Sandy's Favorite Music Demos

Many of you have visited me with my various companies at trade shows over the years and most have commented on my selection of demo material. So maybe after all these years it's time to describe those tracks that are my all-time favorites - and you'll probably hear me play again and again because they're so good. But first I want to point out that I have always selected material that allows me to suspend disbelief when listening. What I mean is, I want to sit down to listen and in moments forget I'm listening to a stereo system and be transported to the performance or control room of the studio. Here are some of my favorites...

The Great Gate of Kiev, from "Pictures at an Exhibition" as conducted and performed by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra. Reference Recordings catalog #RR-79. This HDCD recording is crystal clear and preserves all the dynamics as though you were sitting only a few rows back in the hall while it was performed.

The Peacocks, by the Bill Holman Band from the "A View from the Side" XRCD. Perhaps one of the most respected yet unrecognized master arrangers and players of the Big Band era, Bill Holman paints a beautiful picture with this song. As it begins you can just see in your mind peacocks slowly opening their plumes and revealing the intricacies and lush, bright colors. This song is much the same and reveals its dense but sublime beauty as you listen. Wait 'til you hear it on a great system with a pair of Tritons!

Pie Jesu, from "Requiem and Five Anthems" by John Rutter and performed by the Turtle Creek Chorale. Reference Recordings catalog #RR-57. This HDCD recording perfectly captures both large and small scale choral performances along with subtle pipe organ playing some very low notes! The way it's recorded I feel like I'm in the front row of the balcony and the soloist is singing her aria as though I am the only one in the audience. This disc was selected as a Super Disc by The Absolute Sound editors. It's really, really, really good!

Summer Days by Ana Caram, from her album "Rio After Dark." Chesky catalog #JD028. This is what I would call a typical Chesky recording: very simple and it captures all the nuances in the performances by each of the musicians. Latin jazz relies on the subtle interplay of musicians and should wrap itself around you like a warm breeze if the system is up to the task.

Once in Love with Amy by Mel Tormé, from the album "Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley". Verve catalog #821 581-2. The Velvet Fog himself with the Marty Paich Orchestra, released in 1960. Mel's voice sings right to me on this cut and the whole thing sounds incredibly natural. This shows that, no matter how old the recording, the system really has the power to pull me into the performance. Now also available from HDtracks in both 24/96 and 24/192 resolutions!

Limehouse Bluesby Arne Domnérus from the "Jazz at the Pawnshop" FIM XRCD. The first song on one of the most famous audiophile jazz recordings ever, "Limehouse Blues" will transcend and place you right in a small club (formerly a pawn shop) in Stockholm, Sweden during December 1976. The music is as fresh today as when it was recorded on that cold night. The band was loose and the playing impromptu. Whenever I hear this I feel like I was there clinking my glass and chatting with others. Listen to the complete clarity and detail which makes it seem so real.

Prelude and Aztec Dancefrom 'La Fiesta Mexicana' by Herbert Owen Reed as performed by the Dallas Wind Symphony, Howard Dunn, Cond. (Reference Recordings RR-38CD). Reed wrote this symphony based on Aztec, Roman Catholic, mariachi and folk melodies he heard over time in Mexico. This is the first movement and starts with chimes calling you in. They should sound crystal clear and you should hear the sound of wooden mallets striking them.

Orinoco Flow by Enya, from her album "Watermark." This might be my most classic demo cut with its huge sound field and lush voices. The recording is enveloping and pulls you in. This is not a recording that puts you in the audience, this one takes you along for the ride. In a way it seems to take me through the Irish landscape in one song!

Willow Weep for Me by the Shota Osabe Piano Trio, from "Happy Coat." First Impression Music catalog #LIM-K2HD-031. I am a jazz lover and I like hearing great new recordings. There have been many great Japanese jazz trios over the years, but when I heard this cut it really stopped me cold. The string bass sounds so natural and clear, I feel like I'm watching him play this classic cut.

Shiny Stockings by Clark Terry Frank Wess with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble. Reference Recordings RR-63CD. This HDCD recording is of a classic Basie cut. What is unique about it is that I think it is recorded from the perspective of being a bit back in the hall. Many big band recordings are very 'up front' sounding, which makes me feel like they were done in a studio and not played live. Because of this perspective, this recording's horns have the traditional sharp attack because those instruments project a certain way. But the drums and bass sound like they're right there with the band and not recorded close up. I also feel the sense of space around the band and I can swing right with them. Listen to how well the HVFR tweeter reproduces the horns and cymbals as the band plays louder. It is really, really natural and 'real' sounding.

Be Here Now by Ray La Montagnefrom his "Till the Sun Turns Black" album. RCA catalog #82876 83328 2. A friend of mine turned me on to this song and it has become a favorite. I like the up front expressive voice.

Have You Heard by Pat Metheney, from his "The Road to You: Live in Europe" album. Nonesuch catalog #79941-2. This is another lush recording that really pulls you in. If the system is good, the cymbals are crystal clear and the bass melody carries the tune underneath Pat's guitar playing.

Drum solo by Dirk Sengotta of the Henrik Freischlader Band, from the "Live" album. Pepper Cake / ZYX Music catalog #PEC 2047-2. Many years ago at one of my old companies we had a really, really good drum demo track that we called "JJ." It was actually from an old Japan Audio Society test disc called "Impact" and if you can find it is a great demo, catalog #GES-9080. But this new drum solo is an even better recording! It takes a little while to build, but the recording is one of the best I've heard. It shows off how well balanced GoldenEar speakers are and how fast and precise the subwoofers are.

Those are just a few of my favorites. Now, if I can find my old record by Terry Riley called "A Rainbow in Curved Air" ......

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