While the support for new SACD releases is sorely lacking from the major labels, I am impressed with the quality and quantity of boutique labels making useful contributions, especially in the jazz and classical arenas. One such is Ambient Records, whose self proclaimed mission is to "document performances of living legends and exciting new talent in the highest technological means available". To Ambient Records, this means recording artists such as Gene Bertoncini, Sean Smith and Leslie Pintchik in the best DSD sound.
For some reason this is one of those rare SACD's that come in the regular CD case rather than using the tell-tale rounded corner case. I like the round edges – they makes it easier for me to find my SACDs when the need arises.
The pianist Leslie Pintchik first surfaced on the Manhattan scene in a jazz trio with renowned bassist Red Mitchell at Bradley's. She later formed her own trio with bassist Scott Hardy and a series of drummers, including her current longtime band-mates Satoshi Takeishi and Mark Dodge. Her trio performs primarily in Manhattan at jazz venues that include Sweet Rhythm, Knickerbocker, the Blue Note, 55 Bar and the Kitano.
Her debut album So Glad to be Here was released in 2004 on Ambient Records, featuring Pintchik on piano with her husband Scott Hardy on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. Her new album Quartets features a similar format of standards and original compositions, but the band is now a quartet rather than a trio. To be more precise, it is two bands. Pintchik, Hardy and drummer Dodge form the core of both groups, supplemented on five tracks by Takeishi's percussion and on the other four by Steve Wilson's sax.
Percussion rarely fares well on Redbook CD. There just aren't enough bits to do it full justice. How would two percussionists sound? Tizzy, brash, harsh, unpleasant – you get the picture. Switch to the SACD layer on the EMM Labs CDSA SE and the recording is a revelation. It's delicate, detailed, refined, and atmospheric. I've rarely heard a disc that reveals the advantages of SACD so clearly. I really can't recommend this disc for Redbook playback. But if you have a good SACD player you will enjoy the recording quality here. It's laid-back rather than immediate, spacious, warm and clean.
Sound quality aside, this disc was a very pleasant surprise to me, never having heard of Leslie Pintchik. A late starter, she is a subtle performer who probes deeply and phrases well. Both quartets are equally well balanced and the musicians tightly integrated into a cohesive whole. You won't hear long elaborate solos here - virtuosity is not the objective. Instead Pintchik and Hardy have developed arrangements focused on interesting sound patterns, solid melodies and infectious Brazilian rhythms.
The standout tracks are "Too Close for Comfort", "Not So Fast", "Over Easy" and "Somewhere". "
There's a good mixture of styles and paces on this album, and nothing too avant-garde for those who hold fifties jazz in the highest regard. Pintchik's talents as a composer, arranger and performer are strong. Quartets is a welcome addition to the catalog.
Sound: (SACD) / (CD)