Thursday, July 21, 2016

Monty Alexander Live At Montreux MPS 2016... Improving a Jazz Audiophile Classic!

In the last few years legendary label MPS from Germany has been reissuing some of its famous recordings, and few can be more important, well known and even over-played than Montreux Alexander from 1977, one of the best piano jazz trio recordings ever made in a live setting, and definitely one of the best performances with impressive rhythm and constant excitement, not a dull second on this LP, with a gracious blend of creativity, spontaneity and virtuosity that are not easy to repeat, at least not sounding this good!

I've had my original Germany first pressing release for a while, played it many times at home and audio events, always a show stopper for the sound energy and awe inspiring performances. Clearly an LP engineered to sound larger than life, with a huge "you are there" factor, I've always loved its sound and it never failed to impress me, even if I could tell that it was somewhat exaggerated...

Come 2016, and MPS released a new Montreux Alexander vinyl LP remastered by Dirk Sommer from the Original Analog Master Tapes as part of MPS AAA reissues program featuring all analog mastering chain and 180 Gram Vinyl pressings. I just couldn't resist buying this one and making a serious comparison with my original pressing. I was curious, expecting it to be really good, but what I found was much more than just good, it was a complete paradigm change, from impressive sound, to real sound!

It takes a lot of courage to do this with such an audiophile classic, but they did it. There are huge differences and all for the better, first of all the overall volume is much lower on the reissue, I had to really crank it up a few notches to match the db volume of the original pressing. Then, the second thing that strikes you after the "loudness" is removed, is the natural EQ, the natural sound of all instruments, specially the piano that now makes the original appear a little "glassy", where the original had a pinching quality, the new reissue presents a vivid piano sound with fast transients but not really hammered and with an organic quality that was somehow missing on the original pressing. The third wave of changes comes in the form of present and tonal bass, something that was clearly recessed on the original but now the bass is there, it blooms and helps to recreate the live setting atmosphere with a pneumatic effect and expanded scale. How's that for making a classic sound better than ever?

The piano notes always sounded articulate with impressive transient response, but the decays were always a little tucked in by the pinch of the notes percussion, that has been corrected with the piano sounding more organic and integrated with the rest of the trio. The drums, probably the area where less was changed in terms of sound presentation, retain the same sonic signature with clean extended cymbals and very nice attack to keep the music charging forward with the same energy as before.

So this was a big surprise, because the new remaster brings life back to this recording, what before sounded edgy and intrusive, now sounds natural and real, keeping the original recording spirit untouched, but making it much more a classic live jazz performance. This reissue is where the goods really show, the deep sounds, the breathe of life, a perfect choice to let yourself become immersed in these impressive performances sounding better than ever before.

Overall it can be said that this new reissue presents this amazing and popular performance with a much more balanced EQ, less compression and more resolution, for a more natural and realistic sound, exactly like you'd expect to hear in a live setting. The contrast between slow lower level moments, and the higher paced large volume bursts is now much more obvious with increased dynamics and a sense of crescendos that makes the performance and musicians real, in the room with an expanded view of the live set. The pressing on perfectly silent vinyl is the cherry on top, absolutely highly recommended!

Find it here, at Vinyl Gourmet Online Store: