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The Winners: 2021 Albums of the Year

All votes have been counted, and we reveal the 2021 Albums of the Year, as well as the 2021 Audience Award Winner at the very bottom of the page!

Thank you to all 1,238 NativeDSD Music listeners who casted their votes in the various categories!!! ❤️

The NativeDSD Music Team

Category Winner: Vocals

AND THE WINNER IS…. Clique! by Patricia Barber (Impex IMP7002D)

Last year Jazz vocalist, pianist and composer Patricia Barber released her album Higher in Stereo and 5 Channel DSD & DXD at NativeDSD. The album was a top seller at NativeDSD for the balance of the year and was one of our nominees for 2020 Album of the Year.

Now Patricia Barber is back with her new album Clique! This album features 9 classic songs that will be familiar to music fans everywhere. My favorites on the album are This Town and All In Love Is Fair but there are several others that are also very fine. Barber and her Jazz ensemble have performed these tracks many times in Jazz clubs and it shows. The performances are warm and rich. Add in the recording and production team of Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz and you have a Stereo and 5 Channel Surround Sound album that is easily one of the best of the year.

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Orchestral

AND THE WINNER IS…. Brahms 4 & MacMillan Larghetto by Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Reference Recordings FR744)

Athletic! I see that word applied to many of Honeck’s recordings – strong, emphatic performances! Sometimes he has been accused of being a bit over the top, but I find this Brahms Fourth to be excellent in every way. If I had to choose just one recording of Brahms 4 to live with for the rest of my days, it could easily be this one. The orchestra is superb, as is the Sound Mirror recording. A bonus on this album is the Larghetto for Orchestra from Scottish Composer, James MacMillan. It’s contemporary, and it is lovely.

– Bill Dodd


Category Winner: New Orleans Jazz
+ Audience Award Winner!

AND THE WINNER IS…. Girl Of My Dreams by Fone Jazz Makers (Fone Jazz SACD014)

Fone’s producer, recording engineer and creative leader Giulio Cesare Ricci assembled a Jazz ensemble to perform New Orleans Jazz at an Audio Show in Europe. He recorded Girl of My Dreams to Analog Tape and later transferred it to Stereo DSD for release.

The Jazz Makers pull out all the stops singing and playing 15 songs with Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Sousaphone and Banjo. The music is very enjoyable, and the musicians are having a great time singing and playing it. If you are looking for a Jazz album that is joyous and just plain fun, this is your album!

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Choral Music

AND THE WINNER IS…. Anton Bruckner & Michael Haydn: Motets by MDR Leipzig Radio Choir (Pentatone PTC5186868)

The MDR Leipzig Radio Choir is quite fine in these motets from Bruckner and Michael Haydn. These Bruckner choral pieces are far less grandiose than his symphonies and are lovely. As the booklet notes suggest, finding these two composers together might seem like an odd pairing but there are many commonalities in their lives. Most importantly, the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir and the recording engineers have made this a must-hear release.

– Bill Dodd


Category Winner: Solo Piano

AND THE WINNER IS…. Música Callada / Quiet Music (Pure DSD) by Josep Colom (Eudora Records EUDDR2101)

Pianist Josep Colom has released several albums on the Eudora Records label at NativeDSD. On his 5th album in Stereo and 5 Channel Pure DSD 256 Colom performs Frederic Mompou’s Musica Callada on a Model D Steinway and Sons piano. Eudora’s Gonzalo Noqué calls the album a “reference recording of this iconic work”. When I listened to this album, I found it to be the one of the most realistic recordings of a pianist that I have ever heard. It is a fine performance by Colom and an amazing recording from Eudora.

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Classical Guitar

AND THE WINNER IS…. Take Me Along (Ta’ Mig Med) – Kim Larsen Songs For Classical Guitar by Jesper Sivebaek (OUR Recordings 8226915)

This album was a bit of a surprise. Classical Guitarist Jesper Sivebaek says that he had two guitar heroes in his youth – Andres Segovia and Danish Rock Musician Kim Larsen. On Take Me Along (Ta’ Mig Med), Sivebaek brings us the product of 10 years of his work – arranging Kim Larsen’s music for Classical Guitar. The album is an enjoyable journey into Larsen’s music presented by a fine Classical Guitarist. Take Me Along is a very enjoyable album and listening to it quickly demonstrated why it was a popular one with NativeDSD listeners in 2021.

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Chamber Music

AND THE WINNER IS…. La Muse by Prisma String Trio (Pure DSD) (Cobra Records COBRA0080)

From the booklet notes: “La Muse features two completely different works by French composers both written in 1944:Trio à Cordes Op.105 by Florent Schmitt and Suite La Muse Ménagère’ by Darius Milhaud. One is turbulent and magnificent, the other intimate and poetic. The two composers could not be more different and might be said to clash. And yet, Prisma String Trio feel their works are a beautiful match and complement each other well.“ The first half of the 20th Century was an especially amazing time for music, including these two composers. The Prisma String Trio brings a personal touch to these works, and the results are quite enjoyable. Cobra’s recording is excellent.

– Bill Dodd


Category Winner: Funk, Blues & Soul

AND THE WINNER IS… Funky Butt by Arnett Cobb (2xHD-Jazzology 2xHDJA1197)

Tenor Saxophone player Arnett Cobb is a Jazz Legend who was known as the “Wild Man of the Tenor Sax”. His playing featured elements of Jazz, Swing, Soul and Stomps. On Funky Butt, 2xHD Mastering dips into the catalog of Jazzology Records to bring us a collection of Cobb’s tasty sax playing backed by Derek Smith, Ray Drummond, and Ronnie Bedford. From start to finish this album is exciting and entertaining, offering insight as to how Arnett Cobb influenced many genres of music in his day and for generations to come.

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Solo Instrumental

AND THE WINNER IS…. Shaping Chopin by Anna Fedorova (Pure DSD) (Channel Classics 43621)

Anna Fedorova has the perfect touch for Chopin, and Channel Classics engineering captures is perfectly. Her program of “Waltzes, Mazurkas, and Nocturnes is absolutely delightful. She is delicate, she is strong, and she truly tells the story of each piece in her playing. All six (so far) of her Albums for Channel Classics are award-worthy.

– Bill Dodd


Category Winner: Swing Jazz

AND THE WINNER IS…. Friends Talk (Pure DSD) by ArpiShow (Hunnia Records HRES2114)

ArpiShow is a 6-member Swing Jazz orchestra formed in 2017 by clarinet and saxophone player Arpad Dennert (hence the name “ArpiShow”). The group’s motto is “Pure Swing, Nothing Else!”

Friends Talk features 13 tracks and almost 1 hour of Swing Jazz music. Some tracks are purely instrumental while others also include a vocalist. I found Friends Talk to be very entertaining, full of swinging performances captured in stellar Pure DSD 256 sound quality. One NativeDSD listener called it one of the best albums he has downloaded to date with excellent performances, music and sound quality that is a game changer. That says it all.

– Brian Moura


Category Winner: Jazz Duo

AND THE WINNER IS…. 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


Category Winner: Opera & Operetta

AND THE WINNER IS…. Bernstein: Candide by London Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop & Soloists (LSO Live LSO0834)

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

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


Category Winner: Electronic Music

AND THE WINNER IS…. 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 Winner: Vocal Solo

AND THE WINNER IS…. 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!

– Bill Dodd


Category Winner: Jazz Piano

AND THE WINNER IS…. 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


2021 Audience Award

Overall, the highest number of votes went to Girl Of My Dreams by Fone Jazz Makers (Fone Jazz SACD014)

The runner-ups of most votes per album – regardless of the category – were Anna Fedorova: Shaping Chopin (Pure DSD) (2nd place) and Prisma String Trio: La Muse (Pure DSD) (3rd place).

Written by

Floor van der Holst

Floor is Marketing & Label Manager at NativeDSD Music

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