Quiet Winter Night - Hoff Ensemble
On three separate occasions I tried to listen critically to this album and failed each time. The music drew me into the recording space and I quickly forgot that my purpose was to make notes as I listen so that I could write intelligently about the album.
"I will listen now and make notes later" I kept telling myself. I am not a procrastinator but this album caused me to second guess that long held assumption.
After the first few bars of the very first track, I could tell that I was in for a treat. There are tracks where the Piano is strong and confidently leads the ensemble, others where the interplay of the Sax and Drums ebbs and flows so sweetly that you have to remember to breathe; track 6, Blågutten is a good example.
There are some interesting vocal tracks but my favorite by a wide margin is track 2, “Stille, stille kommer vi”. Google’s Norwegian to English translation is “Quiet, quiet we come”. The voices are perfectly blended in tone, level and intensity with the instruments. Many otherwise great recordings are average because they fail in this area. The Engineers paid a lot of attention to getting it right and as a music lover, I personally appreciate the effort.
The recording is available in various formats from Stereo 16bit 44.1kHz FLAC ($18) to Stereo DXD WAV 24bit 352.8 kHz ($42). It is also available in 5.1 multi-channel surround. I went for the Stereo 24bit 192kHz FLAC which worked well with my Oppo BDP-105 Blue Ray player which has the ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC. My system consists of a very neutral sounding Bryston B60 Amplifier paired with Linn Ninka speakers that are easy to listen to for long periods of time before fatigue sets in.
I highly recommend this album for it’s talented performance and it’s engineering effort, which is ever present but never sterilizing the music. Great job 2L.
For information on a recent AudiophileSound.com review of 2L music download site check the link here.
Some background from 2l's website follows...
"HOFF ENSEMBLE consists of some of Norway's finest jazz and session musicians, fronted by trumpeter Mathias Eick, of ECM renown, who plays a leading role in several of the compositions. The ensemble's basic quartet features legendary veteran bassist Arild Andersen and arranger Jan Gunnar Hoff on piano. Hoff has performed with his own group since 1993, collaborating with such artists as Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Maria Joao and Alex Acuna. This time in this great Norwegian band he mixes flavours in a "cross-over" setting. Eick, with whom Hoff has worked on earlier projects, was the obvious first choice for QUIET WINTER NIGHT, along with Andersen and the rest of the band, complemented by Rune Arnesen (ex N.P.Molvær) on percussion and Børge Petersen-Øverleir, Norway's leading session guitarist.
Brilliant fiddle player Annbjørg Lien is an exciting addition to the HOFF ENSEMBLE, giving QUIET WINTER NIGHT a sound that is definitely Nordic with elements of jazz, folk and beyond, making this an interesting and original journey. On some of the instrumental tracks, like "Blågutten", Eick and Petersen-Øverleir create an overall jazz/fusion sound, while the trio setting of "Redd Mamma" is reminiscent of the work of Sweden's Jan Johansson. "Hva skal hende nå" bears comparison with Metheny's ballad form, yet with a more rock-influenced guitar sound. This tune also includes a great bass solo by Andersen.
The music is created by film composers Geir Bøhren and Bent Åserud and among the vocalists are some of Norway's top names (and Universal artists) in popular music: Helene Bøksle, Åsne Valland Nordli, Sondre Bratland, Unni Wilhelmsen, Tomine Harket, Bjørn Johan Muri, Cecilia Vennersten and Bjørn Eidsvåg. The music captured by 2L features Norwegian composers and performers, and an international repertoire reflected in the Nordic atmosphere. The surround sound recordings of Lindberg Lyd not only transforms the entire listening experience, more radically, these innovative recordings overturn some very basic concepts regarding how music is played and even composed. 2L emphasizes surround sound with Pure Audio Blu-ray and HiRes file distribution, and have garnered no less than 14 American GRAMMY nominations over the past six years."