DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Ernest Ranglin – Order of Distinction, Blu-ray (2012)

The finest acoustics on a Blu-Ray that I have ever experienced…

Published on July 30, 2012

Ernest Ranglin – Order of Distinction, Blu-ray (2012)

Director: Mark Waldrep
Performers: (See below)
Studio: AIX Records AIX85047 [Distr. by Naxos] (7/31/12)
Video: 3D 1080p HD Video (1920 X 1080) for 16:9 display
Audio: 2.0 PCM Audio 96khz/24 bits Stereo Mix; 5.1 Dolby True HD “Stage” Mix Perspective; 5.1 Dolby True HD “Audience” Mix Perspective; 5.1 Dolby Digital (Stage and Audience Perspective);No Dynamic Processing/ No EQ/ No Artificial Reverb
Extras: Audio tests, rehearsal videos, interviews, “The Roots of Reggae,” explanations, etc.
Length: 88 min. +30 for extras
Ratings: Video ****    Audio *****

(Ernest Ranglin, electric guitar; Monty Alexander, piano, electric bass, and melodica; Phil Chen, electric bass, bantar; Richard Bailey, drums, and congas. With special guests – Joey Altruda, Elliott Easton, Robbie Krieger-electric guitars; Laurence Juber, acoustic guitar; Jeff Lorber, electric keyboard; Adrian Young, drums; Alana Davis, Elan Atias, vocals; Brian Jobson and Steven Soles, background vocals)

I have heard many Blu-ray discs dedicated to musical performances. Many boast quite impressive lossless surround sound to go along with the usual Blu-ray quality video. However, nothing prepared me for the quality of sound found on Order of Distinction, which presents Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin in a small studio setting accompanied by the rhythm section of Monty Alexander, Phil Chen, and Richard Bailey. In addition, several guest guitarists, including Robbie Krieger from The Doors, get their chance to accompany Ranglin. Two tracks feature vocalists Alana Davis and Elan Atias.

This Blu-ray provided me with the most authentic “in concert” sound I have ever experienced outside of an actual live setting. The vibrancy, warmth, and crystalline fidelity can not adequately be described. My home theater, system consisting of seven speakers and a subwoofer, sounded like I had been missing something all this time. It was jaw dropping. Mark Waldrep, Ph.D, of AIX Records, makes recordings using true HD sound. Utilizing stereo pairs of advanced microphones, world class preamplifiers, and digital to analog converters fed into a HD digital recorder running at 96kHz/24 bits. This is done without equalization, compression, or artificial reverberation or overdubbing. Waldrep points out that the use of Blu-ray format allows AIX to simultaneously playback HD Surround Audio and HD Video for the first time ever. I am not an audio engineer, but my ears can attest to the fact that Waldrep has succeeded in providing true state of the art acoustics.

From the late 1950s onward, Ranglin is credited with helping bring on the birth of ska, and has been called the “father of ska.” For many years he has played with jazz pianist Monty Alexander, and from the joyous expressions that you see from Alexander on this Blu-ray, it was a happy reunion. Ranglin also provided inspiration for reggae artists, and in the 1970s he toured with Jimmy Cliff. He was awarded the designation of Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his contribution to Jamaican culture.

Included on this Blu-ray are two compositions that Ranglin is most well- known for his guitar lines, “My Boy Lollipop”, and “Hurts to Be Alone.”

Ernest is very laid back in his playing showing little emotion as he plays, letting his fingers do the singing. The joy of his guest guitar accompanists, is palpable, as they know they are playing with the master. The two tracks above are vocals and Alana Davis and Elan Atias add a soulful touch to the proceedings. Guest guitarist Joey Altruda plays accompanying guitar on six of the twelve tracks and is a great foil for Ranglin. The mix of their playing is exquisite.

The 30 minutes of extras include an interview with Ranglin, a rehearsal video, a short vignette on the Roots of Reggae, and interviews with several of the guest artists paying homage to Ranglin.

By the way, I found the True HD “Stage Mix” to be the most pleasing of the mixes to my ear. For fans of Mr. Ranglin or jazz guitar in general, this is a must purchase. At $29.99 presently on Amazon, this is the bargain purchase of the summer for audiophiles.

TrackList: 3 Pope, Satta Massagana, Grandfather Clock, Spur Tree, Pimento Walk, Ranchin’, Many Rivers to Cross, My Boy Lollipop, Hurts to Be Alone, Ball of Fire, Straight Flush, Pocomania

—Jeff Krow

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