The era was the ’80s, and my albums were on cassette tapes. As a kid with his first stash of personal music, I had an uncommon selection of adult music, which was mostly complex jazz. This gives you a little window into my parents, who are both musicians and who wouldn’t let me listen to “pop music” (or rather, just did not allow it in our house) so that I could build a solid music understanding before I got caught up in the world of note-scooping, simple chords and auto-tune.
What was in my stash? At age 6 or so, my cassettes included albums from Chick Corea, The Yellowjackets, a cappella jazz group Take 6 and several Pat Metheny Group recordings.
Very strange. But perhaps that’s what leads me nowadays to simply adore everything that bass player Bubby Lewis (some of his work is under the name Robert Bobby Lewis) produces. Bubby’s newest single, “The Game Of Life,” available on Spotify and Tidal and elsewhere, is a mind-bending array of dizzying 32nd-note bass solos and tromps its way through all kinds of unexpected but satisfying key changes.
A more mainstream-digestible track from Bubby is called “Miss & Love,” which is a syrupy, well-produced pop track featuring Jhene Aiko, until about halfway through when Bubby rips through with one of the most casually incredible bass solos I’ve ever heard. Check it out.
Fueling the buzz
There’s a new streaming service making its debut in the U.S. of late, this one carrying another strange one-word name: Qobuz. Fastidious readers of this column will know that the Jay-Z-owned streaming service Tidal has been the go-to for audiophile music patrons, at first because of its offer of CD-quality streaming and then continuing with its large-scale adoption of the new digital music format called MQA, which stands for Master Quality Authenticated.
MQA took on the challenge of trying to stream high-resolution audio tracks — much, much better quality than MP3 — without a jump in bandwidth usage by “folding” the file up on the storage side and “unfolding” it when it reaches your stereo. And it’s great, it works and it sounds legitimately better than the CD-quality versions of the same track.
The thing is, a few services like Qobuz have been streaming the actual high-resolution files without any bandwidth issues in Europe, Japan and elsewhere for years. And now that Qobuz has come to the U.S. and yours truly has had a chance to listen to it, I can tell you with confidence that those original high-resolution files manage to sound even better than the MQA versions on Tidal.
There are caveats. You need to get the high-resolution streaming option from Qobuz, which is a cool $20 a month, and the leap in quality is most evident if you’re connecting to a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) or integrated amplifier directly from your computer. And the library is not going to be as large as the more well-known services.
But if you care about sound quality and want to get every last bit out of your streaming setup, I urge you to give Qobuz a trial.