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.