SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Anthony Wilson Nonet – Power of Nine – Groove Note (vinyl double album)

An unusual audiophile vinyl double album with one 33⅓ and one 45 rpm disc.

Published on March 2, 2013

Anthony Wilson Nonet – Power of Nine – Groove Note 180 gr. audiophile vinyl GRV1035-1, (2 discs: 1-33⅓, 1-45 rpm), 70:52 *****:

(Anthony Wilson, guitar; Diana Krall, vocal on “Looking Back;” Eva Scow, mandolin on “Quadra 3 & 4;” Adam Schroeder, baritone sax; Alan Ferber, trombone; Mark Ferber, drums; Matt Otto, tenor sax; Matt Zebley, alto & sop. sax; Gilbert Castellanos, trumpet; Donald Vega, piano; Barek “Oles” Oleszkiewicz, doublebass)

This unusual album was originally recorded in Hollywood in 2006 and mastered by Bernie Grundman.  What makes it really unusual is that the first vinyl disc is at 33, while the second is at 45 rpm. There is also an SACD of the same session on Groove Note (GRV1035-3), so I had the opportunity of comparing the two.

First, the music: only two of the tracks are not originals by Anthony Wilson—the opening “Make It Good,” by Duke Pearson, and the Diana Krall vocal, “Looking Back.”  That last is a meditative recollection about childhood with lyric by Cheryl Ernst and music by Jimmy Rowles. Rowles was Diana’s teacher for many years and as a friend Wilson suggested to her doing this song on the album would pay tribute to him. “I and Thou” and “Melatonin Dream” are two sections of a suite Wilson wrote titled Tokyo Wednesday. The second 33side contains mostly the Quadra Suite, which has four movements and was influenced by Brazilian music, specifically that of Ivan Lins. The album’s title tune, “Power of Nine” is subtitled “Blues for Bunker Hill” and came out of a commission to write a piece with a West Coast perspective. Wilson pays tribute in this track to a residential neighborhood in download LA that was destroyed to make way for the construction of huge office buildings and freeways early in the 1950s.

The first thing to be noticed in making such vinyl vs. digital comparisons is the greater amount of exercise one gets playing the vinyl, even when it is at 33speed. There was very little difference between the two-channel SACD and the 33⅓ vinyl. If pushed, I might say that there was a very slight increase in the general ambience or space around each musician on the SACD vs. the vinyl, which seemed somewhat opaque. However, it was extremely subtle.

The 45 rpm sides of the vinyl give you “Melatonin Dream” on Side C, followed by the absolutely gorgeous long-form ballad titled simply “Hymn.”  I’m not sure which of the saxists has the main solo here, but it’s surpassingly lovely. On Side D is the title tune, followed by a repeat of the Diana Krall vocal, but this time at 45 rpm for comparison. What I hear is a step up in the audio reproduction from even the SACD, with more depth and feeling that you are in the room with the musicians rather than just listening to a recording. Even though the grooves get rather close to the label, my comparisons showed no degradation on the vinyl vs. the SACD as it approach the conclusion of each side. (Of course it should be kept in mind here that we have quite a difference in cost between these two formats.)

33⅓ sides: Make It Good, I and Thou, Looking Back, Quadra 1-4, Amalgamation
45 sides: Melatonin Dream, Hymn, Power of Nine, Looking Back (bonus cut)

—John Sunier

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