Monday, October 28, 2013

Ella and Louis Again on Analogue Productions' CD/SACD Hybrid

"Mono kicks ass!"

Bob Clarke was right. As soon as I brought the Analogue Production CD/SACD reissue of Ella and Louis Again into our room at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest earlier this month, I knew Chad Kassem had another winner on his hands. Between Chad's Analogue Productions record label, 2L Recordings and FIM, the audiophile market is flooded with great reissues right now. It's certainly risky to play mono recordings at trade shows--one of those sit-down-for-three-and-a-half-seconds audiophiles might drop by and then proceed to tell his all his buddies that the sound in the room was compressed and that the soundstage seemed awfully narrow. For me it takes a few seconds for a mono recording to register in my brain--especially one that sounds as good as this one. Listening to a beautiful mono recording like Ella and Louis Again is like viewing an Ansel Adams print. Sure, it's in black and white, but look at all that amazing detail!

I've been joking for the last few weeks that among audiophiles, this seems to be the Year of Ella Fitzgerald. Once I purchased the Analogue Productions CD/SACD of Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie! a few months ago, it seems like I've been hearing her everywhere--not just at trade shows. Part of the reason, I suppose, is because there are so many great Ella reissues out on audiophile labels right now--including this disc's predecessor, 1956's Ella and Louis, which Chad released not too long ago. I've jumped on the Ella bandwagon as well, and I've been a sucker for all things Satchmo for at least the last decade, so buying this exquisite 1957 mono recording seemed to make perfect sense even if the occasional show attendee didn't quite get it.

Yes, this album kicks ass. Look at the line-up...aside from Ella and Mr. Armstrong, you have Ray Brown on bass, Oscar Peterson on piano, Louis Bellson on drums and Herb Ellis on guitar. Does it get any better than this? When you hear an excellent recording with stellar performers creating one-of-a-kind performances, you're instantly shoved into a time machine and transported to back to the recording event. When the recording is in mono (or even on a pristine 78 rpm disc), those quaint technologies add a stunning patina to the surface. It's like seeing a daguerrotype of a long-dead historical figure and seeing through the scratches and the blemishes and saying to yourself, "My God, that's really them!"

It certainly helps when someone comes along a squeezes even more life out of the artifact while gently wiping off a layer of dust. I'm sure there are plenty of vinylphiles like me who would rather have a mint copy of the first Verve pressing of Ella and Louis Again, but I'm sure that would cost a fortune. For $30, you can have something that either comes awfully close, or completely
surpasses the original, depending on your format prejudices.

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