Hong Kong Label Spreads Its Wings


Since its first release in 2004, the Evosound music label has experienced considerable success in the Asian market, but it hasn’t had as much of an impact elsewhere. That should change, however. An effort by the Hong Kong-based record company to gain a wider audience will bear fruit due to its commitment to making excellent-sounding recordings in genres that appeal to audiophiles—or so my introduction to the label leads me to suspect.

As the Music Editor of TAS, I receive a lot of music in my mailbox. I play everything, and much of what I listen to attempts to be, and for that matter truly is, sonically impressive. Occasionally, though, some recordings sound so good that they catch me off guard (and in a good way), and when I played an SACD of Bob James’ Espresso for the first time, that’s exactly what happened. Keeping my opinions to myself, I had a copy sent to Neil Gader, who was also impressed. “Sonically a recording of purity and naturalism,” Neil wrote in Issue 292, “Espresso illustrates the strengths of the DSD format with a broad dimensional soundstage, a rich flow of ambience, and heightened low-level delicacy.” I’ll add that this piano trio session, with its tight arrangements, skillful use of dynamics, and strong chemistry between bandmates, is my favorite Bob James album to date.

Espresso marked my introduction to Evosound. Because of that record, I contacted the label, who sent a representative sampling of its catalogue. Interestingly, Bob James turned out to be the odd man out, as the discs I received feature female singers who focused more on pop music than jazz. Much of the repertoire consists of songs that have long been hits on adult contemporary stations along with newer artists in that style. Sonically the recordings were impressive, with clean, natural sound framing sparse arrangements that used a lot of acoustic instruments. The four vocalists I sampled came from different places—Hong Kong, Canada, the Philippines, and Scotland—while the compositions stem mostly from the US and the UK. Clearly, then, American and British adult contemporary music has an Asian audience—and sometimes to a surprising degree, as when Scottish singer Julienne Taylor discovered her rendition of “Love Hurts” became a hit in South Korea.

Featuring 17 live-in-the-studio covers of well-known pop songs, Susan Wong’s My Live Stories (2012) opens with Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” from 1971’s Tapestry. That performance does a splendid job of setting the tone for My Live Stories, as Tapestry immediately drew attention for its unvarnished performances and sound, an aesthetic shared by Evosound and much of the audiophile community. The ballads on My Live Stories include “Sometimes When We Touch,” “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” “Desperado,” and “Something.” The recording favors sparse acoustic instrumentation supporting Wong’s crystalline voice.

On In a Different Light (2016), Fillipines-based Chlara also performs interpretations of adult contemporary hits. Softly strummed acoustic guitars and subtle acoustic piano provide the primarily instrumental support for Chlara on well-known songs by Norah Jones (“Come Away with Me), Christine McVie (“Songbird”), Adele (“Hello”), and others. With instrumentation that includes electric keyboards and electric guitar, Julienne Taylor’s Blu-ray DVD of Live at the Lyric (2013) has a fuller and glossier sound than the Evosound studio records I heard; it’s also a pristine live recording. With songs like Tracy Chapman’s “Your Song” and “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” Taylor covers some of the same light rock ground as her labelmates, but this may be the only Evosound album with a Smiths cover (“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”)

On her 2016 SACD Autobiography, French Canadian Chantal Chamberland also addresses some adult contemporary hits, including the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Compared to the recordings by her labelmates, however, Chamberland’s performances have more of a jazz twist, and she also performs such well-known jazz standards as “Cry Me a River” and “Summertime.” Chamberland has a sultry voice, and the combination of her jazz guitar stylings and the saxophone work by Sal Rosselli (tenor) and Paul White (alto) bring an intimate late-night jazz feel to the recording.

Evosound titles are available in a variety of formats. Options includes hybrid SACDs, MQA-CDs, 24K gold “Audiophile Masters” MQA-CDs, standard CDs, high-res downloads in PCM and DSD formats, 180-gram vinyl LPs, and Blu-rays. Upcoming projects include a “live in the studio” audio and visual release from Bob James, new titles by Susan Wong and Chantal Chamberland, and a reissue of Double Vision by Bob James and David Sanborn.

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