Listening Room: Vulfpeck


A year ago or so, a commenter on this post by our multiloquent contributor, John Marks, had the temerity to suggest that perhaps there were no great musicians playing popular music nowadays. My brother was quick to reply, “Check out Wulfpeck.” I don’t know if my brother made a typo or if he was assuming German pronunciation, but the band to which he was referring was, in fact, the quartet of pianist Woody Goss, drummer/guitarist/vocalist Theo Katzman, drummer/keyboardist Jack Stratton, and bassist Joe Dart known as Vulfpeck.

It is, perhaps, understandable that on October 9, 2019, neither my brother nor any of the subsequent commenters were particularly aware of Vulfpeck—after all, they had never had a top 100 hit, nor were they even signed to a record label. Hell, they didn’t even have a manager. And yet, less than two weeks previous to that October post, Goss, Katzman, Stratton, and Dart sold out Madison Square Garden. 

A remarkable achievement to be sure, and one that is somewhat indicative of the state of the modern music recording industry. Like most overnight successes, Vulfpeck has been around for a long time—since 2011, to be exact. In that sense, their ascent is typical of many underground musical acts. However, the story of those nine years is a bit unique.

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The Audio Equipment I Regret Not Having Bought, Way Back When (Part 1)

darTZeel NHB-108 model one stereo power amplifier

Regrets, I have a few… even about reviewer-loan audio equipment I now wish I had bought, way back when.

The first audio magazine I wrote for was Wayne Green’s Digital Audio magazine. The première issue came out in September, 1984. The articles listed on the cover included “How to Buy Your First CD Player.” (Snort.) I was the founding classical-music columnist (“Classical ReMarks”).

I got that columnist job by pure happenstance. Someone I knew (Chuck Dougherty) worked for the regional hi-fi chain Tweeter, Etc. Chuck also was a computer whiz who moonlighted writing for one of Wayne Green’s computer magazines. Word got around to Chuck that Wayne Green Enterprises needed someone who knew about classical music, and who also could write. Seeing as I was already writing reviews of classical music concerts and recitals for the Providence Journal, I seemed to be a good fit. Wayne Green’s little publishing empire was based in New Hampshire. As it happened, I was visiting New Hampshire frequently, in that I was organizing and presenting the chamber-music performing-arts series at Thomas More College in Merrimac.

While writing for Digital Audio, I not only reviewed CDs and wrote a column; I also interviewed musicians, including André Watts, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Joseph Silverstein. Although my duties did not include equipment reviews, I did have occasion to drool over (or lust over) some pieces of gear. I moved on to the Planet HiFi website (which was where I first reviewed audio equipment, and not just recordings), and then back to print journalism, first with The Absolute Sound, and then Stereophile.

Please note, this mini-series is limited to products that I had the opportunity to hear in my home, as part of a formal review process. There are many excellent products I would consider buying, but which I just have not had the opportunity to hear at home; the best examples I can think of at the moment are the excellent radial loudspeakers from MBL.

After the jump, I recall some of the “big-fish” (as well as some “little fish”) audio-review-loan components that got away. Continue Reading →

John Marks Interviews A Cowtown Jazz Superstar

Aaron Diehl’s 2013 CD The Bespoke Man’s Narrative, his début on Mack Avenue Records, fell like a thunderclap upon the jazz landscape, reaching No. 1 on the JazzWeek Jazz Chart.

Something about the advance publicity must have caught my eye or ear, because I asked for a pre-release press copy of the CD. Upon playing it, I was so gobsmacked that I asked my friend and colleague Steve Martorella to come over to listen to it. Steve was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein’s, and his principal piano teacher was Murray Perahia, so I think that it is fair to say that Steve probably knows a little about piano playing. While he was listening to the climax of Diehl’s piano-trio version of “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” Steve was definitely getting tears in his eyes. His comment: “I didn’t know that there was anyone new who could play like that.”

In due course my comments on The Bespoke Man’s Narrative appeared in Stereophile magazine. Since then, Aaron Diehl has released another small-group recording as well as a solo project. Next weekend (October 19 and 20) he will appear with the Rhode Island Philharmonic (under the direction of Bramwell Tovey) playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Mr. Diehl graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

Questions, answers, and a sound sample can be found after the jump. Continue Reading →

The Listening Room: Neo-Bop

Wynton Marsalis.

Based on the positive reaction to last week’s Brief Introduction to Jazz post, I decided to create a new weeklyish column called “The Listening Room,” where I introduce you to new artists/styles of music, and you tell me if you think they’re any good. Deal? Deal.

Today’s post features the musical style known as “Neo-Bop,” a style of jazz that was a reaction to the Fusion of the Seventies. The face of this movement was none other than Wynton Marsalis, a young trumpeter who was an alumnus of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger group.

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