Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Continuing our recent hot streak of examining energised, exploratory new titles, we’re highlighting the first of a few new releases from Vinyl Corner favourites and Finnish indie institution We Jazz Records.
Long-term readers will know the drill by now: jazz, as a genre, is one of the styles we cover most frequently here on Vinyl Corner and the reason for that – quite aside from it being one of the most consistently interesting, malleable styles of music in existence – is in large part down to how well suited it is as a style to vinyl LPs as a format. Those long, searching compositions lend themselves well to the spirit and ingenuity which make us human; records, though innately imperfect in a way CDs and digital downloads never are, share that quality. The enduring fascination we collectively have with these large – perhaps even cumbersome – PVC discs stems from how alike they are to ourselves; vinyl is a flawed format but, then again, humans are flawed beings. Jazz, in essence, is a sonic rumination upon those imperfections and, for that alone, the style is one seemingly purpose-made to be heard on vinyl. That in itself is a big part of the reason why we’ve featured so many examples of the genre’s modern exponents here on Vinyl Corner over the years and, of all the labels we’ve worked with to highlight the style, it’s Finland’s We Jazz who have produced the largest quantity of engaged, intelligent releases. Antti Lötjönen’s ‘Quintet East’ is just one of a number of recent releases from the label we’ll be addressing over the coming days but, in its undeniably cerebral and liltingly nuanced approach, it has no trouble standing out even amidst its impressive stable mates. Where lesser acts feel the need to make their statements with an unrefined aplomb, ‘Quintet East’ is music of finely-wrought subtlety. It’s smart music which acknowledges its genre’s past yet makes efforts to also move the style forward, nodding to Scandinavian avant-jazz of yore and the eerily evocative post-bop of Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet – yet never employing those influences as a crutch. Those with an appreciation of deft contemporary jazz should find much to admire in ‘Quintet East’.
We Jazz are a very competent label, one whose output is frequent enough that they full-well know how to produce a quality vinyl release. ‘Quintet East’ is no exception in this regard; the record itself is visually appealing from new, boasting glossy surfaces free of the aesthetic imperfections which all-too-often appear on modern pressings. The LP itself is roughly mid-weight but, as long-term collectors will likely know, the weight of a record has little bearing upon the quality of its sonics and, indeed, this is a great sounding LP. The instrumental parts are well recorded and mastering errs on the side of subtlety, which is a wise decision for music as refined as this. Playback was also impressive on our copy, which again is of pivotal importance on an album as subtlety and often quiet as this. The noise floor is low and we picked up on only a few errant minor crackles across the full extent of the album’s runtime.
As collectors of modern higher-end audiophile releases and vintage ’50s and ’60s US-pressings will know, so-called ‘tip-on sleeves’ are a rare treat. Too expensive to be used on most modern releases, the heavy card employed in the construction of such covers sits in stark and much-welcomed contrast to the often flimsy, lightweight cardstock which many modern covers are constructed from. We Jazz’s vinyl release of ‘Quintet East’ is presented in a superb ‘tip-on sleeve’, its heavy-duty construction enough in itself to make this an admirably high-quality presentation. There are, however, further flourishes which demonstrate the extent to which the label are keen on releasing a top-class presentation. The barcode is attached to the shrinkwrap on a hype-sticker, which is a highly preferable alternative to being printed directly onto the back cover as such UPCs so often are, and the impact-font “ALQE” decisively stamped onto the front cover is wrought in a reflective, mirror-like silver. There is also a printed paper inner sleeve bearing full credits, as well as liner-notes.
This is another great release from a label seemingly incapable of putting out anything less; Antti Lötjönen’s ‘Quintet East’ is an album of smart modern jazz which has been well-served with this excellent vinyl pressing.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!