Joe McQueen, sax, and friends – Ten at 86 – Kimber IsoMike multichannel SACD (4.0 channel) 55802 [www.isomike.com] *****:
(Joe McQueen, sax; Skip Musgrave, trumpet; Evan Coombs, bass; Clayton Furch, piano; Don Keipp, drums; Brad Wheeler, harmonica)
The Ten at 86 refers to the fact that saxist McQueen was 86 when he recorded this for the Kimber Kable folks in 2006 and the Ten refers to the ten tracks of the SACD. (We somehow missed it at the time, so here it is now, and well worth the attention of audiophile jazz fans.) The old and the new is combined in this album, since it makes use of Ray Kimber’s special IsoMike baffle designs which address the intrachannel interferences which can compromise multichannel sound pickup. The baffles are heart or egg shaped and prevent line-of-sight between mikes, thus avoiding some cancellation effects. The result is a wider dynamic range, with a unusual low level detail, and improved spatiality. Kimber prefers to keep it simple with four-channel pickup – no center or sub channels. There is no limited or compression used, of course.
Joe McQueen played in bands in Oklahoma in his youth, then from 1945 on he went on the road with jazz bands. One of the bandleaders gambled away the band’s money and left them stranded in Ogden, Utah. So Joe and his wife settled there and reformed a band, which was handy since the town become a jazz hotspot as a halfway point between Kansas City and San Francisco. He performed with Count Basie, Ellington, Dizzy, Charlie Parker and Lester Young. But like many jazz artists, he couldn’t always pay the bills with his performing, and worked as mechanic and teaching automotive technology at the university in Ogden.
The ten mostly-familiar tracks show that Joe has certainly paid his dues in the jazz world, and shows little signs of slowing down at his age. He has a honking big tenor sax sound with a lot of soul in it. Some of his improvisations are quite up to the minute too. I don’t know if trumpeter Musgrave and pianist Furch are regulars in Joe’s band, but they sound like it. The drums are not overpowering, as on many jazz CDs.
The recording was made on the auditorium stage at Weber State University in Ogden and the mic setup is shown in photos in the booklet. You may be surprised to see a big condenser mic right in front of Joe on the stage. That was only up there for its visual properties, and not used on track 10 – a vocal by Joe. This is an easy-going session from start to finish, with the musicians sounding like they’re right in your listening room. The center channel is not a bit missed, and the most subtle sounds of the sax and trumpet are revealed against a totally quiet background.
TrackList: What a Difference a Day Makes; Stoned; Undecided; Willow Weep for Me; Blues Walkin’; Poinciana; Now’s the Time; Satin Doll; Tenderly; Broadway (vocal)
— John Henry