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Notes from My Listening Room #2
By Josh Bizar

As music lovers, we have spent our lives turning to artists we love to help us in times of happiness as well as during more stressful times. For our mental and physical health, If we can find even the slightest solace through music at this time, we can all be healthier. And, as many of us practice social distancing, I think we all also have more available time to dedicate to listening and experiencing joy through music.

It seems you are all in agreement with me as to the benefits of music in your lives. Music Direct has been busy shipping out audio gear and music to your homes. Just so you know, all of us at Music Direct are in good health and remain dedicated to keeping everyone on the right track. Those who can are working remotely, and anyone who is in the office is working smarter and safer.

In the meantime, here are two more albums that unfailingly put me at ease. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

First: Chet Baker Chet Baker Sings
I'm not ashamed to admit I was long unfamiliar with Chet Baker's singing. I had heard stories of the horn player auditioning for Charlie Parker, and Parker immediately canceling the rest of the auditions. Baker's lyrical trumpet is enough to relax almost anyone, but here's the thing: His voice sounds much like his playing. On Chet Baker Sings, he approaches vocalizing like he does the horn—with a warm and mellow technique punctuated with riveting phrasing.

Experienced in analog, this 1956 recording features remarkable transparency. While there is a bit of hiss on the old tapes, the album sounds incredibly lifelike. Listening to the horn solo in "Time After Time" and then Baker's vocal, which comes across with tremendous naturalism for a recording that's almost 65 years old. "My Funny Valentine" drips with heartfelt passion. I love listening to these mellow tones.

This pressing is produced by Blue Note Records and part of the Tone Poet Series, produced by Joe Harley in partnership with Don Was. All Tone Poet titles are cut at 33RPM from the master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Mastering and pressed at RTI. The gatefold jacket, complete with striking William Claxton photography, is made by Stoughton printing. These LPs are the real deal, folks. Anything Tone Poet-related is worth checking out.

Next Up: Bill Frisell Good Dog, Happy Man
This is another album I have played at the end of the day for many years to help me destress and clear my mind. It's my go-to Frisell record, which says a lot: He is my favorite guitarist working today. Good Dog, Happy Man has such a great flow from the first cut to the last. Besides Frisell's impressive Americana-style work, Good Dog, Happy Man includes an ideal symmetry of playing—from pedal-steel master Greg Leisz to virtuoso percussionist Jim Keltner, from the thoughtful bassist Victor Krauss to organ specialist Wayne Horvitz. Ry Cooder even guests on the wonderful track "Shenandoah."

Nonesuch's awe-inspiring 2LP set is spread loving over four sides, cut audiophile-style by Kevin Gray and pressed at Pallas in Germany by Warner Brothers Records. There is no record in my collection that has given me as much pleasure. I hope you will add it to your rotation.

March 20, 2020

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