David Diggs – ‘E-Klek-Trik’ A DVD-Audio review by Stuart M. Robinson

If you know anything about smooth jazz, then you’ll be familiar with the works of David Diggs, one of America’s leading contemporary exponents of the art. Rated as one of the top three new jazz artists of 1985 by Billboard magazine, he has composed music for ‘The Tonight Show’, ‘Midnite Special’ and for the American International Pictures release ‘California Dreamin’. You can learn more about David’s work at: http://www.daviddiggs.com/

David’s pedigree includes collaborations with Pat and Debby Boone, Irene Cara, Richie Furay and The Brothers Johnson, but ‘E-Klek-Trik’ sees him join forces with a new partner, his daughter Rachel, who is making her on-disc debut with her father.

Aside from David’s keyboard, guitar and percussive contributions, ‘E-Klek-Trik’ features many accomplished solo artists including Eric Brenton of ‘Classical Eclectic’ fame, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez, violinist Doug Cameron, drummers Vinnie Coliauta and Joey Heredia along with saxophonists Brandon Fields and Gary Gould.

The tracks of ‘E-Klek-Trik’ can be divided into three distinct categories.

First we have David’s opening numbers; they’re rhythmic, upbeat contemporary jazz of the highest order. Those who find freeform improvised jazz off-putting needn’t feel the need to run and hide at any point because there are rich, flowing melody lines throughout, played on an interesting mixture of acoustic and electric instruments. Synthesisers, strings and rhythmic electronic percussion, making for an enticing, layered experience, accompany acoustic lead piano, saxophone or trumpet.

David’s obvious strong points lie in the areas of composition and arrangement, having trained with the likes of Bob James, Claus Ogerman and Quincy Jones and those talents are certainly manifest here. Each track is beautifully produced and makes good use of the additional channels afforded by DVD-Audio. But more on that in a moment…

The second musical style, a more relaxed, delicate and soulful jazz comprises the latter half of the album, with tracks such as ‘Le Chant de L’oissau’ (French for ‘The Song of the Bird’) and the closing ‘Stairsteps’ having a distinctly more mainstream feel. The former could quite easily have been written as the theme for a Mary Tyler Moore family TV movie.

But it’s the third and final musical style that really interests me. Punctuated throughout the album are four tracks written by and featuring the vocals of David’s daughter Rachel. She has a young, clear voice that is a joy to listen to. I’m a sucker for a good female vocalist and Rachel is certainly that. Some may say that her voice needs to mature, but it’s that fresh quality that is so endearing. The tracks she has penned, ‘Time Creeps’, ‘Love From a Distance’ and ‘Subscribe to You’ show particular promise; they’re not at all jazzy, but more sensuous ‘pop’ with a big-city feel. ‘Time Creeps’ is the standout; it is sensual and atmospheric with a smoky accompaniment that is the perfect foil for Rachel’s voice.

We’re going to be seeing (and hearing) a lot more of the twenty-two year-old, she was recently one of five finalists – from a field of well over one thousand – in the MuchMusic Pro-Voice competition, but just lost out to Libbie Schrader.

From a fidelity standpoint, ‘E-Klek-Trik’ is straight out of the top drawer. The MLP DVD-Audio track bristles with dynamic life, the female vocals are frighteningly realistic and the low frequencies have real kick, emphasising musical phrases in an integrated yet attention-grabbing way. Both Dolby Digital and DTS are provided for those with DVD-Video machines and once again the lossy compression schemes fair well, falling just a tad short of MLP’s transparent qualities. You’ll only spot the difference if the two are directly compared and then only in specific areas, when conveying saxophone screeches for example, which actually sound a little too mellow via the DTS track.

The multi-channel mix itself is not too adventurous, there are only a few obvious surround events (Rachel Diggs’ voice distantly placed in the surround channels towards the end of ‘Love From a Distance’), but instrument and vocal placement is entirely appropriate for the entire piece. In fact, this is one of the most natural multi-channel music mixes I have heard to date, it’s just unfortunate that as is often the case, the centre channel is largely unused and one has to sit in the sweet spot between front left and right loudspeakers to fully appreciate the soundstage created by lead and accompaniment.

As for disc extras, there are brief biographies for all performers, a David Diggs discography and a selection of ‘Scrap Book’ images. As is the case with all Silverline titles, there is also an on-line catalogue of their releases, a list of credits, a brief description of DVD-Audio and a helpful channel set-up and calibration section (see ‘Inside the Music: Classic Rock’ review for captures).

In all, ‘E-Klek-Trik’ is an excellent DVD-Audio release and it’s made all the more enjoyable by the burgeoning talent of Rachel Diggs who provides the perfect counterfoil for her father’s melodic jazz.