In all honesty, I had never heard the name Bernie Dresel until I was sent The Pugilist, the latest disc from his jazz band, The BBB Featuring Bernie Dresel, to review. The outfit is a collection of studio musicians who play together at Los Angeles-area jazz clubs, but chances are you’ve heard their various talents before. For example, Dresel has 25 movie credits to his name, with A-list soundtracks such as Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek (2009), and Spider-Man: Far from Home, just to name three. Other members of the band also have extensive backgrounds with various Hollywood productions, and this ultimately brought them together back in 2014.
The Pugilist is the band’s third studio album, and given circumstances related to Covid-19, it took some ingenuity to produce. Their previous two albums were recorded live at Capitol Studios in LA, but with lockdowns in place they had to improvise. In fact, at no time did they convene in one place to record this album. Instead, each of the 17 musicians recorded their specific parts for the 14 compositions and arrangements separately in their own home studio, building upon a drum track laid down by Dresel.
Dresel and producer Gary Reber were eventually able to fly to Belgium to work with Patrick Lemmens and Wilfried Van Baelen—inventor of the Auro-3D immersive sound format—at Galaxy Studios in Mol to mix and master the audio tracks. After, AURO-3D formatting was achieved by adding natural 3D hall reflections to the recordings. All told, there are four different audio options—2.0 LPCM, 5.1 DTS-HA MA, 5.1 LPCM Surround, and 9.1 Auro-3D (all 24-bit/96kHz).
The album starts off with a bang with the title track and doesn’t let up throughout the roughly 60-minute runtime. I was familiar with a couple of the tunes such as Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough,” “All Blues” from Miles Davis, and the Gershwin Brothers’ “I Got Rhythm.” How does it sound? In a word, marvelous. Dresel impresses throughout with his performance on the drums, but it’s the trombone section that steals the show on both “The Pugilist” and “World Premiere.”
I listened to the album in all four audio options over the span of a few weeks, and while the legacy formats sounded great, they didn’t hold a candle to the Auro-3D mix. If you haven’t yet experienced Auro-3D firsthand, do yourself a favor and check it out, since it’s arguably the closest you’ll ever come to experiencing a live music session from your couch seat. The Pugilist is a buoyant album that will put the pep in your step. If you want to experience the LA jazz club scene from the comfort of your own home, pick up this disc.
Blu-ray Audio Disc
Label: Dig-It Recordings, 2021
Audio Format: 9.1 Auro-3D, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 LPCM, 2.0 LPCM (all 24-bit/96kHz)
Producers: Bernie Dresel, Gary Reber, Wilfried Van Baelen
Engineers: Wilfried Van Baelen, Patrick Lemmens