I recently had the privilege of coming across this album by accident as a couple of songs were suggested tracks on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Interestingly, the album I was listening to now escapes my memory, but Amy Dickson’s A Summer Place remained in my mind to such an extent that when I was browsing my library of albums, that I have yet to purchase on any physical format, I felt compelled to listen to this exceptional album once again and publish my thoughts.
Australia truly has some of the greatest musicians in the world. While I admit to be biased, there is often a unique styling, that is completely Australian, that you don’t see portrayed in other regions of the world. However, I had to do my research to find out that Amy Dickson is Australian, but now living and working abroad. That said, I honestly thought I was listening to one of the greatest American or European saxophonists; perhaps this isn’t far from the truth as her command of the saxophone is incredible. Dickson’s ability to take the saxophone and tell a story, by talking to the listener directly, is simply amazing. Yes, I have some interesting thoughts as to how music is presented, but I strongly believe that a musician can talk through an instrument, in a universal language, that arguably is impossible to define fully within the limitations of the English language.
Of course, Dickson doesn’t perform alone and those who have contributed on this album perform above, and beyond, any expectations I would have had for this record. The mastering alone is exquisite and I don’t have a single complaint as the album sounds perfect on loudspeakers and headphones. Well, perhaps I have one complaint and that is that TIDAL has yet to implement MQA; although that has nothing to do with the 16/44.1 edition that is currently delivered by TIDAL Hi-Fi. I just want more. Although, that may not be possible as the only physical release of the album was the CD redbook standard that TIDAL Hi-Fi uses and HDTracks only has a 24/44.1 edition that would offer marginal improvements at best. Regardless, the soundstage is wide and perfectly situated with Dickson’s instrumental tones sitting front and centre. Honestly, this album is one that you could use to show off the performance of your stereo system.
The series of tracks presented are well known classics and I predict you will immediately fall in love with the song selection, as I have, although there is a mismatch in the tracking that we will discuss shortly.
A Summer Place is a simply gorgeous song to start this album off with. This edition is also the best rendition that I have ever heard of this song. The music just floats in the air and is so silky smooth that you forget you are listening to a recording. It is as if your memory is playing the song back, the way you have always imagined it to be played.
What’s It All About, Alfie? is iconic and as much as I enjoy this song with lyrics, this is one of those times where the control over the saxophone proves that it can talk, if you are willing to listen.
The Summer Of ’42 is so well known and is another perfect choice for this album. It is pure sonic bliss as you and the music become one.
Take Five is an incredible jazz song, but it really doesn’t suit this tracking position on the album as it is simply too upbeat when compared directly with The Summer Of ’42 and the following Moon River track. It simply makes the album experience feel a little disjointed and it would have been best either at the beginning of the album, or the end.
Moon River is a sonic masterpiece. Nothing else really needs to be said.
The World We Knew has so much character. It is bold, moody, yet peaceful and harmonious. It is a gorgeous song and Dickson performs it flawlessly.
We Have All The Time In The World is a song that I was not previously familiar with, despite being a fan of John Barry’s compositions. It is a lovely song and I feel that it would have been perfectly suited to accompany Take Five, as it is also a little more upbeat.
Windmills Of Your Mind is another immediately recognisable song that will simply bring tears to your eyes. It is that good!
The Apartment Theme is a song that I have not heard previously and while it certainly suits the album, I’m not sure it is needed. That said, it is, as all the songs are, impeccably performed by not only Dickson, but the London Session Orchestra. Yes, the digital liner notes finally acknowledge the orchestra involved. I have often complained that so many classical-styled releases simply omit these details. It is good to see recognition in this instance.
Is there anyone that doesn’t like The Sound Of Silence? Even Disturbed recorded an incredible edition on their latest album. Needless to say, Dickson has ensured the saxophone metaphorically speaks not only the notes, but the lyrics, as originally depicted by Simon & Garfunkel. One can’t help but wonder what Disturbed, plus Dickson and the London Session Orchestra, would sound like in a live theatre situation with this song. It is the perfect song to end the album on and it always encourages me to play the album again.
A Summer Place is a must own for any classical music fan, or anyone interested in the saxophone. It is exceptional from start to finish, with the only uncomfortably element being Take Five. That said, it is Dickson’s own interpretation of the song and most likely it doesn’t appeal to me as much because of the tracking on the album and the fact that I know the original Brubeck edition so well.
It is also available for streaming on Apple Music.