Jan Gunnar Hoff, piano – Living – [TrackList follows] – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 192/24 or PCM stereo 192/24) + multichannel SACD 2L92 [Distr. by Naxos] (5/28/13) *****:
Jan Gunnar Hoff was the arranger and leader on the previous audio-only 2L Blu-ray titled Quiet Winter Night (which got a GRAMMY nomination for best surround sound). He is an important Norwegian jazz artist and bandleader with his own special musical style. He has played various European jazz festivals and with such people as Pat Metheny and Mike Stern. As a composer he has created 180 works for various ensembles.
The pianist-composer says in his note booklet that he seeks to bridge the pop, jazz and classical genres in his music, and intends it to sound part improvised and part written out, which it is. Most of the pieces tend to be rather quite and meditative, though occasionally a strong rhythmic beat appears to create some contrasts. While there is some influence of Scandinavian folk music, there are no really strong melodies that one would go on whistling after listening to the album.
The recording session was held in a beautiful church with fine acoustics and 2L’s CEO and chief engineer resists putting the mics down inside the piano, keeping them some distance away for a very realistic sonic. There is also a fine video of the first track, Living, which is a terrific idea. (Wish more standard CDs did this as an enhanced feature; a few used to but lately seem to have forgotten about that.) The excellent camera work gives you plenty of closeups of Hoff in performance and a good image to have in mind while listening to the rest of the album without the visuals.
What is very striking is the small pile of firewood on the floor between the Steinway and the main two-channel mics on a big stand. They are visible both in the video and in one of the still photos in the accompanying booklet. I deduce that engineer-producer Morton Lindberg’s fine-tuned ears picked up a slap-back from the shiny floor in front of the mics and didn’t want to completely deaden sonics with a rug, so he just piled a bit of firewood there to break up the reflections. Works fine; just makes one think perhaps they plan to burn the Steinway when the session is finished for a grand finale…
I found the Blu-ray audio and the SACD to again be about equal in fidelity, and especially enjoyed the hi-res Blu-ray PCM stereo on my AKG headphones. The crystalline clarity of these recordings aided my getting deeper into the music than I think I ever have with just surround speakers.
TrackList:1 Living 2 Mirror I 3 Mountain High 4 Karlygash 5 Coming My Way 6 Mirror II 7 Florence 8 Brytning 9 Fly North 10 Valse de Decembre 11 Sommernat 12 Feberdigte 13 A eg veit meg eit land (Barndomsminne fra Nordland) 14 Sacrifice