Top Artists – Michel Legrand

In 2005, I Fell Into a Common Audiophile Trap – This Is the Album that Helped Me Find My Way Out

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Michel Legrand

More Albums We’ve Reviewed on Columbia and Epic

This 2005 commentary discusses how easy it is to be fooled by tweaks that seem to offer more transparency and detail at the expense of weight and heft. Detail is everything to some audiophiles, but detail can be a trap that’s easy to fall into if we do not guard against it.

The brass on this wonderful Six Eye Mono pressing of the album set me straight. [Since that time I have not been able to find mono pressings that sounded as good as I remember this one sounding. That sh*t happens.]

I was playing this record today (5/24/05) after having made some changes in my stereo over the weekend, and I noticed some things didn’t sound quite right. Knowing that this is an exceptionally good sounding record, albeit a very challenging one, I started playing around with the stereo, trying to recapture the sound as I remembered it from the last copy that had come in a few months back.

As I tweaked and untweaked the system around this record, I could hear immediately what was better and what was worse, what was more musical and what was more Hi-Fi. The track I was playing was Night In Tunisia, which has practically every brass instrument known to man, in every combination one can imagine.

Since this is a Mono pressing, I didn’t have to worry about silly issues like soundstaging, which can be very deceptive. I was concerned with tonality and the overall presentation of the various elements in the recording.

To make a long story short, I ended up undoing all the things that I had done to the system over the weekend! In other words, what improvements I thought I had made turned out not to be improvements at all. And this is the album that showed me the error of my ways.

Brass instruments are some of the most difficult to reproduce, especially brass choirs. You have to get the leading edges so that the instruments have “bite.” You can’t have too much harmonic distortion or smearing, because harmonic distortion and smearing are very obvious on brass instruments.

But the one thing above all that is intolerable when trying to reproduce brass is a lack of weight or heft. There is nothing worse than thin sounding brass. It becomes hard, shrill, sour and altogether unpleasant.

This is another reason why I don’t like small speakers: they have trouble reproducing the weight of brass instruments, in both jazz and classical music.

The tweaking I had done over the weekend resulted in greater transparency and openness.

But greater transparency and openness at the expense of richness, fullness, correct tonality and proper overall presentation is a bad trade-off.

Many audiophiles fall into this trap. I fell into it myself. Thank goodness I had this wonderful jazz record to help me find my way out. If I had been playing Patricia Barber I doubt I would have ever realized how wrong I was.

This is yet another reason that it’s important to play REAL MUSIC recorded by real engineers and not AUDIOPHILE MUSIC recorded by audiophile engineers when adjusting or tweaking your system.

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Michel Legrand / After the Rain – A Personal Favorite

This album is PURE MAGIC! I know of no other jazz album like it. It’s lyrical and moody, yet comes to life at a moment’s notice when the horn players start to feel the spirit. If you’re familiar with the music he wrote for The Thomas Crown Affair (he won an Academy Award for “Windmills of Your Mind”), you may have a good feel for subtle, impressionistic, often moody quality of After the Rain . Or check it out on youtube (while trying to imagine the sound being at least one million times better).

Michel’s idea was to assemble a group of his favorite musicians, especially those who were ordained in the lyrical persuasion, to record his next album.

With Zoot Sims and Phil Woods trading off stylistically opposed solos within the gentle, subtly “French” atmosphere, aided by guitar, trumpet, Michel’s piano, and rhythm, you have something new, even unique.

Phil Woods doubles on clarinet, and his lead work on Martina is the one of the finest examples of jazz clarinet I’ve ever heard. (Art Pepper is another guy who can really swing on the clarinet without sounding dated.) (more…)

Bud Shank – Windmills Of Your Mind

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • Bud Shank’s 1969 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one
  • Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage – for this music this is the right sound
  • Features a collection of compositions by jazz great Michel Legrand, who lends his talents here on piano and harpsichord as well
  • “Every track is a French twist on the swinging ’60s, with superb arranging by Legrand and crisp playing by Bud and the orchestra.”

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The Recordings of Michel LeGrand – These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

These are just some of the Michel LeGrand’s recordings that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting.

Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.  

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

Barbra Streisand / Je M’Appelle Barbra – ’60s 360 Vs. ’70s Red

More Barbra Streisand

For Barbra Streisand’s early albums the original pressings on the 360 label just have to be better, right? 

Not in this case. It’s just another rule of thumb, one that will sometimes lead you astray if what you are trying to find are not just good sounding pressings of albums, but the best sounding pressings of albums.

Same with reissue versus original. Nice rule of thumb but only if you have enough copies of the title to know that you’re not just assuming the original is better. You actually have the data — gathered from the other LPs you have played — to back it up.

The best of the 360 pressings in our shootout did well, just not as well.

A classic case of Compared to What? Who knew the recording would sound better on the Red Label Columbia reissue pressing from the ’70s? Certainly we did not, not until we did the shootout.

Our good later label pressings had all the richness and Tubey Magic of the 360s — one really couldn’t tell which pressing was on the turntable by the sound — but had a bit more space, clarity and freedom from artificiality.

Watch your levels because she really gets loud on some of this material. The best copies, such as this side one, hold up. The lesser copies get congested, shrill and crude at their loudest, and of course get marked down dramatically when that happens.

Side two as very rich and smooth, yet clear and breathy – this is the right sound for ol’ Babs. The first track has tons of Tubey Magical reverb – check it out! (more…)

Michel Legrand – Legrand Jazz

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This album is more common in mono than stereo, but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It’s dramatically smaller and more squawky and crude than even the worst of the stereo pressings we played. 

We had a copy we liked years ago but that was years ago. We don’t have that copy anymore and we don’t have a stereo that sounds the way our old one did either. (more…)