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Latest Vinyl Releases - Are These References?

12-27-2018 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 101

Here are some LPs that I've gotten in recently and I want to bring to your attention.

Espresso, Bob James Trio, EVLP023, from Tappan Zee Records. 2018, Featuring Bob James, Billy Kilson, and Michael Palazzolo. $32.99. Tracks Recorded by Ken Freeman, KFP Studios, Bethlehem, PA. Tracks Recorded at Stagg Studios, Van Nuys, CA.. Assisted by Josh Frank. Mastered by Steve Vavagiaskis for Bang Zoom Mastering, Rockland, NY. Mastered to Vinyl by Kevin Gray on 180 gram black vinyl.

Legendary pianist Bob James is joined by bassist Michael Palazzolo and drummer Billy Kilson playing nine original jazz selections with that energy and style you would expect from seasoned artists. Relaxing and elegant, these inventive renditions of modern jazz made for a sweet musical ride. Available online at www.elusivedisc.com, it is great to hear Bob James again after over a decade since his last solo effort.

Priced at $32.99, the double gatefold production is chock full of thoughts, comments, and information the jazz aficionado will enjoy.

Side 1

  1. "Topside"
  2. "Shadow Dance"
  3. "Mojito Ride"
  4. "Il Boccalone"

Side 2

  1. "Submarine"
  2. "Bulgogi"
  3. "One Afternoon"
  4. "Mister Magic"
  5. "Promenade"

With this Limited Edition LP, Bob James, a Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist, wrote and performed every selection. Quincy Jones became James' mentor as a result of this open, cool style expressed once again in these new selections. "His expressiveness through both writing and performance permeates the rocking minor-key blues of 'Bulgogi,' the definitive cool jazz of 'Topside,' the funk strut of 'Submarine,' the whispered beauty of 'Promenade,' the turbulent, more complex yet supremely listenable 'Mojito Ride,' and every other moment on Espresso."

I am very close to declaring this LP a reference disc, as the recording is lively and realistic. It is at least SACD quality with lovely vinyl warmth. It will not disappoint! On my Mag-Lev ML1 turntable with Ortofon 2M Black cartridge, it was superbly open with lots of ambiance and air. Surfaces are pristine. Soundstaging is big and wide. The bass line from the kick drum is extremely there and real.

On my EAT Forte S Turntable with the Grado Epoch cartridge, instruments were even more focused and surrounded by air. The bass line jumped and pumped with energy galore. The musical lines of the piano were more lyrical and surprising. When James switched to a keyboard, the contrast between that and the Yamaha piano was bold and distinct.

Espresso is an easy jazz hit and instant recommendation for your collection. An instant classic musically, it just misses the very top tier sonically by a groove. I played it over again just for the fun of it. You will, too! A must-own!

Herbert von Karajan, Dvorak & Tchaikovsky Cello Concerto & Variations on a Rococo Theme, DGLP97726, 180g Vinyl LP, mastered from original sources. Mstislav Rostropovich with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Recorded in September 1968, at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, in Berlin. $25.99

"An ideal artistic partnership - two great personalities with a great orchestra all fusing together in music-making which combines fervor with many moments of inspirational expressive beauty.GRAMOPHONE

I could not have said it better myself. Karajan conducts like it's the last piece he will ever do. Rostropovich is inspired and exciting right in center stage. I saw this LP and I grabbed it. As fine a performance of Dvorak's Cello Concerto you will likely hear, ever. I love it! The Tchaikovsky is a very good performance, but not as energetic and original as the Dvorak. You buy this for side one!

Sonically, the LP is uneven and compressed. While not as dead sounding as most DG reissues, this one escaped the big squeeze and retains good dynamics and power in the midrange. The bass is out to lunch however. But, the performances are so exceptional that I found myself not caring about system sound as much as I might.

Surfaces are pristine and the overall definition is very good. The background on the Mag-Lev ML1 is quiet and black which helps make the midrange pop. The Grado Epoch Cartridge digs out the lush cello sound and focuses it as best as possible. 

Side two is not as good sonically as side one...I can only give it a good rating. The performance is above average, though not as inspired as the Dvorak! If it was better treated by the producer, I would like the Tchaikovsky more.

The Grado Epoch Cartridge almost makes the Dvorak come to life. Good enough to own for sure. Not expensive, an excellent quiet pressing...a must own for side one if you do not have the original. Available at Elusive Disc. Made in Germany, the selections are as follows:

Side 1

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104

  1. Satz: Allegro
  2. Satz: Adagio, ma non troppo

Side 2

  1. Satz: Finale - Allegro moderato

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Variations on a Rococo Theme for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op. 33

  1. Moderato assai quasi andante
  2. Tema: Moderato semplice
  3. Variazione I: Tempo del Tema
  4. Variazione II: Tempo del Tema
  5. Variazione III: Andante sostenuto
  6. Variazione IV: Andante grazioso
  7. Variazione V: Allegro moderato
  8. Variazione VI: Andante
  9. Variazione VII e Coda: Allegro vivo


The Yuko Mabuchi Trio Volume 2 180g 45rpm LP (RTI Pressing). Yarlung Records YARLP71621-45,180g, 45rpm Vinyl LP, Special LA & OC Audio Society 25th Anniversary Edition. Available at Elusive Disc, Acoustic Sounds, and Yarlung Records.

Jazz Pianist Yuko Mabuchi performs four tunes including a "Jazz Medley," "Japanese Medley," "Sona's Song," and Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas." Yuko dedicated this release to the 25th Anniversary of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, the largest association of audiophiles in the world.  

Pressed on high-output, ultra-quiet vinyl, and bearing the seal of the LAOC Audio Society, this 45 RPM live recording is "blow you away" wonderful! A reference LP from the first note, it is as dynamic as reel to reel, as quiet as may be done in this medium, and realistic to the max. Recorded with no transistors in the circuit, tube microphones, a tube reel to reel tape deck, all-tube cutting chain, and no compression whatsoever! Cut by Bernie Grundman, personally. Fanatically purist and perfect, you are there on a top sound system. 100% analog!

This is Volume 2...you should also have Volume 1, which is still available. The two together give you the entire concert!

If you love jazz trio work, you will love these performances. Lyrical and highly original, they are meant to excite and surprise while remaining elegant and fun. I was there for the recording session and this LP is the real deal. The only thing missing is the expensive ticket and the sticky floor! Get yours today.


  • Yuko Mabuchi, piano
  • Del Atkins, bass
  • Bobby Breton, drums  

With tip-top performances, inventive exciting jazz, and ultra-quiet surfaces, all you need is a glass of cognac to enjoy this LP. If it sounds like real music in real space, your system is dialed in. If not, go to work! Volume 2 as is Volume 1, a bonafide reference disc for the ages. Bob Attiyeh, producer of the series, masterfully brought his high taste levels to the party and gave us utter unadulterated perfection! I bought three copies to rotate so I would not wear them out. My highest, most insistent recommendation!


The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals (Imported Silver-Colored Vinyl) AAPP 122SIL, 180 gram, 33.3 RPM

Only 500 made, all numbered!

Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS) 25th Anniversary Edition on ultra-high-output, super-quiet, silver vinyl! Each album carries the seal of the Society. Strictly limited to 500 gold foil-numbered copies! 

Hand-signed by Analogue Productions' own Chad Kassem & Michael Fremer, Editor of Analog Planet, who recently received the Founders Award from the Society, their highest honor and the highest honor in North America.

From Acoustic Sounds...

"The record you grab when you want to show off your system! All-time classic performances and recordings by all-time great female singers. Each track selected by Acoustic Sounds owner Chad Kassem. Lacquers cut by Kevin Gray, and pressed at Quality Record Pressings on 180-gram vinyl. Packaged in a gatefold deluxe Stoughton tip-on jacket, with liner notes by Michael Fremer."

Side 1

  1. "Cry Me A River," Julie London
  2. "Black Coffee," Ella Fitzgerald
  3. "Poetry Man," Phoebe Snow
  4. "Son Of A Preacher Man," Dusty Springfield
  5. "Just A Little Lovin'," Shelby Lynne
  6. "Show Biz Kids," Rickie Lee Jones

Side 2

  1. "Crazy," Patsy Cline
  2. "Tennessee Waltz," Holly Cole
  3. "Breaking Silence," Janis Ian
  4. "Hey There," Myra Taylor
  5. "What a Shame," Patricia Barber
  6. "Plain Gold Ring," Nina Simone

Side 3

  1. "The Moon Is Made Of Gold," Rickie Lee Jones
  2. "Blue Moon," Julie London
  3. "Blame It on the Moon," Nancy Bryan
  4. "Diamonds and Rust," Joan Baez
  5. "Somebody Who Loves You," Joan Armatrading
  6. "Send In the Clowns," Judy Collins

Side 4

  1. "Ballad Of The Runaway Horse," Jennifer Warnes
  2. "A Case of You," Diana Krall
  3. "The Look of Love," Dusty Springfield
  4. "Brothers In Arms," Joan Baez

Though previously released by Acoustic Sounds, Chad Kassem and I made big changes. I like 180 gram LPs best for more realistic sound. Though the black vinyl is good, I feel that color vinyl brings amazing benefits to the party. This ultra-high output silver "typhoon" vinyl comes from Hong Kong and is killer! Wait until you experience this! You will wish all LPs were silver! Michael Fremer and Chad Kassem signed each and every copy by hand of the 500 sets produced. Bravo my friends! They are numbered, but with only 500 made, every one is perfect. 

Available only at Acoustic Sounds, the two-record set is only $55 and sounds, in my opinion, like the best 33.3 RPM vocal LP ever produced. Heaven knows they are the best performances
and the best producer. They sold out at our 25th Anniversary Gala in 10 minutes!

You do not want to miss out! Remember the red vinyl Greensleeves? Do not miss the silver limited edition of The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals! Look for the Society label!

A true reference LP, it receives my highest recommendation!