Albums of the Year 2021 – Nominations (Part 3 of 3)

It is once again time for NativeDSD to celebrate the year in Direct Stream Digital (DSD) music.  With almost 80 music labels contributing to our listeners music enjoyment there is much to celebrate and enjoy. Over the past days, we revealed the nominees of 10 other categories in Part 1 (click here) and Part 2 (click here). Today we reveal the nominees of the final 5 categories!

15% OFF through December 28, 2021
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During 2021, the NativeDSD family of music labels released hundreds of DSD albums in a wide variety of musical genres – from Pop and Rock to Jazz, Blues, Soul and Funk, Electronic, Swing, World, Gospel, Christmas, Classical and more.  

Next comes the difficult part. How do we select the Best DSD Albums of the Year? As has been the tradition in the past few years, NativeDSD has asked the two of us  – Senior Reviewer Bill Dodd and Technical Advisor Brian Moura – to carefully review the year’s DSD releases and bring our listeners 2 to 5 nominations in several musical categories.  

Today we reveal the Nominations in these 5 Categories:

Jazz Duo

Opera & Operetta

Electronic Music

Vocal Solo

Jazz Piano

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 we have selected as the best DSD music in 2021. It highlights what you may have missed during the year.  

But don’t worry – all of these Best of DSD releases are still available at the Native DSD Music store. Just in time to enhance your personal DSD collection as you prepare for some fine holiday musical enjoyment.  

And now, the nominees for The Best of DSD in 2021… Part 3!

Category: JAZZ DUO (Brian Moura)

Amulet (One Microphone Recording) by Michael Moore & Paul Berner (Sound Liaison SL1048A)

On Amulet, we have two talented Jazz musicians – Michael Moore on Clarinet and Paul Berner on Double Bass. Berner first appeared at NativeDSD with his band on a tribute to the music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney titled This Bird Has Flown

Recorded with One Microphone by Sound Liaison’s Frans de Rond, Amulet is the kind of album that lends itself to this recording technique.  Moore’s Clarinet takes the lead and Berner’s Double Bass follows along, with the two musicians participating in a very musical interplay. It is straight forward good music. A pleasure to sit back and enjoy.

– Brian Moura

Soft Shoulders by Ack van Rooyen & Juraj Stanik (Sound Liaison SL1046A)

This is another one of Sound Liaison’s minimally mic’d recordings. Soft Shoulders features flugelhorn player Ack van Rooyen accompanied by pianist Juraj Stanik. In this case, van Rooyen’s Flugelhorn appears in the Right Channel and Stanik’s Piano is in the Left Channel. The album features 10 well known standards played simply with just horn and piano. It is an excellent recording and a fine musical performance.

The list of people Ack van Rooyen worked with in his 75 year long career is endless, to name a few; Miles Davis (Montreux festival), Gil Evans Orchestra, Clark Terry Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans, Steve Gadd, Jan Gabarek, Kenny Clarke, Niels Henning Ørsted Petersen, Aimé Barelli Orchestra (Paris), Peter Herbolzheimer Big Band, WDR Big Band, Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, SFB Bigband, Süd-Deutscher Rundfunk Orchestra and the Clarke-Boland Bigband. Sadly, legendary Dutch jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist Ack van Rooyen just passed away in November 2021.

– Brian Moura

Category: OPERA & OPERETTA (Bill Dodd)

Mozart Arias by Ombra Compagna & Lisette Oropesa (Pentatone PTC5186885)

What a wonderful release this is, Lisette Oropesa in her solo debut album of Mozart arias! Everything you could expect: agility, breath control, wonderful range. She makes the lyrics live and breathe! Antonello Manacorda’s conducting is excellent as well. A sparkling program!

– Bill Dodd

Bernstein: Candide by London Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop & Soloists (LSO Live LSO0834)

Also sparkling is Marin Alsop’s take on Leonard Bernstein’s operetta, Candide!

Lenny was Alsop’s mentor, and she does him proud. We are certainly used to Bernstein’s overture, a favorite orchestral lollipop, but when I heard the extra bit of tuba puffing going on in this rendition, I knew that we were in for something satirical and fun. A superb cast is doing something they obviously love. The London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are, as you’d expect, excellent.

– Bill Dodd

Puccini: Il Tabarro by Melody Moore, Lester Lynch, Dresdner Philharmonie, Marek Janowski (Pentatone PTC5186773)

The first of three one-act operas Puccini combined into his Trittico, Il Tabarro is an extremely “forward-looking” work. As the booklet notes, “you will hear impressionist harmonies, allusions to Stravinsky, and dramatically significent self-borrowings.”  I’ve always wished that Puccini had written more orchestral works, as he was a master of orchestration. Il Tabarro shines when presented by itself, and this recording is superb, both in recording quality and in the work of the artists involved. They make Il Tabarro shine all on its own.

– Bill Dodd

Category: ELECTRONIC MUSIC (Brian Moura)

eNerd IV – Time Capsule 2020 (a.k.a. Farewell Party for Normality) (Pure DSD) by eNerd (Hunnia Records HRES2021)

Time Capsule 2020 is an electronic music album celebrating the end of the year 2020. This is a Live to Stereo Pure DSD 256 recording from Hunnia Records.  It features Endre Huszar (also known as “eNerd”), Luca Kezdy, Peta Lukacs and Dure.  

The 5 tracks on Time Capsule 2020 are original compositions performed on a variety of instruments including Drums, Vocoder, Violin, Seven String Electric Guitar and the InstaDrum which merges the music of electronic drum pads and an acoustic drum kit. The album features some of the best sounding electronic music performances that I have heard. If experimental, electronic music is a musical genre that you enjoy, I would recommend giving eNerd IV a listen.

– Brian Moura

Empty Triangles (Exclusive NativeDSD Edition) by Empty Triangles (AudioDefine Records SGSEMPT1) 

This is one of the more unusual releases this year at NativeDSD. The album indicates that it was composed and produced by Cask Thomson of AudioDefine Records. But there is no information about the members of Empty Triangles – the name of the band playing on this self-titled debut album. I guess we will have to keep wondering who the members of the “triangle” are.

That said, the album features an enjoyable mix of electronic and rhythmic rock music with a space theme. It is an Analog Recording that has been transferred to Direct Stream Digital (DSD) for release at NativeDSD. I have listened to Empty Triangles a number of times, enjoying it more each time. Electronic Music and Rock fans will want to give this album a listen.

– Brian Moura

Category: VOCAL SOLO (Bill Dodd)

Formidable! (French Chansons) by Thomas Oliemans, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Candida Thompson (Channel Classics 43321)

Chanson! A style that is recognizable world-wide for being uniquely French! But the Dutch operatic and concert baritone Thomas Oliemans grew up hearing the great French Chansons we all know. On this album, Oliemans proves that he is equally adept at the piano and singing these marvelous “Chansons”.

In addition to Brel, Legrand, Becaud, and Barbara, you will hear an overture from Franck, and interludes from Debussy, Faure, and even a little of Ravel’s Bolero to introduce some of the songs. This is an album to be cherished.

– Bill Dodd

Shirat Miriam by Miriam Meghnagi (Fonè Records SACD047)

What a treasure this album is!  Miriam Meghnagi sings Jewish songs, accompanied by Guitarist Domenico Ascione. The words are Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino, and the songs are from Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe.  These songs are rich in tradition and history of a people scattered across many places, but hearing them for the very first time, with no expectation,  I hear so much that reminds me of simple folk songs, some Yiddish Theater, and even French Chanson. Great sound, marvelous singing, I love it!

Sa Kort Ein Sommar Menneska Har (Songs of Gisle Kverndokk) by  Marianne Beate Kielland & Nils Anders Mortensen (LWC1220 Lawo Classics)

Composer Gisle Kvemdokk writes:  “Summer is the main theme you’ll sense here. The bright summer. The light that gives life, but which eventually turns into darkness – the summer that passes into autumn. (…) Summer is short. Life is short.”  World class soprano Marianne Beate Kielland is accompanied by pianist Nils Anders Mortensen. Wonderful music, with an excellent recording.

Category: JAZZ PIANO (Brian Moura)

The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions by Bob James (2xHD-Resonance Records 2XHDRE1196)

Pianist Bob James is best known as the composer of the theme to the TV Show “Taxi” and the artist that released a series of Smooth Jazz albums on Columbia Records and Tappen Zee in the 1970s and 1980s. On The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions we hear an earlier and different side of Bob James.  

Playing music that some have described as Post-Bop and Avant-Garde Jazz. It is different from the Bob James that many knew – or thought they knew.  But it is very enjoyable Jazz and well worth adding to your Jazz collection.

– Brian Moura

Explosive by Dorothy Donegan (2xHD-Jazzology Records 2XHDJA1207) 

2xHD Mastering dips into the Jazzology Records catalog to bring us Explosive by Jazz Pianist and Vocalist Dorothy Donegan. Donegan was said to be a protege of legendary pianist Art Tatum. This album certainly bears that out. Donegan’s playing, backed by bassist Jerome Hunter and drummer Ray Mosca, is energetic, forceful, and yes – explosive! Add in her vocals and you have a fast paced and enjoyable journey into her world of Jazz piano.

– Brian Moura

Love You Madly: Live at Bubba’s (Double Album) by Monty Alexander (2xHD-Resonance Records 2XHDRE1187)

Pianist Monty Alexander is well known for his unique piano style which mixes Jazz with the music of Jamaica where he was born.  Many listeners are familiar with his recordings on Concord Jazz and Telarc.  

Love You Madly hails from an earlier time, back in 1982 when Alexander played a 13 track, 92-minute set at Bubba’s. The album was recorded to Stereo Analog Tape by Mack Emerman, the legendary founder of Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios.  Emerman was a big Monty Alexander fan and brought in a mobile recording setup to record this session.  It is a fine album full of excellent Jazz performances.  Love You Madly quickly became a #1 Best Seller at NativeDSD Music in 2021. When you listen to the album, there is no doubt why.

– Brian Moura

NativeDSD Music would like to thank Bill Dodd and Brian Moura for countless hours of careful listening to the hundreds of albums that were released during the year 2021. Selecting just a few albums for each category has been a daunting job for them. And we appreciate it a lot that they decided to go for it again this year!!! Thank you very much Brian & Bill.


Senior NativeDSD Reviewer Bill Dodd added one more album to his “Best of 2021” DSD Releases list. One that he could not add into any of his categories. However, he believes more people should hear it, and we believe him when he says that! So here’s an extra little treat, also available at 15% OFF until December 22nd, even though it is not actually included within any specific AOTY nominations category.

Holst: The Planets by Buzz Brass and Melanie Barney, Organ (2xHD 2XHDFT1213)

I really like the Holst’s suite, The Planets.  It’s no Beethoven’s Fifth, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s always a good listen, and a good time. I’ve heard a few lackluster recordings, but I’ve heard many good ones. However, this one is totally unexpected: 5 brass players and one person at the organ taking the place of an entire orchestra with an amazing performance. The key is the arrangement by Enrico O. Dastous which has the organ taking the role of various instruments, but never the whole thing. It’s unique, it’s a hi-fi showpiece, but it’s a very enjoyable Planets as well. 

Written by

Brian Moura

Brian is Associate Editor at Positive Feedback, Senior Advisor – Finance & Executive Management at Regional Government Services Authority and Board Secretary & Commissioner at the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA). He graduated with a BA Degree in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) at California State University East Bay (CSUEB). For he is a Technical Advisor.


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