Review – Camille Thurman “Inside the Moment” on Chesky Records, 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones, Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player – Part One of a Three-part article

An extraordinary new recording from Chesky Records begins with a small jazz quartet led by Camille Thurman on saxophone and vocals, recorded using a single binaural microphone in front of a live audience in New York City. Complete with bits of crowd noise, the recording had me looking around the room for visitors. Using the new 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones, and the excellent Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player for high-resolution playback, the recording quality, musicality, and performance on this new title is a wonderfully seamless experience. A rival for the renowned “Jazz at the Pawnshop”, “Inside the Moment” is enthralling in its seamless combination of music, selections, composition, and audio quality. Coupled with Chesky’s Binaural recording technique it’s a tour de force of contemporary audio production.

One thing I learned early on was that titles that were audiophile favorites weren’t necessarily great titles apart from the audio quality. It’s wonderful of course when audio production is matched to great artists and performances. And I think we are in a golden age where that is happening more and more. I’d not heard of Camille Thurman until Jeff Lanier of Chesky Records sent me the title, both as a high-res download and an MQA encoded CD, the first that I’ve actually touched. So, I loaded up the title on the superb no-frills Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player. At the same time, I unwrapped the beautifully packaged, designed, and executed new 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones. So, sitting on my bed grading some essays, I found myself lost in the world of what seemed like a smoky jazz bar, albeit one with some of the best acoustics I’ve ever heard.

Chesky is on a roll, first with last year’s “Stripped” by Macy Gray, which deserved every accolade it received, and similarly “Inside the Moment” is an effervescent title, allowing Thurman the jazz vocalist, to showcase her pipes, as well as virtuoso saxophone licks, and as the inaugural release of their new Virtual Audio Series, the live production coupled with the binaural recording technique is a revelation. The soundstage is absolutely believable, the instruments are clear and concise, and the subtle natural (I assume) reverb feels natural, not digitally modeled. The result is a musical, believable recording and performance.

Chesky’s notes mention Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday. Considering that these are the Gods of Jazz vocals, it’s a gamble unless you are convinced the subject deserves the comparison, fortunately from the first notes to the last notes of this album, it feels like a classic in the making by a first rate emerging artist. Perhaps this is our generations Errol Garner’s “Concert by the Sea”, fortunately with higher fidelity that that title’s surreptitious recording.

Recorded at the Rockwood Music Hall in SoHo in Manhattan, with instruments and microphone placement critical, there isn’t any room for error, and we are rewarded with a flawless performance. Live recordings are often given their own little space, not quite a lesser niche, but almost considered separate from studio work. And as we know all live recordings aren’t created equal. Many have overdubs added later, post processing, and other tweaks to improve upon either the original recording, or performance. The Chesky Binaural series doesn't allow for that luxury, it’s too revealing and honest a process, so get it right, and it’s all there. Make a mistake, it’s damn tough to fix. In an age of auto-tuning, overdubs, digital modeling, and invisible edits, it’s a breath of fresh air to just sit back and listen as if you are in the audience.

The lineup on the album is Camille Thurman on tenor saxophone & vocals, Mark Whitfiled on Guitar, Ben Allison on bass, and Billy Drummond on the drums. The titles are all original compositions. The first tract, “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” leads with an experimental bebop structure, and the chord changes almost seem more for the benefit of the musicians then for the audience on, so if you think it’s going to be primarily an experimental album you would be wrong, as the rest of the title’s scat singing is traditional, classic, and expected. This is showcased on “Sassy’s Blues”, with a typical swing beat, and the upright bass driving the percussive beat, with brushes on the drums. On “Detour Ahead” Thurman sings, transitioning into scats then back to vocals again, and it’s understandable where the comparisons to early Fitzgerald and Vaughn come from. Most of the songs feature solos by the band, further leading to the feel of sitting in say, The Village Vanguard, cocktail in your hand, as each musician gently interprets and reinvents the songs, the album settles into known territory.

Continue reading Part Two as we continue exploring “Inside the Moment” with 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones and the Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player.

Harris Fogel, with editorial assistance from Nancy Burlan, posted 4/28/2017

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