It says something about the respect with which Glenn Miller is held in Japan that this CD is part of Japanese RCA's Jazz Masters series -- Miller's American label and many CD outlets tend to put him in the "pop instrumental" category. The release itself covers all of the expected bases, 24 hits that have been heard millions of times on the radio and on record since the end of the 1930s. But the Japanese division of RCA (as with most other record labels) sets its own standards and masters CDs its own way -- so the tracks here are brighter and louder than most of their American CD equivalents of the same release period, which can be a strong point in favor of this CD. And one only wishes that String of Pearls were being reviewed closer to its release date, in 2000, because at that time it would have earned even higher praise for its sound quality -- 20-bit digital mastering was the gold standard at the time, and the way the music has been treated here, with the volume pushed as hard as it can be, the results sounded very impressive. But since then, the Japanese division has added K-2 mastering to the equation, which yields much quieter results, even on material originally recorded on lacquer disc; and 24-bit has become the standard, and the producers on subsequent reissues have managed to reduce the noise on these sources even further while getting an even louder, fuller sound. One irony here is that the best sounding master in the bunch is "St. Louis Blues March" by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band, which comes close to matching 1950s high-fidelity, and it wasn't recorded for commercial release (in fact, like other V-Disc and related recordings, it wasn't even supposed to be preserved). Some listeners will be bothered by the background noise on the materials here, but others will overlook that annoyance in favor of the sharpness of the audio. And the material isn't presented in chronological order, but the sequencing works extremely well, moving from strength-to-strength and always reminding the listener of the sheer quality of the musicianship in this band, whether they were playing jazz or pop. The notes are, of course, in Japanese, but the session information and musician credits are in English.
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