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Acoustix

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz (1998)

4.6

September 13, 1998

Tuning / Blend 4.6
Energy / Intensity 4.2
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.8
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.6
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 4.6
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 4.2
3 Day By Day 4.8
4 Answer Me, My Love 4.6
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 4.4
6 Orange Colored Sky 4.6
7 The Nearness of You 4.2
8 Poinciana 4.4
9 Unforgettable 5.0
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 4.4
11 All the Way 4.6
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5.0
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 4.8

Recorded 1997 – 1998
Total time: 46:46, 13 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 5
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 5
3 Day By Day 5
4 Answer Me, My Love 5
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 5
6 Orange Colored Sky 5
7 The Nearness of You 5
8 Poinciana 5
9 Unforgettable 5
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 5
11 All the Way 5
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 5

I love this album. I already loved Acoustix, but it's just not that often that I get a hankering for straight-up barbershop a la World War II medleys. But this album, I can tell, I will play again and again.

What I love most is the variety on this album, and the the way Acoustix will be singing along in a jazz arrangement, then glide into a few barbershop chords to die for. Their song choices include many of my favorite standards. And I actually also really like the big band that backs up several numbers.

Instrumentation is kept to a minimum. And when they use it, it's truly first class. The name "Dallas Symphony Orchestra" makes you wary, and it should, but this is no schmaltzy, over-stringed production. The title track and its fellows instead feature a swingy, brassy big band that makes me want to close my eyes and lean back at a table at some classy outdoor cafe. But the music at classy outdoor cafes never has enough pieces to get the same effect.

Sorry to gush. But after a half-dozen collegiate discs of varying mediocrity, it's tough not to get excited about a disc that oozes professionalism on every front. Take the second cut, Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out With My Baby Medley. It starts out with a lovely scat solo that flows into a bass line, adds a melody, picks up a tenor line, and a few lines later has turned into a first-rate barbershop tune. It ends with a tag that will light up your soul.

I understand the quartet has tinkered with their lineup recently, though I don't know enough to comment on specifics. I can tell you that they've figured out how to get the most out of their production, and their blend and voices sound better than ever before.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 5
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 5
3 Day By Day 5
4 Answer Me, My Love 5
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 5
6 Orange Colored Sky 5
7 The Nearness of You 5
8 Poinciana 5
9 Unforgettable 5
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 5
11 All the Way 5
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 5

Acoustix sets the new standard in vocal performance with their passionate, heartfelt, and technically masterful singing on Jazz, Jazz, Jazz. Standards from Jazz and Easy Listening are step one of Acoustix' formula. Now add Barbershop phrasing, perfect intonation and rich harmonies. The secret ingredient however is authenticity. That's what makes Acoustix' Jazz, Jazz, Jazz a masterpiece.

After all that praise, I must admit that these aren't my favorite song choices and I am not generally a fan of barbershop. But Acoustix are are just too unbelievably talented not to like. Their uncompromising musicality simply dwarfs any other considerations. They are the masters of their art, and the first-rate performances that literally overflow from Jazz, Jazz, Jazz will transform any listener to an Acoustix devotee.

8 of the 13 songs are completely a cappella, but lush, mostly four-part vocal harmony dominates all the tracks. Todd Wilson, Rick Middaugh, Jason January, and Joel T. Rutherford focus Acoustix' sound on ensemble rather than solo performance. The sum of Acoustix is far greater than its talented component parts.

Sweetening the mix, the Dallas Jazz Orchestra under musical director Galen Jeter and The Steve Lehmann Big Band both swing through their accompaniments, supporting, enriching but never dominating. Also joining the quartet as special guests are jingle singers, Jim and Greg Clancy to fill out the hauntingly beautiful Gene Puerling arrangement of Unforgettable. Adding a very pleasurable sonic element is Sky-Tenor, Todd Wilson's talented sister, Wendy Wilson DeCrow on The Nearness of You.

The engineering, mixing and mastering are all technically excellent and artistically tasteful. The richness of the harmonies cuts through even the most dense arrangements. The voices shine on every cut.

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz is a very successful blending of barbershop, pop and jazz style and sensibility. If you love beautiful singing, you have no excuse not to own this album. It's a gem.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 5
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 4
3 Day By Day 4
4 Answer Me, My Love 5
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 5
6 Orange Colored Sky 5
7 The Nearness of You 5
8 Poinciana 4
9 Unforgettable 5
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 4
11 All the Way 4
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 5

Absolutely beautiful music. Buy this album.

Oh, I guess I have to say more...grin

This is the first album by Acoustix since they lost one of their original members of the International SPEBSQSA championship group. They focus on jazz repertoire, not all of it a cappella, and not all of it barbershop... they do some very non-barbershop quartet songs, and have songs ranging from the Four Freshmen to Paul Simon.

I'm proud to report that Acoustix hasn't lost a step. I loved this album, and I'm neither a great jazz fan nor a great barbershop fan. Their harmonies are about as near-flawless as I've heard (or at least, as I can tell), and they sing with a lot of emotion and feeling that really comes across in the songs. They also manage to shift their sound and be versatile, going from standard barbershop to '30s style vocal jazz (complete with big band orchestra accompaniment, purists beware!) to Singers Unlimited-esque lush harmony without losing their totality of sound. You always know it's Acoustix, yet you still wonder how they can do so many varied and different things.

They do receive some vocal help on both The Nearness of You (Todd Wilson's sister sings on it, giving it it's Singers Unlimited feel) and on a Gene Puerling arrangement of Unforgettable that is absolutely amazing! But they still have the quartet chops that they became famous on. (My personal favorite was the Simon and Garfunkel montage...those dynamics...wow)

There's really nothing else I can say that will give this album the credibility that listening to it will. If you're a barbershop fan, you probably already have this or are considering getting it anyways. If you're not a barbershop fan, check this out anyway. It'll be worth your time.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 4
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 4
3 Day By Day 5
4 Answer Me, My Love 4
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 4
6 Orange Colored Sky 4
7 The Nearness of You 3
8 Poinciana 4
9 Unforgettable 5
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 4
11 All the Way 5
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 4

In the barbershop world, these guys are practically gods. And from hearing their albums, that is well-founded. This album is a departure in ways from their more standard patriotic/barbershop recordings and is worth a listen for any fan of barbershop, vocal jazz, or the Four Freshmen. There's a nice mix of vocal stylings. Tuning is quite good, as would be expected from international SPEBSQSA quartet champions. Arrangements are well-done (custom made to the group) and performed with grace throughout. (As a side note, music geeks will appreciate the wide-open chords in the line "...how empty they have grown..." in Blue World.)

The title track is another great vocal arrangement by Minnesotan Greg Volk, but it's one of the five accompanied tracks on the CD. I could've used more great vocal moments and less solos by the Dallas Jazz Orchestra — but of course I have a bias there...

I have a couple issues with the new bass (the other three are the same as on previous albums) — Answer Me is a lovely solo for him, until some wavering tuning on the very last note (which shifts my rating from a 5 down to a 4). He also makes some interesting decisions with vowels throughout the album, especially in the Simon & Garfunkel medley. Blend suffers the slightest bit due to this, and it's occasionally distracting. He's got a fantastic voice, though — there were only these few moments when he stood out.

Tenor Todd Wilson's sister joins Acoustix on Nearness of You for a number which I never felt utilized the group's knack for ringing chords and bright "pizazzy" moments. The other guest artists (from Vocal Majority) are on Unforgettable, an incredible arrangement by Gene Puerling with a fantastic opening and splendid chord choices throughout - I had Take 6 flashbacks during this one. Wow. Plus, the gentlemen of Acoustix are masters of the barbershop tag ending, pulling and melding notes until it rings in the rafters.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Jazz, Jazz, Jazz 4
2 Shine On Your Shoes/Steppin' Out with My Baby Medley 3
3 Day By Day 5
4 Answer Me, My Love 4
5 Straighten Up and Fly Right 3
6 Orange Colored Sky 4
7 The Nearness of You 3
8 Poinciana 4
9 Unforgettable 5
10 Graduation Day/It's a Blue World Medley 4
11 All the Way 4
12 (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 5
13 Simon & Garfunkel Montage 5

Superb music on Acoustix's Jazz, Jazz, Jazz: yes. Superb a cappella music: no. This compilation of some great jazz standards is far from an a cappella CD. Along with the four voices is a great FULL jazz ensemble of drums, horns, piano, bass... you get the picture. While I feel using instruments on one or two tracks is ok, it's not really a "pure" a cappella CD. (Just as a warning to future buyers.) Of the tracks that are a cappella, they are not the most challenging pieces. I.E.- Answer Me, My Love is a soloist and the other 3 on "ooh" with the occasional moments of everyone singing monorhythmically on the words. I'd really like to hear this obviously talented group of men challenge themselves a bit more. I found that the tracks blurred together after a few listens, because the dynamics, intonation, and color doesn't change much from one track to another.

Their tuning is excellent, but the bass tends to go out of tune by pushing a bit too much. For example, there's too much scooping on the second track. Of course, some of it is intentional, but I feel it's detracting from the rest of the song. We lose some of the words and chord transitions with lots of slurring. On "The Nearness of You" the female vocalist singing with them is too "schmoozy". Yes, this is a jazz CD, but one wants to hear the emotions of a song, not all of these "ooooh" syllables that are very distracting.

Good songs? Poinciana has a great swing, but the song itself is catchy. Unforgettable has a beautiful arrangement and is definitely my favorite song on the CD. There is a much greater array of vocal color in this one. (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 (followed by the "bonus track" of Simon and Garfunkel) is a great close to the CD, and the added syncopation to the vocal arrangement is a definite toe-tapper.

Overall, this is a strong jazz CD by four talented men (along with a few added vocals and instruments) but I would really like to see Acoustix take the talent that they have and further challenge themselves with a greater variety of arrangements as well as tougher ones. They are strong enough without the instruments, so they should go with a cappella and build upon it.


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