Kirsten Edkins Shapes and Sound album is an exceptional excursion into modern Jazz!
Sometimes there is nothing better after a long day than putting on a good classic jazz album and releasing all thoughts about the day. The soothing textures of the drums and stand-up bass anchor a medley of string, wood, and brass instruments playing in their own space soaking up the limelight. These are some of the things that make owning high-end audio equipment worth the time, money, and effort one suffers to attain and properly set up and care for this equipment.
Most audiophile friends tell me that they seem to gravitate to older jazz recordings when they get in the mood for great jazz. They feel earlier jazz recordings have a sound and rawness to them that newer recordings don’t have. Over my years of listening to jazz and finding great examples of it, I happen to agree with them a lot of the time.
Most of these earlier jazz albums were either recorded live or recorded in one take at the studio allowing all of the energy and humanity that comes along with the players in the band to be captured. This energy and the human element are some of the things many feel are lost with today’s overly processed recordings.
When I heard there was going to be a new jazz album coming out that would be the first from Kevin Gray’s new label CoHearent Records. While some might think this is just another studio this would not be the case. Kevin Gray is well-known in the studio world having started mastering in the early 70s and if you want the full history here is a link to his site explaining his history here.
I am quite impressed with his years of experience and knowledge but what got to me the most is a policy at his facility. Kevin is vehemently against using high levels of compression in his records. In the statement on his website, he goes into specifics about how the “loudness war” has ruined what would have otherwise been some outstanding recordings
Kevin says that his facility will not take part in such practices and that anyone who wants their recording to be compressed like that should find “someone else” to master it. This is a very impressive statement and something I have been personally looking for, for someone to finally put their foot down on a practice that has gone on for far too long.
Another great thing about Kevin Gray’s CoHearent Records is that he uses an all-tube analog chain in the studio. This system has both reel-to-reel tape machines as well as digital workstations so that every major format is available.
Kevin Gray recorded this album live in the studio, meaning that these songs keep the humanity and the energy of the players since all the nuances are kept without the cut-n-paste tactics and digital manipulation that make a lot of today’s albums sound more like robots than actual humans. This is much appreciated and sorely lacking in many of today’s albums.
Kirsten Edkins has some very impressive credentials. She has performed in the band for the shows “The Voice”, “The Late, Late Show”, and “American Idle”, where she has worked with Katherine McPhee, Pharrell Williams, Kelley Clarkson, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton. She is also an accomplished band leader and teacher who loves the thought of giving her gift of music to others through teaching. Kirsten has taken influences from several accomplished musicians including John Coltrane, Eddie Harris, and Joe Henderson but also uses her path with her playing and it shows in this performance.
When I saw that “Shapes and Sound” was going to be also available through Qobuz I had to get a listen.
Musicians on this album include Kirsten Edkins-saxophone, Gerald Clayton-piano, Ahmet Turkmenoglu-bass, Lemar Guillary-trombone, and Chris Wabich-drums. These musicians bring their best to this performance allowing the music to have an ease and flow to it that shows they knew what they were doing.
Sound Kirsten’s saxophone is on stage left in the mix in its own space with great dynamics and body. Chris Wabich’s drums are on the left side of the stage and sound very open and elaborate. Like many live jazz albums, he uses brushes to not drown out the other players and this adds a smooth sizzle to the mix while accompanying the other instruments very well. The snare has great impact and the bass drum has intense body and density when called upon.
Gerald Clayton’s piano is set back on the stage giving the music depth and showing that a properly set up microphone array can bring out the beauty in the piano. Lemar Guillary’s Trombone is on the right side of the stage bringing its smooth soulful tone to the music.
Every song on this album is great and in fact, this is one of the best play-through jazz albums this year! Each track is a different ride within the same story as they share the same great acoustic sensibilities but could stand on their own as singles. The soundstage is wide and deep giving the players room to breathe.
“Shapes And Sound” is an overall terrific jazz recording by any standard even compared to the classics that are hallmarks of the genre. The sound of this album is truly unique with all the qualities that make jazz albums so much fun to listen to. Kevin Gray and CoHearent Records picked some fine musicians to showcase how good of a record his new label can produce!
Kirsten Edkins’s “Shapes And Sound” is available from Acoustic Sounds for $39.95 and The album is also available on streaming services if you are a digital music listener. I used Qobuz for this review but will be ordering the vinyl copy as this album is a highly recommended keeper!
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
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