Quiet Winter Night – Hoff Ensemble – (An acoustic jazz project) – 2L audio-only Blu-ray 87, DTS-HD MA 24/192; PCM 2.0 24/192. mShuttle MP3 & FLAC [9/25/12] (Distr. by Naxos) ***:
(Members of the Hoff Ensemble include Mathias Eick (trumpet), Borge Petersen-Overleir (guitar), Annbjorg Lien (nyckelharpa and hardanger fiddle), Jan Gunnar Hoff (piano), Arild Andersen (double bass), Rune Arnesen (percussion). Vocals by Helene Boksle, Asne Valland Nordli, Annbjorg Lien, Sondre Bratland, Unni Wilhelmsen, Tomine Harket, Bj++rn Johan Muri, Cecilia Vennersten and Bjorn Eidsvag)
This is the latest in the series of “Pure Audio” Blu-rays from 2L, and doesn’t include an SACD of the same program as most of the previous ones did. The fidelity of the DTS lossless surround track is first-rate, as are all of 2L’s Blu-ray releases. A small church was the venue and the sound is very natural—intimate but without the closed-in sonics of most studio recordings. The 192K PCM stereo option is also crystal clear—perhaps even slightly better—lending support to the allegation that lossless doesn’t necessarily mean what comes out is exactly what went in.
The 15 tracks are mostly with vocalists of various stripes. The instrumentation varies from track to track; one is just for a vocalist and piano accompaniment. The tunes show a strong influence of Scandanavian folk music, and in fact one track features the unusual sound of the hardanger fiddle, with the nyckelharpa on another. All are lyrical and quite restrained, and most have a melancholic air about them. I enjoyed the few instrumentals the most. The titles are all in Norwegian.  I think my appreciation of the tunes would have been greater had I access to English translations of both the titles and the lyrics; however, none are offered and there is no web link listed to download any. Yes, Americans are way behind the world in language abilities, but of those few Americans who are fluent in a second language, I venture it’s not Norwegian.
—John Henry