December 1998

Carmen Lundy - Old Devil Moon
JVC JVCXR-0037-2

Released: 1997

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Carmen Lundy is the quintessential renaissance woman. She is a singer, arranger, producer, actress and painter. Born in Miami, Lundy began performing as a singer while still in her teens, and she includes among her musical influences Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack and Stevie Wonder. In the late ‘70s, Lundy moved to New York City and in the early ‘80s she pulled away from the fiercely competitive theater pack, landing the lead in Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies. Lundy also played the role of the late, great Billie Holiday in the off-Broadway musical They Were All Gardenias. Lundy has a musical style that is unique and progressive. She carries on the legend of the true jazz singer with the funkiness of Aretha Franklin, the clarity of Ella Fitzgerald and the throaty colorations of the Sarah Vaughan.

Old Devil Moon is a compilation of four original Lundy tunes interspersed with songs by such composers and arrangers as Rogers & Hart, Donny Hathaway, Duke Ellington, and of course the title tune by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg. There are a total of 11 songs on this CD and all are arranged by Lundy. The liner notes indicate that the album is dedicated to the memory of Lundy's mother, who died in 1996. In Lundy's own words, "This record represents a reunion of friends with some of the finest musical talent of our era." Indeed, the supporting cast of experienced, talented musicians is as smooth and tight as a knot of the finest Chinese silk. Whether solo or playing together, the musicians complement each other, and Lundy, in a way that only the best musicians can.

Akira Taguchi is the producer of the JVC XRCD line of audiophile CDs that includes Old Devil Moon. From the moment you hold a JVC XRCD in your hand, you know that you have something very special. The presentation of the CD case is a bound booklike affair that consists of numerous pages explaining the intricacies of the XRCD mastering, manufacturing and 20-bit K2 super-coding processes. Replete with graphic representations, the pages will mesmerize and delight those of you who revel in knowing every technical detail. The thick, colored pages also include excellent background information on the artist and the particular music selected for the recording. The complete package is only slightly larger than a standard CD jewel case, so it fits nicely in your collection. But the elegant silver lettering on the flat-black backbone of the case really distinguishes each disc from the rest of the boys on the shelf.

If on this CD Lundy is the music, then Taguchi is the messenger. Through a painstakingly deliberate process of assuring that nothing in the mastering and manufacturing chains was left to chance, Taguchi has redefined what is sonically possible in the presentation of music on the Red Book compact-disc format. The presentation of this music in my listening room was very open, clean and warm. There was a new level of cohesive musical ambience that I had not previously enjoyed with most compact discs. The music is undoubtedly more, well, analog. It is involving and sensual in the way that a live performance is, perhaps more so, if that’s possible. The high notes in the frequency spectrum are well extended in a smooth and shimmering way without being too bright. Cymbals are crisp and incisive without being brittle or sharp, an enviable quality which heretofore was predominately reserved only for the analog domain.

The soundstage on this recording is wide and deep, with the performers being neither too pinpointed nor too diffuse in their stage presence. Certainly Lundy is clearly palpable as she sings center stage with musical soloists also being sonically outlined at their respective locations. But the gestalt of the soundstaging and imaging in my listening room is more akin to that of a live performance, where the music is more aurally engrossing rather than emanating from the pinpoint location of each instrument. As Taguchi has said, "The purpose of XRCD is to sound like analog. As much as possible." And hey, it really does. Domo arrigato, Sensei.

Lundy is a world-class jazz singer. On this CD, you will not find any music of the smooth-jazz genre or any drum sampling. What you will hear is the product of the artists’ involvement with their instruments. That is what Lundy is about -- she is an artist extraordinaire. This music is sophisticated and complex. If you like jazz, you will spin this CD often. "At The End Of My Rope" is a rich bluesy treat with a very clean piano solo by Billy Childs. Lundy also does a cover of "In A Sentimental Mood" that includes a magnificent extended tenor-sax solo by Frank Foster. The musical presentation is balanced and easy -- late-night music indeed. The XRCD process represents what may be the avant-garde for compact-disc mastering and manufacturing technology, perhaps bringing this format closer to the music than ever before.