Spyro Gyra – Good To Go-Go (2007) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Spyro Gyra – Good To Go-Go (2007) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 69:08 minutes | Scans included | 4,4 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 1,45 GB
Genre: Jazz

Thirty-one years and 27 albums in (not including compilations), urban contemporary jazz unit Spyro Gyra are playing with the funky inspiration and clever melodic and rhythmic invention that have made them synonymous with the genre, but that they haven’t displayed on their own recordings for some time. This is not to say the quintet have ever been completely off their game. They know what they do, and do it extremely well — they can make smooth and groove-oriented records all day long — but the sheer edge and shifty, even knotty melodic ideas on “Good to Go-Go” feel adventurous in contrast to the records they’ve made since the beginning of the decade where they’ve fused smooth jazz to some Caribbean, Spanish, and other kinds of world music as well as written and recorded with pop vocalists. The adventure here is in the groove itself. First there is the opener, “Simple Pleasures,” (composed by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein) with its bassline-driven funky core, followed by “Get Busy” written by keyboardist Tom Schuman. It is really busy but keeps its flow, melodically and rhythmically, never losing the central beat though its dynamics change radically and its lyric core on the heads is full of complex changes. “Jam Up” features the steel pans of Andy Narrell and drummer Bonny B.’s backdrop (and irritating dancehall) vocals, but cooks with a reggae-propelled foreground, ending up in Spanish flamenco territory in the melodies. “The Left Bank,” (Beckenstein) and “Good to Go-Go” (by bassist Scott Ambush) are down and dirty and full of compelling harmonic smoke if not all-out fire. The former is a funk tune with a slippery backbeat and beautiful counterpoint, and the latter pushes with killer B-3 playing by Shuman, slapping bass by Ambush and Bonny B.’s popping rimshots playing nearly against the melody. The blues groove in the latter tune (especially with Beckenstein’s and Julio Fernandez’s swinging, sting-happy six-string break, which gets touched off by Ambush loping both into his bass solo) kicks the whole thing up into a rhythm and groove burner. “Island Time,” is a carnival tune with solid jazz chops, and once again Narrell’s steel pans get a beautiful workout inside a nearly ecstatic lyric keyboard and saxophone head. Of course the rhythmic assistance by Marc Quiñones doesn’t hurt texturally either. “Newroses,” by Beckenstein and Fernandez, takes the album out on an even more complex set of changes than it strutted in with. It’s got gorgeous, almost pastoral sections that come in just after the most complex and twist-and-turn headlines bring in a melody that breaks from a relatively simple groove and then unwinds into something other. According to taste of course, but Good to Go-Go is the most satisfying release that Spyro Gyra have released on Heads Up, and is a recording that brings that jazz back in a big way into the “urban contemporary” and “smooth” subgenres.

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Shirley Horn – Here’s To Life (1992) [Reissue 2004] {2.0 & 5.1} {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Shirley Horn – Here’s To Life (1992) [Reissue 2004] {2.0 & 5.1}
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 62:07 minutes | Scans included | 3,93 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | 62:40 min | Scans | 1,17 GB
Genre: Jazz

Shirley Horn’s meeting with a string section and an orchestra arranged by Johnny Mandel has some exquisite moments although sometimes it is just overly sweet. Horn recorded with her trio (which includes bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams) first, emphasizing slow ballads. Mandel used the pianist-vocalist’s improvisations and chord voicings as the basis for his charts and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis took guest solos on “A Time for Love” and “Quietly There.” Shirley Horn fans will love this CD (which includes such numbers as “Here’s To Life,” “How Am I To Know” and “If You Love Me”) but no real surprises or contrast occurs.

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Ray Charles and Count Basie Orchestra – Ray Sings Basie Swings (2006) [Reissue 2007] {2.0 & 5.1} {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles and Count Basie Orchestra – Ray Sings Basie Swings (2006) [Reissue 2007]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 48:25 minutes | Scans included | 2,95 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 979 MB
Features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 multichannel surround sound | Telarc # SACD-63679
Genre: Jazz

Ray Sings, Basie Swings, huh? Hmm, well, yes and no. You see, the story goes something like this. In 2005, Concord Records exec John Burk, who produced Ray Charles’ superb late-career, Grammy-winning Genius Loves Company, found a reel of tape simply labeled “Ray/Basie.” Upon further analysis, it was determined that the 1973 recording featured Ray Charles backed by his own band — Count Basie and his band had actually recorded earlier that day. Charles’ vocal was exceptionally prominent in the mix and at first it was thought that this potentially momentous discovery would prove unable to bear fruit. But then Burk brainstormed and decided to bring the current Count Basie Orchestra — whose leader died in 1984 — into the studio to lay tracks behind Charles’ vocals. So there’s no Basie on Ray Sings, Basie Swings, but that’s merely a technicality, because there is some great music. Charles was in fine form vocally on this mix of remakes of his early ABC-Paramount-era hits and then-recent material. The consecutive reworkings of “Busted,” “Cryin’ Time,” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” three of his defining Top Ten hits of the early ’60s, are given brassy, bluesy treatments here, and standards ranging from Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” to the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” are transformed in Charles’ hands. The set-closing “Georgia on My Mind,” as close to a signature song as Charles had, is given a tender, minimalist reading, but the track preceding it, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma,” picked up from the folk-pop singer Melanie, is quite possibly the album’s highlight. It’s appeared on other Ray Charles compilations before, but the gospelized, testifyin’ version featured here has got to be the liveliest take on that song anyone’s ever devised. So, yeah, there’s no Count Basie to be found here, but his namesake orchestra does him proud. For one of those postmortem studio patch jobs that owes as much to technology as talent, it’s a fine addition to the Ray Charles oeuvre, as long as one can get past the semi-false advertising of its title.

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Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Ray Charles And Betty Carter (1961) [Analogue Productions Remaster 2012] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Ray Charles And Betty Carter (1961)
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 Stereo & DST64 3.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 42:34 minutes | Scans included | 2,72 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 854 MB
Genre: Jazz

This pairing of two totally idiosyncratic vocalists acquired legendary status over the decades in which it had been out of print. But the proof is in the listening, and frankly it doesn’t represent either artist’s best work. There is certainly a powerful, often sexy rapport between the two — Charles in his sweet balladeering mode, Carter with her uniquely keening, drifting high register — and they definitely create sparks in the justly famous rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The main problem is in Marty Paich’s string/choir arrangements, which too often cross the line into treacle, whereas his charts for big band are far more listenable. Moreover, Charles’ sweetness can get a bit cloying, too, although some of the old grit emerges on “Takes Two to Tango”.

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Ray Charles – The Genius Sings The Blues (1961) [MFSL 2010] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles – The Genius Sings The Blues (1961) [MFSL 2010]
PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 33:53 minutes | Scans included | 1.38  GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 391 MB
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2049
Genre: R&B, Soul

Down-home, anguished laments and moody ballads were turned into triumphs by Ray Charles. He sang these songs with the same conviction, passion, and energy that made his country and soul vocals so majestic. This has not turned up in the reissue bins.

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Ray Charles – The Genius Of Ray Charles (1959) [MFSL 2012] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles – The Genius Of Ray Charles (1959) [MFSL 2012]
PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 38:29 minutes | Scans included | 1,54 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 629 MB
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2055
Genre: Jazz

he Genius of Ray Charles is a 1959 album by Ray Charles. In 2003, the album was ranked number 263 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Some players from Ray Charles’ big band are joined by many ringers from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands for the first half of this program, featuring Charles belting out six songs arranged by Quincy Jones. “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Deed I Do” are highlights, and there are solos by tenorman David “Fathead” Newman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and (on “Two Years of Torture”) tenor Paul Gonsalves. The remaining six numbers are ballads, with Charles backed by a string orchestra arranged by Ralph Burns.

Some players from Ray Charles’ big band are joined by many ringers from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands for the first half of this program, featuring Charles belting out six songs arranged by Quincy Jones. “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Deed I Do” are highlights, and there are solos by tenorman David “Fathead” Newman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and (on “Two Years of Torture”) tenor Paul Gonsalves. The remaining six numbers are ballads, with Charles backed by a string orchestra arranged by Ralph Burns (including “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’”). Charles’ voice is heard throughout in peak form, giving soul to even the veteran standards…

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Ray Charles – The Genius After Hours (1961) [MFSL 2014] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles – The Genius After Hours (1961) [MFSL 2014]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 38:48 minutes | Scans included | 689 MB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 391 MB
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2073
Genre: Jazz

Taken from the same three sessions as The Great Ray Charles but not duplicating any of the performances, this set casts Charles as a jazz-oriented pianist in an instrumental setting. Brother Charles has five numbers with a trio (three songs have Oscar Pettiford on bass) and jams on three other tunes (“Hornful Soul,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Joy Ride”) with a septet arranged by Quincy Jones; solo space is given to David “Fathead” Newman on tenor and alto and trumpeter Joseph Bridgewater. Fine music — definitely a change of pace for Ray Charles.

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Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz (1961) [Analogue Productions Remaster 2012] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles – Genius+Soul=Jazz (1961) [Analogue Productions Remaster 2012]
PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 Stereo > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 36:50 minutes | Scans included | 1,49 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 772 MB
Genre: Jazz

One of the best early-’60s examples of soul/jazz crossover, this record, like several of his dates from the period, featured big-band arrangements (played by the Count Basie band). This fared better than some of Charles’ similar outings, however, if only because it muted some of his straight pop aspirations in favor of some pretty mean and lean, cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter B-3 Hammond organ licks. Most of the album is instrumental and swings pretty vivaciously, although Charles does take a couple of vocals with “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “I’ve Got News for You.” Yet one of those instrumentals, a cover of the Clovers’ “One Mint Julep,” would give Charles one of his most unpredictable (and best) early-’60s hits.

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Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company (2004) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company (2004) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 51:34 minutess | Scans included | 3,38 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 1,03 GB
Genre: Jazz

Genius Loves Company is the last studio album Ray Charles completed before his death in June 2004. Prior to this, the last studio album he released was Strong Love Affair in 1996, which was a stab at modern pop, filled with new songs and given an adult contemporary sheen. It was not one of his most distinctive efforts, even when judged against his latter-day albums, and it disappeared not long after its release. Charles left Warner and, years later, signed with Concord, who released Genius Loves Company, which had a decidedly different approach than the all-modern Strong Love Affair. As the title acknowledges with a wink, this is a duets album, which may be a little commonplace as far as latter-day superstar albums go but is still a step up from his previous studio album since it puts Ray Charles in a comfortable, relaxed situation that plays to his strengths. Instead of trying to put Charles in a modern setting, producers John Burk and Phil Ramone (Burk helmed seven of the album’s tracks, Ramone is responsible for the other five, and their work fits together seamlessly) go for a clean retro setting with a few guitars, synths, and a rhythm section, occasionally dressing it with an orchestra or some strings. In other words, apart from the glistening production, it’s not far removed from any of Charles’ crossover records from the ’60s, and he’s also given a strong set of songs, largely familiar pop classics, from “Fever” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” and “Crazy Love.” His duet partners are fairly predictable — classy newcomers like Norah Jones and Diana Krall, but also old stalwarts like Elton John, B.B. King, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, and the ubiquitous Willie Nelson (who has never sounded older than he does here on “It Was a Very Good Year”) — but they’re also reliable, never overshadowing Ray yet never shrinking in his shadow either; in short, it sounds more like a real duets album than most superstar duet records. The end result is modest, friendly, laid-back, and pleasing, one that remains faithful to Charles’ music while sounding relatively fresh. It may not be weighty enough to be a career-capping masterpiece, but it’s sweet enough to be an appropriate final album — which is far more than can be said of Strong Love Affair, or any of the other albums he cut in the ’80s or ’90s for that matter.

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Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown (1955) [Reissue 2003] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown (1955) [Reissue 2003]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 49:28 minutes | Scans included | 2,01 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 984 MB
Genre: Jazz

This 1954 studio date, a self-titled album recorded for Emarcy, was later reissued as Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown to denote the involvement of one of the top trumpeters of the day. Vaughan sings nine intimate standards with a band including Brown on trumpet, Herbie Mann on flute, and Paul Quinichette on tenor, each of which have plenty of space for solos (most of the songs are close to the five-minute mark). Vaughan is arguably in the best voice of her career here, pausing and lingering over notes on the standards “April in Paris,” “Jim,” and “Lullaby of Birdland.” As touching as Vaughan is, however, Brown almost equals her with his solos on “Lullaby of Birdland,” “Jim,” and “September Song,” displaying his incredible bop virtuosity in a restrained setting without sacrificing either the simple feeling of his notes or the extraordinary flair of his choices. Quinichette’s solos are magnificent as well, his feathery tone nearly a perfect match for Vaughan’s voice. Ironically though, neither Brown nor Quinichette or Mann appear on the album’s highlight, “Embraceable You,” which Vaughan performs with close accompaniment from the rhythm section: Jimmy Jones on piano, Joe Benjamin on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. Vaughan rounds the notes with a smile and even when she’s steeping to reach a few low notes, she never loses the tremendous feeling conveyed by her voice. In whichever incarnation it’s reissued, Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown is one of the most important jazz-meets-vocal sessions ever recorded.

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