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  IsoMike -
  Joe McQueen & friends: Ten at 86
  "Ten at 86"

Joe McQueen (sax)
Evan Coombs (bass)
Clayton Furch (piano)
Don Keipp (drums)
Skip Musgrave (trumpet)
Brad Wheeler (harmonica)
Track listing:
  1. What a Difference a Day Makes
2. Stoned
3. Undecided
4. Willow Weep for Me
5. Blues Walkin'
6. Poinciana
7. Now's the Time
8. Satin Doll
9. Tenderly
10. Broadway
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 6 show all

Site review by Christine Tham September 18, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:    
If you like to listen to straight jazz ensembles in surround sound on an SA-CD, recorded using an innovative microphone setup, then this disc is worth checking out.

You may not have heard of Joe McQueen (his name does not even feature on the AllMusic database), but this guy can play sax, at least at the level that you will encounter at a typical jazz festival, and the music is certainly very listenable, being a combination of lesser known standards penned by the likes of Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington.

The title of the album "Ten at 86" is a reference to the number of tracks in the album and Joe's age (I'll leave it to you to guess which is which). Accompanying Joe are Evan Coombs on bass, Clayton Furch on the piano, Don Keipp on drums, Skip Musgrave on trumpet and Brad Wheeler on harmonica.

All tracks are instrumental, but if you let the disc play when the song in track ten finishes you'll discover (around 4:50 into the track) a hidden "bonus" track featuring Joe singing. He has a fairly decent voice, I wish there were more tracks featuring him singing.

As with other IsoMike recordings, this is a 4-channel recording utilizing an interesting microphone placement consisting of four mics suspended from four arms (capturing Front Left, Front Right, Rear Left, and Rear Right). Special heart shaped acoustic baffles are placed between the mics to ensure that the content captured by each microphone is as discrete and unique as possible. The theory behind this is that in a typical microphone setup, each microphone is capturing not only unique content but shared content also captured by other microphones. Unfortunately, the physical placement of these microphones means shared content is captured at slightly different phases by each mic, so when the recording is played back you get the possibility of phase cancellation from the channels. Hopefully an IsoMike recording should result in less phase cancellation, therefore a clearer and less muddy sound. You can see a photo of the IsoMike system used in the recording on page 5 of the cover booklet.

The theory seems plausible, but does it result in a better recording? Well, you can judge for yourself by listening to this disc. I certainly found the recording to be convincingly realistic, with a sense of spaciousness and wide soundstage that is possibly due to the higher channel separation, but it's also just a touch drier than a typical recording. Incidentally, the venue is the Austad Auditorium at the Val. A Browning Center for the Performing Arts at Weber University, Ogden, Utah. I would normally have expected a venue like this to be slightly more reverberant, but on the plus side the instruments come through with more clarity and detail (particularly the brushwork, and nuances in the piano tone) than I would have otherwise expected.

This is very much a front focused recording, the rear channels are mostly used to convey ambience and reflections from the rear of the venue, and are quite subdued. Therefore, I would have assumed that the stereo version should sound almost as good as the 4 channel version, so imagine my surprise when I played back the stereo track and immediately the music seemed more two dimensional. So the ambience channels are definitely worth it.

The cover notes claim that no "limiting or compression" has been used in the recording. Well, judging by the overall recording level (which is the lowest yet I've encountered on a commercial recording) I see no reason to dispute this claim. But the music itself isn't very dynamic, except for the last track (Broadway) where the extended dynamic range is clearly audible.

All in all, this is an excellent disc to sample the benefits of IsoMike, particularly if you like jazz.

Review by Oakland July 15, 2006 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Kudos are certainly due to Kimber Kable for its production of Joe McQueen’s “Ten at 86”. There is so much to be enthused about for both the music and the production.

First, I must admit there was a considerable deficit for me to overcome to allow even minimal enjoyment of this disc even before I opened it up. I saw the picture of this old guy (Joe McQueen) on the cover and I being completely and shamefully disrespectful of my elders said to myself “Hey, I better listen to this disc fast, quick, and in a hurry, because I don’t think this guy is going to make it to the end of the 5th track let alone the 10th” But let me give you firm assurance that was just my indiscreet and unthinking ageist bias rearing its ugly head. Like mother always says “never judge a book by looking at the cover”.

But even as I was listening to the first track (of 10) I was not particularly enthused with what I was hearing either in terms of musicianship or sound quality. There seemed to be a puzzlingly lack of dynamics or life in both. But midway through the first track I instinctively turned up the volume that had been set to “normal” for most discs. I quickly discovered I *really* had to crank it up to get the music to sound as loud to which I am accustomed for jazz (in a real setting). That is, loud but not overly so. Clearly, the musicians and the sound quality had been severely bottled up by the low volume setting and giving it some throttle was all that was needed to really make the music take off. (It has become increasingly clear that perceptively low recording levels, in the interest of dynamic range, have become a key ingredient in the recipe to making the best recordings. Good audio engineers seem to know that).

Regarding the performances, while I know what I like, I’m certainly not qualified to differentiate “good” jazz from “great” jazz. I enjoyed the renditions of what was, for me, a balanced eclectic mixture of familiar and not so familiar compositions. The more learned devotees of jazz among us could find the presentations overly safe or pedestrian. While certainly not “innovative”, I found the musicianship to be outstanding. I thought the sidemen were especially accomplished and the combo well rehearsed. The arrangements abundantly illuminated their respective talents. In addition to McQueen on sax the combo includes bass, piano, drums, trumpet and harmonica and, in the final track, a jazzy and quite enjoyable vocal by McQueen himself. I have found that a combo of this size and mix has a lot more creative upside potential than, say, a comparably talented trio or quartet.

Note: McQueen’s vocal is actually “hidden" in the 10th and final track. That is, the 10th track ostensibly comes to an end but the disc keeps spinning for about 25 seconds and McQueen’s vocal unfolds without the designation of an 11th track, that it clearly should have. The vocal is not at all related to the “Broadway” composition listed as track 10. Why was it done like this I have no idea. There is no way on my transport (EMM Labs) to directly access this part of the track.

The more I listened to the sound the more it became apparent that, with respect to quality, something was undeniably different here. The music was so completely “unsmearing”, presented with a sunlit clarity when compared to the vast majority of recordings I have heard, even “good” recordings. And this applies to not just the percussion, but to all the instruments and the space in which they were being played.

After listening to the disc for the first time I reached for the liner notes and learned about the Isomike technique. Actually the picture of the mike set up that is shown in the liner notes looks a bit nerdy or eccentric. Sort of like those dumb looking “Serious Listening” leather (vinyl?) ear appendages that some donned (including yours truly) 15 or so years ago. Was it this Isomike technique or just careful microphone placement and great mastering that makes for extraordinary sound quality? It was probably equally important doses of each.

Over the past year I have learned almost to an incontrovertible conclusion that two channels for classical music are hopelessly inadequate (when there is a multi-channel alternative of the same performance). But it is not always so clear-cut for jazz. But I have found that rear channel intrusion, which I don’t generally care for, that is found in some jazz music is simply because the artist or the engineers or both want it that way. An aggressive mix found in some jazz releases, such as Telarc’s “Monte Meets Sly and Robbie (see my comments at /showreviews/449#3198) is an artistic choice, not an insoluble mix of the genre and the technology.

And over the past two years or so it is clear to me that sound engineers are learning (and it is a learning process) to better exploit the virtues of multi-channel. To be sure, Joe McQueen’s “Ten at 86”, is the quintessential utilization of multi-channel in jazz. There is no center channel utilized here, although you would never suspect it by listening. And the surround channels are utilized to an effective perfection. As with the best multi-channel SACDs in my collection, to the listener who is not aware that a multi-channel source is being played it simply sounds like the best “stereo” presentation that a two-channel system could muster. That is, until you switch to stereo and the acoustic space significantly flattens. In listening to this SACD the first couple of times I don’t recall being aware, even sub-consciously, of the rear channels unless I was intent on making a two-channel/multi-channel comparison (which I rarely do anymore because it’s rudely disruptive and almost always a waste of time).

I have one other Kable Kimber IsoMike production I have yet to listen to, the Hayden String Quartets Op 9 and Opus 77, performed by the Fry Street Quartet. Based on my most positive and sensory experience with Joe McQueen’s “Ten at 86” I await my first listen to these performances with heightened anticipation.

Robert C. Lang

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Review by FullRangeMan October 24, 2009 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This SACD have a serius sound problem, after listen it everyone will have real difficulty to hear others non IsoMike SACDs. This IsoMike system is veeery good to the point of I reject others less good recordings.
The overall sound quality is unbelievable, same or better sound quality than OPUS3, Channel, Pentatone etc... there is a musical presence in the room I never listen before.
Really there is no compression on this recordings, this make all the difference, you will be aware that almost all others SACDs recordings are compressed.
The 11 tunes are beautiful songs and the performance is excelent. If you can afford buy various copies of this SACD and later thanks me, after it be out of stock, the price will go to stars.
This SACD was very well planned, I want more IsoMike Jazz releases. Mr.Kimber and the team are congratulated.

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