Count Basie – (1953-56) Supreme Jazz series – Membran

by | Nov 19, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Count Basie – (1953-56) Supreme Jazz series – Membran multichannel SACD 223258-207, 60:40 [] ***1/2:

I noticed some time ago a listing of 30 top jazz artist reissues in multichannel SACD from the German label Membran.  It includes such names as Ellington, Benny Goodman, Monk, Mulligan, Getz, Gillespie, Kenton, Brubeck, Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald and Erroll Garner. Now I’ve finally had an opportunity to hear one of the hybrid discs.

I realized that none of these 30 masters could possibly originate from multichannel sources, but I had thought most were probably stereo masters which had been processed for derived surround channel information, as Opus 3, AliaVox and some other labels have done. Not so, one look at the 1953-56 recording dates represented here and it’s obvious these are only mono masters – probably true of the entire series.  Nevertheless, the sound of the band is not bad – it’s just not very surrounding, as would be expected from a processed mono source. It would have been nice if Membran revealed in the notes exactly how they processed the original tapes. And the stereo SACD option does sound a bit cleaner vs. the CD layer. While I didn’t try it for comparison, I feel a similar surround effect could be achieved by simply playing a good mono Basie LP and feeding it thru Dolby ProLogic II Matrix mode.  In fact, playing that LP with one of the premium-priced mono-only moving-coil cartridges might produce an even better final result. It’s interesting that one of the Basie tracks is titled Stereophonic, when it isn’t.  However, this is a most enjoyable album anyway, and it improves in one swell foop the low discography of jazz SACDs currently available.

The 17 tracks are all prime Basie, and the various soloists are listed in the note booklet. However, there are only a few of the Basie Band’s big hits, perhaps because they came after this 50s period: April in Paris, Shiny Stockings, and Two for the Blues. If you’re already a longtime Basie fan you probably already have most of these tracks.  For high-impact early Basie stereo I recommend the Roulette CD or LP which has the controversial (at its original release) atom bomb photo on the cover.

Cherry Point  Bubbles  Right On  The Blues Done Come Back  Plymouth Rock  I Feel Like a New Man  You for Me  Soft Drink  Two for the Blues  Slow But Sure  Two Franks  Stereophonic  Everyday  April in Paris  Shiny Stockings  Midgets  Big Red

 – John Henry

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