The following is a quasi preview of things to come - Chip's very own site. While the Chipster is putting the final flourishes on the html before launching, he gave us this piece to post on our already up-and-running site. Once he goes solo, we don't really expect him to have time to contribute to the moons though we're more than up for it and Chip promised nothing in that regard would change. So enjoy Chip on our pages and also anticipate his own solo improv.
Year end awards?
May God help me. I can hardly remember what I was doing just last week, let alone back last winter. When voting in annual confabs such as the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Polls, a comprehensive roundup of the year's best recordings (by and large of a rock, pop or alternative bent), I inevitably need to take a peek at some other ballots just to be reminded that "Oh, yeah, rightrightright - that was a really nice recording."

With each passing year, my relationship to the time-space continuum grows more and more tenuous. Be that as it may, as the sun sets on this old year in Mister Chip's Neighborhood, leave us give it a try, however briefly.

I tend to move at a glacial pace regarding gear reviews, both because I am obsessive and prudent. While we routinely have to turn review evaluation samples over quickly, it is often helpful to have a more extended conjugal visit with a piece of gear, if only to make double-triple-quadruple sure that what I have is what you will get.

How does something hold up over the long haul? Are there any significant glitches consumers should know about - and did they right themselves over the course of the evaluation process? Are we simply infatuated with the glorious blush of the new, the expensive, the tweaky - or is this a piece of equipment that can bring the experience of music that much closer to the listener?

And while I cannot in good conscience determine for readers if the price/performance ratio is rational for their ears or their budgets, I can bloody well tell you if something got me up and at 'em for a listening session; if it kept me excited over the long haul in terms of hearing deeper inside the music; if it stood the test of time as sexy new bits of technology showed up on my doorstep ... in the end, those things which stand the test of time are what really matter.

I can think of few musicians, living or dead, who have stood the test of time -- verily who have defined and transcended time itself --quite like the venerable drummer Roy Haynes.

Somewhere in Roy Haynes' home, in some forgotten corner where are stored the relics of a lifetime of innovation and achievement, there sits an easel covered over with a dusty drop cloth. Underneath is hidden a painting, which in the manner of Oscar Wilde's enigmatic Picture Of Dorian Gray, portrays the drummer as an elderly man, seemingly growing older and older with each passing day, even as the visage Roy Haynes projects to the world is of ageless youth, vitality and creativity. Forgive one for waxing on in such a highfalutin manner, but there is little else one can imagine that would explain the manner in which this fine wine of a drummer has deepened, mellowed and grown more complex and refined with each passing year. "That's how I want to look when I'm 80," a voice was heard to exclaim from just over my shoulder. It was during a December 2, 2004 concert appearance by Roy Haynes and his young Quartet, at one of promoter Jack Kleinsinger's Highlights in Jazz concerts in downtown Manhattan near the site of the old
World Trade Center complex (Tribeca Performing Arts Center, on the campus of the Borough Of Manhattan Community College on Chambers Street). Highlights in Jazz is the longest running jazz subscription series in the metropolitan area, and as Jack quipped in introducing the drummer, "People who ask me where all the new young drummers are coming from should see Roy Haynes, who at 80 is playing more than any of them."

Roy himself demurs from such effusions himself. But even he is taken aback both by his own longevity and the depth and intensity of affection with which people greet each new performance and recording. Recently inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame for 2004, Haynes has been playing professionally with the finest instrumentalists and singers in jazz (Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea and a host of others) since the mid-1940s. Now at an age when contemporaries as inspired as Max Roach and Louie Bellson are no longer able to perform, Roy Haynes rolls and rolls and syncopates some more...

In the company of gifted young musicians Martin Bejerano on piano, John Sullivan on bass and Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, this venerable drummer (born on March 13, 1925) did not undertake any extended drum solos. Still, his groove was indomitable and his orchestrations of ensemble and solo passages vivacious throughout. Haynes has always had a genius for counter punching cross-rhythms, oblique syncopations and dramatic melodic punctuations that engage the band and rock them out of their comfort zone even as his sweetly swinging ride cymbal beat defines a seamless pulse. I have always departed a Roy Haynes concert with something of a stiff neck as the accumulated hooks, jabs and parries leave me as rhythmically thrashed as if I'd just survived ten rounds of Sugar Ray Robinson boxing my ears back. This Highlights of Jazz concert was no exception, and Haynes' predilection for some of Thelonious Monk's most rhythmically engaging tunes ("Trinkle Tinkle" and "Ask Me Now") left their dancing imprint in my head long after I left the concert hall.

However, it was Haynes' performance of a popular song introduced by Fanny Brice and enshrined as a jazz standard by Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb that left the most lasting impression on this long-time admirer. "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" was treated to a rhythmic interpretation equal parts Jewish Hora, Spanish Tango and American minor blues. The joy with which Haynes sketched out this unlikely accommodation of cultural polyglots bespeaks the timeless majesty of his musicianship and his charismatic personality. It's all vividly on display throughout his most recent live recording, Fountain Of Youth on Dreyfus. Of all I experienced in 2004, the continuing presence of Roy Haynes on the firmament afforded me the strength and faith and conviction to keep moving forward. Another great jazz original, pianist-composer Eubie Blake lived to be one hundred. We should only be so blessed if Roy Haynes shares his joyous vision of the dance with us for another twenty years.

The year 2004 was also a year of profound loss, as drummer Elvin Jones and guitarist Barney Kessel passed away just as spring was exploding upon our imaginations. I write at some length about them both on my upcoming web site. In honoring their memory here, let me just briefly mention their presence on two recordings that spent more time on my McCormack UDP-1, Linn 1.1 and Rega Planar 25 (with Rega RB600 tone arm and Grado Statement Master cartridge and Rogue Stealth phono preamp) than any other recordings in my capacious stash.

At the time both Autumn Leaves and Someday My Prince Will Come were recorded (using DSD technology at New York's Avatar Studios in the spring of 2002), pianist Hank Jones was 84, his kid brother drummer Elvin Jones was 74 and bassist Richard Davis 72. The music they created together ranks both sonically and spiritually with their very best recorded efforts going back a good 50 years. Released domestically on 441 Records, SACD versions of these superb recordings are available through Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds . And while they generate plenty of scintillating swing, with numerous drum cavalcades from The Emperor Jones, their collective

elegance on ballad readings of "Yesterdays" (from Autumn Leaves) and "A Child Is Born" (from Someday My Prince Will Come) are the quintessence of majestic understatement and a profound understanding of the human condition. These performances speak directly to the heart. Hearing them on a state-of-the-art SACD playback vehicle such as the Linn 1.1, it is spooky how live and present they are. One is simply enveloped by the music, much as they must have been at the moment of creation. Guitarist Barney Kessel
had been incapacitated by a stroke for many years when he passed away earlier this year, but this most accomplished and devout of Charlie Christian's descendants is omnipresent in my life through a timeless 1959 super session for the Contemporary label recorded by the legendary engineer Roy DuNann.

Poll Winners Three! was the final in a triptych of hard-swinging sessions which matched guitarist Kessel with the great drummer Shelly Manne and everyone's favorite bassist, Ray Brown. I have always been mesmerized by the haunting after hours imagery of "Minor Mystery", the effervescent swing of "Soft Winds" and the Afro-Cuban tension and boppish release of "Crisis".
For all of the aural pleasures of this early stereo recording and all the utter mastery and bluesy swing of its participants, Poll Winners Three! has also served me well as a sonic reference point when checking out high-end audio systems. I cannot tell you how unsettling it is to hear a system and suspect that for all of the careful selection and mating of expensive components, someone's been a twit and wired the channels backwards. Barney, Shelly and Ray end all such uncertainty. If Ray is not hard left, Shelly is not hard right and Barney is not spot-on center fill, your host has got their wires crossed.

Banjo virtuoso, composer and band leader Béla Fleck possesses an uncommon level of talent yet communicates it with a warm, common touch. One of the most uncompromisingly adventurous musicians I have ever known, as the leader of Béla Fleck and The Flecktones he and his band have proven more than willing to engage their audience on the level of entertainers without in any way undercutting the power of their music. And why shouldn't music be fun? I for one am tired of attending recitals where all the assembled musicians appear as though their dawg Yeller just died. And while the innovative banjo master's musical command of this bear of an instrument is second to none, there is a light-hearted, self-effacing quality to all of his performances, which serves to undercut the almost stupefying levels of virtuosity that one is likely to experience at any given moment on stage or in the recording studio.

Beginning with a stunning series of solo performances and star-turn-classical encounters on Perpetual Motion, and continuing on a magnificent live recital pairing him with bass violin giant Edgar Meyer on Music For Two -- both for the Sony Classical imprint -- Fleck has expanded his borderless style of music to encompass

everything from J.S. Bach up through Earl Scruggs and on into the cosmos. Music For Two is at once a document of the very best performances culled from an extended American tour, all lovingly recorded, and an intimate portrait of communication between two musicians who blur all distinctions between classical interpreters and jazz improvisers. Better yet, at no extra cost, a Bonus DVD shows that while Fleck and Meyer make it all look aw-shucks effortless and graceful, they don't accomplish such musical magic with smoke and mirrors or voodoo incantations. They earn it the old-fashioned way - with hard work. The music lover is privileged to be a fly on the wall during long periods of down time on the road as Béla

and Edgar work out the kinks in complex arrangements without taking away from the magic one experiences at the leading edge of their creations. Music For Two is magnificent music by two of the most charismatic, soulful musicians on the contemporary scene. Finally, allow us a brief nod to the late Leonard Bernstein and another composer conductor who was in many ways a defining template for Bernstein's creative ambition, Gustav Mahler.

We're not going to get all wound-up on this discussion. The 6moons web site doesn't have enough bandwidth to encompass it all. However, suffice it to say, as a Jewish-American with some small modicum of creative spirit, Bernstein and Mahler certainly loom large in my imagination as musical visionaries. I grew up like many of my contemporaries on Bernstein recordings and his famous Young Peoples' Concerts, intimate introductions into the mystery and history of creation at which Lennie was so gifted and graceful. However my immersion into the dense, all-encompassing orchestral works of Mahler ("The symphony must be like the world - it must embrace everything") were really the product of a mid-life obsession, my earlier listening experiences having been superficial and far between. However, from a standing start, I certainly
made up for lost time with a vengeance, beginning with some recordings from the autumn of conductor Bruno Walter's life. Walter was a student of Mahler and I believe may have conducted the premiere of his titanic Ninth Symphony as documented in rehearsals, performances and a lovely interview with this gentle giant of western music on a 2-CD Sony Classical release. Inevitably I was drawn to Bernstein's
recordings of Mahler, and for the better part of the past two years I have been taking large bites out of an extraordinary 15-CD box set, Leonard Bernstein, Mahler: The Complete Symphonies & Orchestral Songs on Deutsche Grammophon, which gathers together in one set Bernstein's autumnal explorations of works he championed so fervently on Columbia Classics as a young conductor. In fact, I celebrated the occasion of the 2003 Stereophile Show to listen to the entire set in one massive gulp during marathon drives from San Diego to San Francisco and back.

But of late, I've been paying particular attention to the massive Third Symphony from 1987 with The New York Philharmonic. It's an overwhelming performance and recording, with an expansive, lushly detailed soundstage and some of the most compelling transient dog yummies this puppy has ever sat up and wagged his tail for. The opening movement of Bernstein's reading of the Third separates the men from the boys better than any recording I currently have on hand in my sonic menagerie.

I believe that this six-movement megalith is the longest symphonic work in the Western canon and over the past year, like Joyce's labyrinthine Finnegans Wake, I have taken the measure of this work a movement here, a movement there, and sometimes all in one gulp. The experience has proven magical and humanizing and reminds me anew of why I retain such quixotic devotion to two things: Acoustic depictions of the proscenium arch and the simple joys of no-compromise two channel audio. Though I certainly look forward to the day when I might join the maddening crowd and afford to purchase a 42-inch flat plasma display of my very own...