Aix Records continues to give the collector more for his money than any other label. The choices for reproduction of audio are truly staggering, with every possibility considered (except someone who owns only a standard CD player). For those with a standard DVD video player there is a choice of 2-channel PCM audio at 96K/24-bit, or DTS 5.1 or Dolby 5.1. For those with a DVD-Audio or universal player and a two-channel system there is a choice of either the PCM stereo or the mixdown to stereo of the 5.1 MLP tracks. And for those with a surround playback system and DVD-A, there is the 5.1 “stage” mix using 96K/24-bits MLP. The DD 5.1 is mixed to place the listener in the audience, while the DTS 5.1 option puts you on stage with the players. With the added resolution of DTS I usually find it the most impactful for accompaniment to the video of the recording session. However, if you have the proper player, the 5.1 MLP multichannel mix is the last word in resolution and transparency – but you won’t have the video of the big band onscreen at the same time.
Emil Richards is a master percussionist in his early 70s who has performed on over a thousand movie soundtracks in his career as as a studio musician. He played with Frank Sinatra and Diana Krall among others, and has assembled a huge collection percussion instruments from around the world – similar to the more-publicized collection of the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. Richards solos exclusively on the vibes in the 18-man big band. His partner, drummer Joe Porcaro, teaches at the LA Music Academy, and has recorded with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Don Ellis among others. The ten tunes on the disc include four from big band genius Sammy Nestico, two from Allyn Ferguson, one from Quincy Jones, and Bronislaw Kaper’s standard On Green Dolphin Street. The sonics are clean and transparent but occasionally I wanted a more forward sound from the center speaker on Richards’ vibes, especially when the camera was zeroing in on him. The only real disappointment of the disc, though, was the low-resolution, soft-focus, washed-out appearance of the studio video. It is widescreen and sometimes split screen with good coverage of the players, but it is not up to the much higher-def videos seen on other recent Aix releases.
– John Henry