Dr. AIX's POSTS — 19 February 2015

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What are your personal favorites? I get asked that question a lot whenever I’m tending my table at the audio trade shows that I attend. It’s an obvious question because the collection of albums that I’ve recorded is from artists that may not have super star status. I’m proud to have done projects with Rita Coolidge, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Warnes, John McEuen, and Mark Chesnutt but for the most part the artists on AIX Records are known to a dedicated group of fans. Laurence Juber, for example, is a super star in the world of finger style guitar playing and John Gorka is loved by “new folk” devotees (he can fill a 3000 seat auditorium but still plays McCabes, which holds around 100-150 people.

I usually answer the question with another question. “What sort of music do you prefer?” It’s surprising that many people respond with, “Oh, I enjoy most kinds of music.” So I’m back to the original question. You might think that I would steer potential customers to projects by those with the most celebrity. I don’t. Whenever I pack up my suitcases with DVD or Blu-ray discs, I always include extra copies of four or five of my personal favorites. I thought I would share my selections in today’s post.

Our biggest selling disc is “Guitar Noir” by Laurence Juber. The disc won a prestigious award from the Consumer Electronics Association back in 2002 (The “Demmy” award for best high-resolution audio demonstration disc” and has become an audiophile and guitar player favorite. As a guitarist myself, I marvel at LJ’s playing. His tunes are not mere virtuoso repetitive examples of guitar technique. He composes and plays intelligent, well-crafted pieces that have memorable melodies and interesting formal constructs. And with the percussionist (Steve Forman) gently stroking a set of wind chimes or dragging a metal beater against a half dozen temple bells with an acoustic bass underpinning the trio, the effect is musical and sonic heaven. I’ve listened to “Guitar Noir” hundreds of times and still love it.

The Latin Jazz Trio is another favorite that I don’t hesitate to recommend. Listen to “Mujaka” and you’ll know what high-resolution audio sounds like. The trio is made up of David Garfield on piano, Luis Conte on percussion, and the late Dave Carpenter on acoustic bass. The guys are the real deal and play as sidemen for the likes of George Benson and James Taylor. The laid back Latin infused tracks on this recording are sonically astounding. Once again, it’s the crystal clear metal percussion that immediately tips you off to the high-resolution nature of the tracks. Within the first 2 minutes of “Mujaka”, the substantial weight of the 9-foot Steinway Model D contrasts with the metal percussion and floats above the languid lines of the acoustic bass. This album was one of the very first ones that I produced back in 2001 and remains one of my favorites.

Finally, there’s “Nitty Gritty Surround” featuring John McEuen, Jimmy Ibbotson, and Jennifer Warnes. The style is “Americana” mixed with bluegrass and country folk. There are instrumental tunes, vocal duets, and stunning singer/songwriter tunes. John’s son Jonathan is star on this record with his singing and playing (that’s why I’ve recorded him several other times on other projects). Listen to “Darcy Farrow”, “It’s Morning” or “Sometime Somebody” to hear a somewhat large ensemble in a rich acoustic space. This album won “Best of Show” at the first Surround Music Awards. It’s a perennial favorite.

There are obviously lots more to choose from…I love John Gorka’s record and the piano playing on Bryan Pezzone’s blu-ray project is astounding. You really can’t lose…just try the sampler and go from there.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(10) Readers Comments

  1. I wonder how much the sales of your albums are influenced by your recommendation of your personal favorites?

    You make truly the best sounding recordings on the market today and I’ve listened to all your demo tracks many times to investigate what I could learn about HD recordings and compare to things you and others have said here about them.

    But except for your Mark Chesnutt album, I’ve never once played one of your projects for musical enjoyment., They are audiophile test recordings done to demo the current technical abilities of your equipment and studio. But they will forever remain in that group of demo albums I have along with The Sheffield Track Record, Telarc Organ Blaster Sampler, Cheskys Jazz Sampler Vol’s 1 & 2, Vital Records various releases, etc, etc. All recordings that were purchased for one reason only, to hear what my expensive audio system was actually capable of. But for “listening pleasure” they’ve never hit the turntable, cd, or file server.
    Today I spent about 3 hours listening to Southside Johnny and the Jukes, David Gilmour, any Smoky Robinson.

    Guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe if you spend more time promoting your recordings of Chesnutt, Rita, Nelson, etc and trying to get more popular artists into your studio and on your label your business might be more successful. All your promotion of Gorka, Juber, etc has done for you is sent you hawking for donations from your blog readers just so you could afford to go to a trade show.
    You have great talent and deserve to be doing better than that. Your honesty and integrity have the power to take you far in the business.
    The hucksters and snakeoil salesmen like Audioquest and Nordost make millions selling $25 wholesale cables consigned to manufactures in China and resaling them for thousands of dollars in the US and elsewhere.
    Where’s the justice in all that?

    • My sales are influenced by my recommendations…and I know that customers that purchase the albums that I enjoy musically and sonically will become repeat customers. I’ve listened to the John Gorka recording and others many times. I don’t regard these as audiophile demo discs that would normally stay in the closet. I’m glad that you enjoy the Mark Chessnut recording…I do too…but I don’t get the same buy in from most potential customers. They love Jennifer Warnes with John McEuen.

      While AIX Records does sustain itself, we’re hardly a money machine. But I would prefer to be known as someone that is honest and maintained his integrity than being a huckster. It matters to me.

      • “But I would prefer to be known as someone that is honest and maintained his integrity than being a huckster.”

        Mark, your purposely distorting the meaning of my words, for shame. Promoting more popular artists instead of the lesser known a little more and making an honest profitable living doing so is miles away from being one of the cheating hucksters. I know it matters to you, it should, but your current business model is cutting off your nose to spite your face from a financial approach. You shouldn’t have to ask people for money for AIX to succeed.
        Best of luck whatever you decide.

        • Sal, with all due respect, I’ve played Mark Chesnutt dozens of times at audio trade shows and the response has never been good. I have to appeal to my customers with amazing sound AND music that they appreciate.

          I shouldn’t have to ask for support but there is very little upside to doing what I do.

      • As an occasional buyer of so-called “Audiophile” recordings, I have to say that I agree with Sal’s observartions. Yes, it can be enjoyable hearing subtleties tucked away in places across the soundstage, but unless the music and performance engage you in the first place, the track or album concerned will remain just a curiosity.

        If a fire was raging in my music room, I would NOT risk my life to rescue the audiophile recordings first.

        • You should listen to an entire recording of Albert Lee or John Gorka…these are not merely demo tracks.

  2. Just want to go on record (so to speak) saying that the AIX recording of the Pines of Rome and Beethoven Pastoral by the New Jersey Symphony (I don’t know much about them but they are far from a second rate orchestra…must be NY Phil players on their off hours) is one of my favorite listening albums. Just great performances and great recording. I don’t play many recordings just for the sonic qualities. The Guitar recording is super sonically, but more important to me is the musical value therein. If a recording is just a demo disc I am not all that interested.

    • Thanks…

    • I agree about the “Pines of Rome” AIX recording, although my favorite AIX recording is the Bach 3rd Brandenburg, followed by Steve March Torme and the Surf City All-Star Band.

      Although I like Paul Williams a lot, his recording didn’t do a lot for me (and the studio video leaves a lot to be desired).

      I’ve often said that I appreciate a good picture as much as anyone, but if I want to raise the hairs on the back of my neck, I go to great sound. AIX has a lot of great sound, and some great performances.

      • Thanks Jim…I’m with you on the picks. And I agree that the Paul Williams video is subpar…we tried to make it look like film and failed. In the classical category, I would add the Haydn Piano Trios…really great performance and terrific sound.

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