio has once again hit the bulls-eye -- its easily the equal of the music. Any of you privy to Fidelios demo rooms at the Montreal Son & Image show have seen the custom-built Fidelio RL-1 vacuum-tube microphone favored by engineer Rene Laflamme (a picture of which is included in the Shadows liner notes). That's the main microphone used here, along with two DPA 4003s and one Neumann M147 for fill. Thats it.
The drum kit benefits the most from the superb sonics; its sound is crisp, detailed and splashy. You get the feeling of sitting directly in front of the drummer, but thats also the biggest problem on Shadows. The drum kit is spread speaker-to-speaker wide and thats far too big to convince you its real. But with all the detail presented herein, you probably wont care much. The bass is deep, woody and resonant, and the alto is front and center, a 3-D, palpably real instrument.
Shadows is a true demo-quality disc, one that can be played for both audiophiles and music lovers alike. The Loescher Trio gives a wonderful performance and is supported by the superb sonics of Fidelio Audio. Take the time to visit Fidelio's website to see a complete listing of the label's recordings, including this one. Then order. I doubt youll be disappointed.
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