Positive Feedback - 2018 Writer's Choice Award -
2018 Writer's Choice Award from Positive Feedback
In 2014 one of my Writer's Choice Awards went to Bob Attiyeh for his contribution to the recording arts and giving new artists a state-of-the-art platform to launch their careers. It seems fitting that in 2018 I return to Bob's stellar work at Yarlung for another award.
The Yuko Mabuchi Trio features talented pianist Yuko Mabuchi along with jazz veterans Bobby Breton on drums and Del Atkins on bass. In their self-titled debut album Yuko Mabuchi Trio, the trio plays classics including "What Is This Thing Called Love," "On Green Dolphin Street," and "St. Thomas" by Sonny Rollins as well as "Sona's Song" penned by Yuko Mabuchi.
Whether listening in Stereo or Multichannel DSD 256, the album captures the fine playing of the musicians with rich helpings of detail, ambience, and stellar sound quality. In multichannel we hear the trio in the front channels of the room with the surround channels reserved for hall ambiance and audience applause at the end of each selection.
What I find most compelling about this album is its sheer sense of musicality. Once I start listening to the Yuko Mabuchi Trio album, I always play it all the way through. It is literally too good to stop after only one or two tracks. And that is something that few recordings truly deliver. No wonder it was a favorite to show audio systems at their best during shows like AXPONA and Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in 2018. This album has Writer's Choice Award written all over it.
HiFi News & Record Review
With the silky Stereo DSD 256 of the eponymous live album by the Yuko Mabuchi Trio [Yarling Records YAR80161DSD from NativeDSD Music] the iFi Audio Pro iDSD sounds simply radiant, every tiny detail laid bare whether the DAC is used as a source, a preamp or a headphone amp. Indeed, using it with headphones including the B&W P9 Signature, and the Oppo PM-1 in balanced configuration, the sheer amount of detail on offer, and the way it adds to the music rather than distracting from it, was quite a revelation.
The recording places Mabuchi center-stage in the room, ably backed by Del Atkins on bass and Bobby Bretton on drums. It’s hard to think of a set with as much presence as revealed by the Pro iDSD and the Oppo PM-1 headphones. But this is reality, not hi-fi hyper-reality – there’s nothing artificial going on here, but rather total communication with the music.
Switch to the tube/valve stage if you want, for late night listening, but stick to the solid-state version for the maximum impact as Mabuchi and her boys swagger through a medley of ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘Take The “A” Train’ and ‘Satin Doll’. In a word: glorious!
AV Magazine - Record of the Month
To complete this brief review I propose another disc dedicated to the Jazz trio, also for an interesting comparison of musical style and acoustic space of the recording. The different musical setting and the different acoustic recording, in fact, provide a completely new sound picture compared to the same musical style recorded by 2L. Is it the best? No, just different.
Here is a recording of the young label Yarlung Records. The trio is that of Yuko Mabuchi, accompanied by Del Atkins on double bass and Bobby Breton on drums. Relocated to California, the Japanese pianist has garnered appreciation in a series of performances at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.
The album was recorded in 2017 in the splendid acoustics of the Cammilleri Hall, a small auditorium (about 90 seats) at the University of California. The recording was captured both in analog and in stereo DSD 256 and multichannel DSD 256. No special effects, but listen carefully to the natural development, the incisiveness of the piano part, the soft timbre depicted in an incisive and vibrant picture of energy. The first track immediately indicates the sound quality of these songs, also understood as the ability to reproduce a reliable sound box, a homogeneous structure in the interaction between the instruments and the acoustic space.
The concert is live, there is the usual presentation of the musicians followed by the applause of the audience. In multichannel (try it if you can), you feel that the audience is around and behind our virtual listening point. But even in the simple two channel, we can perceive the feeling of space and depth. An excellent recording in my opinion, soft in the medium-low, but the musical substance is concrete and that point of pleasantness that dissolves the acute range is legitimate in my opinion in the enjoyment of a repertoire like this.
Acoustic jazz that can also be enjoyed by me, which I understand very little, simple to manage by a domestic system but capable of expressing unsuspected dynamics and a three-dimensional sound perspective. Other than record archeology by "pure and hard" audiophiles.
On the stage, a beautiful young woman sits at a baby grand piano unleashing an aggressive flood of sound into the audience. Behind her are two elegantly dressed gentlemen on bass and drums, who match her creativity, precise timing, and articulation with their own musical artistry note-for-note. Her name is Yuko Mabuchi, her bandmates are Del Atkins on bass and Bobby Breton on drums. Their 2018 release, Yuko Mabuchi Trio was recorded live at The Brain and Creativity Institute’s Cammilleri Hall in Los Angeles, California on March 31, 2017. The performance was in honor of the 25th Anniversary of The Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, and their President, Bob Levi who was celebrating his 70th Birthday as well. I know Bob from his years as a member of The Atlanta Audio Society and his jazz recommendations have never failed to bring immense pleasure to the AAS members including yours truly.
One of Cole Porter’s most recorded compositions opens the first side, the 1929 classic, What Is This Thing Called Love? It was first performed by British singer, Elsie Carlisle in the Broadway musical, Wake Up and Dream and has been a well-loved jazz standard for nearly eight decades. The song begins with a midtempo solo piano introduction by Yuko which becomes a spirited theme treatment by the trio. Ms. Mabuchi leads off with a musical gem on the vivacious opening statement. Del packs a beefy punch on the second solo, then Bobby gets to shine next, applying a contagious rock-solid beat that drives all the way to a brief interlude by Yuko prior to the closing chorus and lively finale. Valse Noire is a very pretty ballad by Cincinnati composer Mark Lehman who originally wrote the tune for solo piano. It ends the first side, receiving a touchingly tender treatment by the trio and Yuko has the showcase to herself as the song’s only soloist. She delivers a presentation of exquisite beauty anchored by the serene supplement of Del and Bobby into an elegant ending.
The pace slows down as the second side begins with the 1947 popular song On Green Dolphin Street by Bronislaw Kaper and Ned Washington. It was composed for the film Green Dolphin Street released that year and became a jazz standard after Miles Davis recorded it. The beat goes up to midtempo when Yuko gives the song’s only solo performance an easy swing in her tone which excels with a steady assurance, preceding softening her speed for the theme’s reprise and climax. The album ends with Seriously by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles who wrote it for fellow singer Leslie Odom, Jr., who appeared on the weekly public radio program and podcast, This American Life. The trio performed this tune for the first time during their concert, opening delicately with Del leading on the introduction. Yuko takes over for the theme and tells the song’s story with youthful creativeness and ingenuity that is especially endearing. Del follows with a tender, sweet reading that’s warm and relaxing before Yuko’s piano literally floats through the final statement, making an ideal closer to this excellent and very entertaining album.
The quality of the musicianship is incredible, each member of the trio just aren’t counting and keeping a beat, they’re listening to the sounds they’re creating and complementing each other’s solos effortlessly. Also, each Individual performance receives accompaniment of the highest quality from the other two members. The blending of the instruments sounds like they’ve been playing together for years and instinctively know what’s needed to make each song better.
And now, the sound! The sound is spectacular with an absolutely stunning soundstage in all areas, the highs are detailed and velvety smooth. There’s a liveliness in the midrange that gets the listener in touch with the music without any harshness. The bass is clean, crisp, extended and not fatiguing in any way.
I look forward to hearing more from this talented threesome on record and in performance in the years to come. In the mood for an excellent live jazz album that will excite your ears with superb sonics, articulate and fresh performances? I submit for your next hunt, Yuko Mabuchi Trio, a live album from one of the premiere concert halls in the world that’s not only worth the trip for anyone who loves trio jazz but one you can revisit anytime you place the album on your system!
I have been thinking of authoring another installment of Lovely Recordings but have not yet had the time to sit down and do so. However, there is one recent release which is so good in terms of the music, musicianship and sound quality that it deserves a mention on its own.
Namely the Yuko Mabuchi Trio recording from Yarlung Records. In the liner notes, Ms. Mabuchi notes that she is a fan of two of my favorite jazz pianists, Oscar Peterson and Monty Alexander, and it shows both in terms of her playing and how she presents the material. Only Monty could pull off making "Feelings" into compelling piece or turn "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" into a stomping jazz swing piece. Ms. Mabuchi does the same thing with my favorite piece here, a fantastic re-imagining of Sara Bareilles' "Seriously" into a reggae flavored soulful affair.
The sound here is superb, recorded live in a small theatre using DSD 256. The detail, sense of space and most importantly, dynamics, are thrilling. It is rare in the audiophile world to get such a perfect pairing of compelling music and sound quality.
I downloaded the album from NativeDSD at DSD 128 resolution. Highly recommended.
French Vintage HiFi
Welcome to the best of the digital world. A Native DSD256 file recorded by pianist extraordinaire Yuko Mabuchi and her Trio. Played back on the newest Merging+NADAC Player with Roon. The Merging Technologies room at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver with the Definitive Technology BP2000TL speakers certainly gave it justice.
This album thrilled the RMAF attendees who visited our room. Wonderful recording.
The Absolute Sound
If the eponymous debut album by the Yuko Mabuchi Trio can be seen as a coming out party, it’s hard to imagine the musicians squeezing anything more out of the event. The nearly hour-long set includes some well-known jazz standards, including a gorgeous On Green Dolphin Street and an exuberant romp through Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas. During a solo piano medley, Mabuchi’s reconstruction of Take the “A” Train displays a fertile imagination and a confident left hand. A sly reading of Sara Bareilles’ Seriously shows Mabuchi’s ability to spot a pop song that translates nicely into the jazz idiom. Her interpretive skills also surface on a composition by TAS music reviewer Mark Lehman, Waltz Noir; here the trio uses a classical composition as a launch pad for some highly evocative noir jazz. If Mabuchi’s playing can be described as tasteful, economical, and lyrical, it should also be noted that her rapid single-note runs are impeccably executed. The performances benefit from an exceptionally realistic recording that stands out for its in-the-room ambience and tonal clarity. So far this year I’ve heard a dozen recordings by piano trios, and Yuko Mabuchi Trio stands up against any of them.
Yuko Mabuchi plays the ivories with the touch of an angel and the understanding of an artist many times her young age. She is backed by seasoned musicians with strong drive, plus an acute sense of playing with, and not over, the pianist.
This is Yarlung’s third jazz album recorded like you wish all performances were recorded: listening is just like being there. All that's missing here is the expensive tickets and a sticky floor!
The selection of mostly standards and stand-outs is delightful and hard to leave. I liked every one of them, particularly the "All The Things You Are," "Take The A Train," "Satin Doll Medley," and "St. Thomas," a Sonny Rollins classic. The "Japanese Medley" was hauntingly gorgeous and intriguing. I played it twice in my first listening pass.
The album is all about Yuko Mabuchi, and the bass and drums rarely step out from a supporting role. When they do, it is lovely to hear. The recording is natural and neutral with a bullet. I hear no tinkering or sweetening that does not belong there.
Definition is top notch. Ambient cues, imaging solidity, and airiness are state of the art. The soundstage is huge and lifelike, and you will be drawn into it. I could easily hear the size of the venue.
The Yuko Mabuchi Trio Concert album has my highest recommendation. Should knock your socks off in hi-rez!