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vishna bhatt & jerry douglas "bourbon & rosewater", on water-lily acoustics is an excellent guitar cd. and, for cd, the sound is ackshully quite respectable. ;~) another good stringed-cd is jerry douglas, russ barenburg, edgar meyer on "skip, hop & wobble, on sugarhill.
a cd w/powerful subterranean bass, & w/an eerie electronic/middle-eastern feel is nusrat fateh ali khan & michael brook on "night song", on real world. i also like ry cooder & ali farka toure, for strings & wocals. but, most of the best stuff is on winyl - ie: the buena vista social club is nice on cd, but it's nicer on winyl...
For soprano and tenor sax, you may want to check out the Jan Garbarek Group's "Twelve Moons" (ECM 1500). The second track ("Psalm") also contains beautifully moving female vocals by Agnes Buen Garnas interlaced with Garbarek's flowing soprano sax lines. About 2 minutes into this piece there are three subtle bell strikes which I use for evaluating imaging and soundstage height (the 1st should be low and right of center, the second also low but near or just outside the left speaker, and the third should be high and above the left speaker). Other tracks on this recording contain some nice percussion that can be used for evaluating imaging and soundstage width, depth, and layering. For chorus-type vocals, Garbarek's "Officium" is very good (great ambience content as well). For alto sax, any of Sanborn's stuff will work; I've recently been using "Hearsay" since it contains a couple of rather dynamic pieces with some bottom-feeder bass. For testing reproduction of acoustic guitar and female vocals, I sometimes use Jewel's "Pieces of You" (it's quite pure and minimal -- pretty much just vocals and guitar -- which allows me to focus on the reproduction of voice quality and string overtones without distraction). For male vocals and guitar, I usually use Chris Isaak's "San Francisco Days" or "Baja Sessions." For contralto female vocals, I use Abbey Lincoln's "A Turtle's Dream", which also contains some good instrument work (including sax, bass, drum, piano, and guitar), and a nice vocal duet between Abbey and Lucky Peterson (on "Hey, Lordy Mama"). For a mix of male and female vocals, instruments, etc., I use Dead Can Dance's "Into the Labyrinth" (which you are apparently already familiar with). For solo piano, I usually use George Winston's "Autumn." Before deciding to buy any piece of gear, I also play it through with a few tracks from Hugh Masekela's "Hope" which contain a wonderfully alive mix of horn, sax, vocals, and percussion (great for checking rhythm and pace too). Finally, when auditioning gear, I now always bring along a few "poor" recordings to see how these will be reproduced (I used to only test with stellar recordings and as a result ended up buying gear that sounded exceptional on my reference disks but virtually unlistenable with half of my collection). Hope this helps. Don
If you like jazz, try the following:
Marian Mc Partland, "Reprise", an outstanding piano recording
Dick Hyman, "In Recital" on Reference Recordings
Dick Hyman, "Plays Duke Ellington" on Reference Recordings
Dick Hyman, "Swing" on Ref Recordings (also some good guitar and excellent excellent sax solos by Frank Wess)
Dick Hyman, "Swing is Here" " " " (also some excellent
Dick Hyman, "Plays Fats Waller" " " "
Dick Hyman is one of the most technically skillful pianists of any genre on the planet and his skills are demonstrated all in service of the music on these discs. The sound quality is beyond reproach.
Marian McPartland has a melodical style which noone seems to duplicate. You can also try any of her "Piano Jazz" CD's, which are repeats from her radio show from NPR if you don't mind a lot of talk. I particularly like the CD's with Milt Hinton and Dave Brubeck.
Clifford Jordan, "Live at Ethel's" on Mapleshade (Tenor Sax)
Ibrahim Ferrer, "Buena Vista Social Club" (Male Vocals)
Natalie Cole, "Take A Look" (Female Vocals)
Virginia Rodrigues, "Sol Negro" (Portuguese Female Vocals)
Les Double Six, "Les Double Six", (French Jazz Vocal Group)
Gloria Estefan, "Gloria"
Sarah McLauglin, "Surfacing" (Great female vocal recording and also great deep room rattling bass on track 2, if your system can reproduce it)
For high fidelity demonstration purposes, the recordings in the first set are some of the highest quality discs that I have ever heard. The CD's in this post are more commercial and while the sound is very good, they probably don't generally reach the sound quality level of those in the earlier post.
solo piano .. John Lewis "evolution" The pianist reworks materpieces such as "Afternoon in Paris" and "Django" and the recording is the best of a solo piano that I've heard.
For Saxophone I would recommend "Oscar Peterson meet Ben Webster" for Ben's huge warm tenor sound. "Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Jazz Leaders" and Sonny Rollins "Way Out West" HAnk Mobley "Soul Station" for Vocals Shirley Horn's "You Won't Forget Me" Recorded by David Baker and featuring a stunning and rare guest spot by Miles Davis.
Wow!!! (so many recommendations) :-)
I thank you all very much for taking the time to provide all of these great titles for me to sample. Special thanks to those who also take the time to describe in detail what to look for in the CD (imaging, soundstage, ect.). It will take me some time to go through all these great titles and pick out my top 5 as reference CD's. In the mean time, I wish you all great health and happy listening.