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Laurence Juber - Guitar Noir Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 July 2003

Laurence Juber

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Guitar Noir
format: DVD-Audio
label: AIX
release year: 2003
performance: 9
sound 9.5
reviewed by: Tim Hart

ImageWho is Laurence Juber, you ask? Well, in the circles that matter, and this excludes anything to do with pop music, he has been around for quite some time. Most notable is his stint as guitarist in one of the later renditions of the band Wings with Sir Paul McCartney. Also, he has recorded with folks like Alan Parsons, Belinda Carlisle, Paul Williams, and Ringo Starr, to name a few, as well as composing soundtracks for TV and film. He is also known as a masterful “fingerstyle guitarist,” which has its roots in flamenco and bluegrass. In other words, no picks.
Guitar Noir is the first recording I’ve heard that was recorded using multi-channel 96kHz/24-bit analog to digital conversion from the onset. This is not a recording that got the treatment after the fact. AIX, a West Hollywood, California company, is responsible for the state of the art recording and mastering, all done at 96Khz/24 bits throughout the entire process. AIX founder Mark Waldrep set out to showcase the technology by producing a “no gimmicks” approach to recording multi-channel music. What this disc offers is two different 5.1 mixes, “audience” and “stage,” a PCM 96/24 bit stereo mix, and DVD-Audio 96 kHz/24-bit tracks encoded with Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) that I used for most of my listening. As is stated on the AIX website, “This recording is NOT an attempt to ‘document’ a live recording, but is instead an exploration of high-resolution recording coupled with aggressive 5.1 channel surround mixing.”

With the help of Dominic Genova on stand up bass and Steve Forman on percussion, Guber’s music could be classed with the likes of Larry Carlton or Craig Chaquico, but only because they, too, play acoustic guitar. And his music, like Carlton’s or Chaquico’s, could be termed easy listening, but I wouldn’t go there. Nothing simple is going on in his playing.

Starting off with “Mosaic,” I was immediately impressed with the resolution of the recording. The 5.1 “stage” mix is enveloping rather than surrounding, with sounds seemingly coming from above as well as all around. Cymbals and chimes have a sense of realness that grabs your attention, and at first I felt they drew too much attention to themselves. But the more I listened, the more I realized that these sounds were not over-accentuated, they were just being reproduced more faithfully than I’ve heard before. Leading edge transients of Juber’s guitar as he strikes various chords are penetrating and well defined.

“My, My, My” has a nice melody, with cymbals laying well back in the soundstage, yet with an accompanying room ambience that is very enjoyable. Bass notes have their own character, presenting not only the pluck of the strings but the body of the instrument very convincingly.

“Rules of the Road” also has that “in the room” presence. The striking of the chords and the fingers sliding up and down the strings almost convince you that the players are there with you.

Some of the placement of cymbals in different speakers and how they mix with and highlight the music is interesting and sometimes distracting, as they draw attention to themselves and away from what is going on with the rest of the sound at times. It could also be that it is hard to hold a high-resolution note down.

“In your Arms” really shows what Juber can do as he runs through a menagerie of chord progressions. He also does a nice instrumental version of “Strawberry Fields” that didn’t even allow me to miss the lyrics.

Flipping the disc over to view the video side instantly made “Leaning Post” my favorite song on the disc. After watching them play this tune, my appreciation for the song and the musicianship has grown. Watching Dominic Genova lay down the rhythm of the tune while Steve Foreman finds the right percussion for the song really sells the trio. Six other videos highlight their respective songs to give the listener a visual perspective of the playing that will draw you even further into the disc.

I think Guitar Noir is a winning DVD-A. With Juber behind the helm, with help from some very seasoned musicians in the likes of Genova and Foreman, it would be hard to ignore in any format. With state of the art digital recording technology from AIX Records tastefully and thoughtfully mixed and mastered, Guitar Noir fulfills the DVD-A MLP high-resolution format charter, sounding fantastic. The added bonus of 96 kHz/24 bits PCM stereo mix, multiple camera angle video, interviews with the artists, and video of the rehearsals closes the deal and makes it a no-brainer to add to your hi-res collection.

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