An Evening with Dave Grusin (UltraHD CD review)

Monica Mancini, Patti Austin, Gary Burton, Jon Secada, Nestor Torres; Dave Grusin, Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. FIM LIM UHD 065 LE.

An Evening with Dave Grusin is not so much a live concert or even a musical event as it is a celebration. It celebrates over half a century of music from composer, arranger, and pianist Dave Grusin, whose work includes everything from the scores to The Graduate, The Midnight Man, and Three Days of the Condor to classical and jazz compositions, earning him Academy Award nominations, Golden Globe nominations, Grammy nominations, and several Grammy award wins. On this 2009 live performance album remastered by FIM/LIM, Grusin acts as conductor of the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra and as host, with the guest stars listed above joining in. He makes his own best fitting tribute to himself in the music he plays and leads.

Among the tunes that most appealed to me were the opening item (heard in part below), Grusin’s own “Fratelli Chase,” a lively pop-jazz piece with a good deal of sparkle. Then there’s a lovely combo of Grusin’s music to On Golden Pond and a spirited hornpipe medley. A few tracks later we find an effectively sultry Porgy & Bess medley.

For more jazz than not, pioneering vibraphonist Gary Burton joins in as soloist on Bernstein/Sondheim’s “Cool” from West Side Story. Following that is more from the musical as Jon Secada and Patti Austin do a duet of “Somewhere,” Secada does “Maria,” and flutist Nestor Torres solos in “I Feel Pretty.”

Right in the middle of the concert, almost out of left field, comes a suite from Grusin’s movie score for The Milagro Beanfield War. It’s the best, and longest, piece on the program, full of musical invention, lustrous melodies, and delightful playing. It’s a light, lilting, lyrical work most of the way that, frankly, took me by surprise as I hadn’t remembered how good the movie’s music was, it had been so long since I’d seen the film.

The album ends with Henry Mancini’s familiar theme to TV’s Peter Gunn, with Gary Burton soloing, and then Grusin’s “Memphis Stomp,” which brings things to a roaring close. With great sound, great music, and great performers, it doesn’t matter that most of it comprises short bits and pieces or that the whole thing is so short; it’s what we expect of a pop-concert album, and Grusin provides it in spades.

Producers Larry Rosen and Phil Ramone and engineer Eric Schilling made the recording at the James L. Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County, Miami, Florida, in December, 2009. Producer Winston Ma and engineer Michael Bishop remastered the album in 2012 using Ultra High Definition 32-bit mastering technology and the PureFlection replication process.

The sound exhibits a terrific dynamic range and impact, with very deep bass and a quick, clear, clean transient response. The extended treble works well with the high end, showing off the cymbals and such. Instruments appear realistically spread across the soundstage, although orchestral depth is modest. The separation of instruments makes up for any lack of depth, however, and there is plenty of air and space around them. Vocals seem fairly well integrated with the orchestra, maybe a little close but natural to a pop concert. They also sound smooth and lifelike. Because it’s live, expect a touch of audience noise during performances and, of course, the inevitable eruptions of applause after every number.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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