Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's Autumn in Seattle on FIM UltraHD

One day last week, I suddenly had a hankering for a new CD from First Impression Music (FIM). I've purchased three or four of Winston Ma's discs over the last year or so--usually while I'm exhibiting at trade shows and I need something cool and different to play for the show attendees--and the sound quality is always phenomenal. I look at some of these audiophile discs I've been listening to lately--Blu-ray audio from 2L Recordings, CD/SACD hybrids from Analogue Productions and these hi-rez redbook CDs from FIM--and I realize I've been listening to these more than I've been listening to vinyl. So I wanted more.

I went straight to the First Impression Music website and found that nearly everything was available online, including a few titles I thought were no longer available. I placed an order for Tsuyushi Yamamoto's Autumn in Seattle on UltraHD and within four days the disc was in my mailbox! Not bad. I could easily make a habit of ordering, I don't know, one per month this way. These discs just sound so wonderful--I've never heard the upper frequencies of a digitally-reproduced recording sound so pleasing and effortless.

So I picked Autumn in Seattle because it's Tsuyushi Yamamoto, and my Three Blind Mice LP of his Midnight Sugar is the best-sounding jazz recording I own--maybe even the very best-sounding recording I own, period. (For the record, the Tsuyushi Yamamoto Trio's Misty is also pretty spectacular, and I own that on LP as well.) On the other hand, I checked out the tracks and this is a collection of standards--and not the type of standards I really enjoy. We're talking "The Way We Were," "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," which all have the potential to sound incredibly cheesy in this day and age. Then again, the idea of Yamamoto-san doing an album of Bacharach sounds mighty cool as well.

Truth is, the results are better than I had imagined. I did have to grit my teeth a little during the more fanciful parts of "Raindrops," but the rest of this album's full of strong, solid jazz performances that just sound gorgeous. I do think Midnight Sugar is a much stronger recording, which is strange because Autumn in Seattle is a far more modern recording--originally recorded and released in 2001, it was remastered and reissued in FIM's UltraHD format in 2011. On the other hand, the fact that Midnight Sugar and Misty originally came out in the mid-'70s might also explain why it's the better recording, especially according to us analog troglodytes. But that certainly doesn't mean that Autumn in Seattle doesn't sound absolutely stupendous--because it does--those two older albums are just that special.

I'm kind of hooked now. It was so easy to order through the website, and I think shipping may have been free--or at least really cheap. The CD was $41, and a little over $43 was charged to my credit card. I think $41 may be the top of the line--there's plenty of selection in the $20 to $35 range.

By the way, I listed to this CD with a great pair of mini-monitors, the MAD 1920S. I've been listening to so many BIG speakers every since we moved to Colorado because we have such a big room now. We have so many quality mini-monitors such as the MADs, the Trenner & Friedl ARTs, even a pair of Rega RS1s that I've only used a couple of times. Over the next few weeks I'll be "getting back to my roots" and listening through mini-monitors.

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