Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lyn Stanley's The Moonlight Sessions, Volume One on CD/SACD Hybrid

This was unexpected, getting this particular title sent along with all the other contemporary jazz releases I've been receiving over the last few months. Lyn Stanley, for want of a better phrase, is an "audiophile-approved" female singer. That means her recordings are usually considered excellent on the basis of sound quality, which is valuable since many audiophiles use female vocals exclusively as a sonic reference for hi-fi systems. That puts her in a group that includes Jennifer Warnes, Patricia Barber, Anne Bisson, Eva Cassidy and, of course, Diana Krall. That may or may not sound flippant, so let me elaborate--in most cases this is a wonderful thing. I know I like to grumble about these singers, but only because audiophiles are so conditioned to listen to them as an evaluation tool. If I had a dollar for every time an audiophile walked into my room at a high-end audio show and asked me to swap out my carefully chosen recording for "female voice, please," I'd probably have enough to pay for the room and break even.

I've gotten that out of the way. Now let me talk about Lyn Stanley and this recording, which was actually released a few months ago. I started hearing her name in audiophile circles a few months ago. I heard a lot about her at AXPONA back in April because she was there and she was performing. I went down to the marketplace and saw The Moonlight Sessions, Vol. 1, along her other recordings, being sold all over the place. Of course it was available on LP, and everyone said the sound quality was gobsmacking. Then Stanley had upped the ante by making her album available on reel-to-reel, taken right off the master.

In the land of audiophilia, that means Stanley is serious. The real thing. Respect.

That's why I'm a little disappointed to review The Moonlight Sessions in its hybrid CD/SACD form. This crappy attitude changed once I slapped the little silver disc into the CD transport and pressed play. Of course the sound quality is terrific, beautifully quiet in the right places, warm beyond belief but with plenty of detail and air. This collection of sultry, romantic standards has such a beautiful balance from top to bottom, and it's all anchored to Stanley's husky, deep and sensuous voice.

I'm also pleased to see Mike Garson as a featured pianist, along with Tamir Hendelman and Christian Jacob. Garson is also "audiophile-approved" and I own many of his incredible CDs and LPs from his Reference Recordings days. Whenever he's playing, I'm immediately attracted to that trademark lithe yet confident style.

If I had one teeny tiny complaint, it's that Stanley's expressive and powerful voice is perhaps too front and center. That's sort of a traditional way to spotlight a fascinating singer who's backed up by talented musicians--Julie London's amazing LPs feature that sort of balance, but for some reason I'm more forgiving because it allows a more interesting historical perspective on the recording. With The Moonlight Sessions it sounds as if you're about three or four rows back, and Stanley has climbed down into the crowd and is now singing at your table.

That's certainly not a bad thing, but I do notice it. Other than that, I think her voice is incredibly sexy and inviting. It's much closer to London than too-cool-for-school Krall and for that reason I'll be more than happy to bring this to all future trade shows. Unless, of course, I get a hold of one of those LPs.

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