Jim Austin

Jim Austin  |  Oct 21, 2020  |  3 comments
Last month, I received so few vinyl reissues that I had to invite a guest writer—jazz critic and political commentator Fred Kaplan—to fill in. Fred had managed to grab an early copy of the excellent Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue of Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I didn't get mine until a week or so after his review was submitted.

This month, I have a tall stack to choose from, so I'll mention several.

Jim Austin  |  Oct 15, 2020  |  37 comments
I've written before in this space that to me the most wondrous aspect of our avocation (apart from the music) is the way it exists at the intersection of logic and emotion, of science and art. The equipment we use is made by engineers applying scientific principles, yet its goal is to deliver sensual pleasure. Both viewpoints are valid.
Jim Austin  |  Sep 24, 2020  |  13 comments
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–based hi-fi dealer Now Listen Here is holding a real, live, non-Zoom event this coming weekend, September 26 and 27, 2020, at the Hyatt House in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, next to the King of Prussia mall.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 26, 2020  |  10 comments
My first exposure to Manger Audio loudspeakers, which are based on the "bending-wave" technology invented years ago by the company, was to the Manger p2, their passive flagship speaker, at the 2019 AXPONA. I heard it again a month or so later at High End Munich. I was impressed both times, especially by its transient and spatial performance.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 21, 2020  |  20 comments
Used copies of Sonny Rollins's classic 1957 record Way Out West are easy enough to find. The album has been reissued some 30 times on vinyl, most recently in 2018 on Craft Recordings (but read Michael Fremer's take on that reissue before buying). You can still buy Original Jazz Classics reissues from 1988—sealed —for about $20.

If you want an early pressing, though, your opportunities are limited. If you want an early pressing in collectable condition, expect to pay real money. And if you want that early pressing in pristine condition, good luck with that.

Jim Austin  |  Aug 12, 2020  |  20 comments
Listening rooms are real, imperfect places. Their character arises from their defects. I like real, imperfect things (footnote 1).

Not that there's such a thing as a perfect listening room. Every domestic listening room shares the same basic problem: Its most fundamental nature—its size and shape, the amount of space it carves out—results in resonances that can profoundly alter the sound of reproduced music, especially in the bass.

Jim Austin  |  Jul 23, 2020  |  26 comments
I consider Charles Mingus one of the great American composers, at least on par with the most celebrated American classical dudes. With apologies to fans of that music, I'd much rather listen to this record, or any of several other Mingus recordings, than, say, Billy the Kid or Rhapsody in Blue. What makes Mingus great is precisely that, in contrast to Copland and Gershwin, when he explored the vernacular, it wasn't some pale imitation.
Jim Austin  |  Jul 15, 2020  |  231 comments
After completing a PhD in electrical engineering at Imperial College London, Floyd E. Toole joined Canada's National Research Council (NRC), where he would stay for more than 26 years doing audio-related research. He continued his research at Harman International after leaving the NRC in 1991. When Toole left Harman in 2007 (footnote 1), Harman kept the work up under NRC alum Sean Olive—which fact surely has much to do with the excellence of their current loudspeaker lineup.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 23, 2020  |  18 comments
Jazz collecting has an archaeological aspect to it; it's one of my favorite aspects of the hobby. Far more than most other genres, jazz evolved over its first several decades, and it did so on record. Every musician was distinctive, changed from session to session, and interacted with other musicians in ways specific to the ensemble, the time, the place, and the mood. Every record, live or from a studio, is a snapshot of where jazz was precisely then and there. You can get to know musicians' styles, and with practice, you can really hear what's going on.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 17, 2020  |  9 comments
Photo: Sasha Matson

In April 14, 1895, Mahler's Symphony No.2, "Resurrection," premiered in Berlin (footnote 1). Mahler wrote a program for this symphony prior to a performance six years later, in Dresden. Here is what he wrote about the first movement, Allegro maestoso:

"We are standing near the grave of a well-loved man. His whole life, his struggles, his sufferings and his accomplishments on earth pass before us. And now, in this solemn and deeply stirring moment, when the confusion and distractions of everyday life are lifted like a hood from our eyes, a voice of awe-inspiring solemnity chills our heart, a voice that, blinded by the mirage of everyday life, we usually ignore: 'What next?' it says. 'What is life and what is death? Will we live on eternally? Is it all an empty dream or do our life and death have meaning?'"

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