Jim Walker, flute/Mike Garson, piano – Pied Piper – Reference Recordings (HDCD) RR-121, 44.1 min. [Distr. by Allegro] ***** [9/30/10]:
Reference Recordings has been busy reissuing a few things from their catalog plus items on their new sub-label Fresh! This one is most unusual in that it originally was issued back in 1985 as a 45 rpm audiophile LP – with a different title: “Reflections” – and one less track: the Debussy Syrinx for solo flute. (It was later also issued as a CD.) Many audiophiles have discovered recently that 45 rpm audiophile discs are right up there with direct discs as the epitome of two-channel audio, and they were back in then as well (only they were a lot cheaper then!). I have the 45 rpm original and carefully A/B’d it with this new CD reissue, which was properly decoded for HDCD on my Oppo player. I was surprised to find the sonics almost totally identical between the two, with perhaps just a tiny shade more richness in the piano tone at 45 rpm if you switch back and forth repeatedly to compare. The careful re-mastering plus the use of HDCD must be responsible for this superb reissue.
All 12 of the tunes here are original compositions of pianist-composer Mike Garson, who was the long-time music director for David Bowie. He was also the pianist in the classically-influenced jazz ensemble Free Flight. Jim Walker was the flutist in Free Flight so what we have here is about half of Free Flight. Garson has two other CDs on the Reference Label. The tunes of Pied Piper are lyrical, impressionistic, meditative, and classical in nature. They abound in lovely melodies, and some do swing a little. The added track of Debussy’s unaccompanied Syrinx fits into the mix beautifully; the spellbinding flute selection was the theme of a popular TV nature series many years ago. The recording quality is just superb, and though Garson’s tunes are all of a piece, there is plenty of variety, making it a fine program for listening all the way thru.
TrackList: Portrait of a friend, Love, First Song, Ethereal, Yearning, Pied Piper, Syrinx, The Park, Magic Spell, You’re One of a King, Reflections, Reason, Admiratiion.
– John Sunier