Albums of the Year 2020

NativeDSD celebrates all that 2020 brought us in terms of very high resolution music released in Stereo, Multichannel and Binaural Direct Stream Digital (DSD). With over 70 music labels contributing to our listeners music enjoyment there is much to celebrate. This year, the NativeDSD family of music labels released over 250 DSD albums in a wide variety of musical genres – from Pop and Rock to Jazz, Blues, World, Gospel, Christmas, Classical and more. Next comes the difficult part. Going from 250 albums to 10.

10 Categories | 10 Winners

As we have done in the past few years, NativeDSD called upon two of our music experts – Senior Reviewer Bill Dodd and Technical Advisor Brian Moura – to carefully review the year’s releases and bring our listeners 3 to 5 nominations in several musical categories. See the albums that were nominated this year here.

Congratulations to the winning musicians, recording engineers & labels!

This is a great way to applaud and reward the excellent music and performances that the music labels and artists have brought us this year.  And it also is a guide for our listeners to see what Bill and Brian have selected as the best DSD music in 2020.  Just in time to enhance your personal DSD collection as you prepare for some really fine holiday musical enjoyment.

And now, the 10 Winners of the NativeDSD Album of the Year Award……

WINNER – Vocals

Embrace Me by Denise Jannah with the Gidon Nunes Vaz Jazz Quartet (Sound Liaison SL 1039A)

The team at Sound Liaison in Europe scored a musical coup with Embrace Me featuring Jazz Vocalist Denise Jannah (of Blue Note fame) and the Gidon Nunes Vaz Jazz Quartet.  It is a Live to DXD recording that was then transferred to a Studer A80 Analog Tape Recorder (for what Sound Liaison tells us is “a bit of what they call Mojo”) and then transferred to DXD. 

Despite the exotic signal path used on the recording, it delivers the wonderfully warm sound of Jannah’s vocal stylings backed by the Jazz Quartet.  Jannah has been called one of the best Jazz vocalists of the last 25 years.  This album demonstrates that in a set of excellent performances that Jazz fans won’t easily forget. – Brian Moura

WINNER – Chorale & Gospel

All Things Common by Pacific Chorale & Musicians from Salastina Music Society (Yarlung YAR02592DSD)

What’s unexpected from these contemporary choral works is composer Tarik O’Regan’s music, which is modern, but accessible and beautiful.  The Pacific Chorale and musicians from the Salastina Music Society.  This is amazing music, beautifully recorded. – Bill Dodd

WINNER – Jazz Ensemble

Cool Jazz by Gabor Varga Jazz Trio (Hunnia Records MRC2008)

For me personally, this was the non-classical album of the year!  It’s been a time when “cool” is welcome, and the guys combine a relaxed attitude with marvellous sophistication.  Don’t hesitate! – Bill Dodd

Hunnia Records released several DSD albums during the year featuring the Gabor Varga Jazz Trio and their passion for cool jazz.  I enjoyed them all but this one – simply titled “Cool Jazz” – highlights the trio’s musical talents in a relaxed, cool setting and style.  – Brian Moura

WINNER – Guitar Solo

Madama Terra by Fausto Mesolella (Fone SACD201)

This is the fifth album from the late guitarist Fausto Mesolella from Fone.  It’s an album with Mesolella playing different guitars and comfortably highlighting a wonderful selection of music.  Madama Terra has been called “stunning”, “on fire” and “inspiring” by listeners.  It was one of NativeDSD’s best sellers this year and for good reason. After finishing my first listen of this album, all I could say was “Wow!”  – Brian Moura

WINNER – Singer / Songwriters

Amsterdam Moon by The Coo (Just Listen JL018)

Startling present, right there in front of you, The Coo (Matt Arthur and Jara Holdert) make their songs seem as if they are flowing right out their hearts for the first time.   – Bill Dodd

The songs and music from The Coo are deeply rooted in a musical connection.  There is no doubt about the singing, passion, and the pure joy of the songs on this album.  An excellent debut from a vocal duo that you will be hearing more from in the future.  – Brian Moura

WINNER – Piano Solo

Skylark: Solo Piano and Beyond by Mike del Ferro (Sound Liaison SL1041A)

Sound Liaison brings us a recording of pianist Mike del Ferro performing a mix of his own compositions with standards by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans and Miles Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Chet Baker. The album is recorded with just two microphones a Josephson C700S and a AEA R88. There is something special about this album that makes you enjoy it more each time you listen. — Brian Moura

WINNER – Classical – American & Western Music

Aspects of America – Pulitzer Edition by Oregon Symphony conducted by Carlos Kalmar (Pentatone PTC5186763)

Carlos Kalmar and The Oregon Symphony have made a number of first-rate albums which I recommend highly!  You can’t go wrong with any of them.  People who may not be familiar with the work of Walter Piston, Morton Gould, and Howard Hanson, will find these three works are accessible, marvelously melodic, and yet full of structural integrity.  Kalmar and his players are great exponents of this 20th Century American music.  – Bill Dodd

WINNER – Classical – Strings/Chamber Music

Lento Religioso by Amsterdam Sinfonietta with Artistic Director Candida Thompson (Channel Classics 36620)

This is a very different kind of album.  As leader Candida Thompson says, “This tender, melancholy and languishing album is intended for the inquisitive listener.”  These are surprising string orchestra works from Berg, Korngold, Wagner, Bridge, Strauss, Bruckner, and Lekeu that will occupy your senses– long after you have finished listening.  – Bill Dodd

WINNER – Classical Orchestral

Rimsky Korsakov by Vasily Petrenko conducts the Oslo Philharmonic (LAWO Classics LWC1198)

What?  Another Scheherazade?  Yes!  And most welcome!  Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic with Concert Master Elise Batnes put this story-telling lady right up there with Reiner, Beecham, and others.  Add to that the modern DSD recording quality, and you’ve got a winner.  Oh yes, the Capriccio Espagnol and Russian Easter Overture are both excellent.  – Bill Dodd

LAWO Classics brings us an excellent new recording featuring Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnol.  The performances and sound quality are excellent.  The only disappointment is that unlike earlier LAWO releases that were issued in both Stereo and Surround Sound DSD and DXD, this one is a Stereo only recording.  Still, even in Stereo this is one to consider as we look at the Best of 2020.  – Brian Moura

WINNER – Opera & Lieder

Cavalleria Rusticana by Marek Janowski conducting the Dresdner Philharmonie (Pentatone PTC 5186772)

“Oh yeah, that’s that other opera they always put with Pagliacci on CD’s…”  Cavalleria Rusticana has never been first in line when people think of great opera, but finally we have a recording that should bring real credit to this Opera.  Janowski conducts the Dresdner Philharmonie and some well-chosen soloists in a fine performance of Mascagni’s famous opera about love, betrayal, violence, and (of course) Mama!  The opera was a huge hit when first performed in 1890, and this performance reminds us why!  — Bill Dodd

Written by

Floor van der Holst

Floor is interim Communications & Label Manager at NativeDSD Music


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