Thursday, 21 June 2012

The ghost of Getz, or how recordings once sounded!

As an avid vinyl collector I love it when an LP comes through the post to be reviewed. I could almost say .... it makes my day! I was born in 1960 when that was the way of the world. I remember saving up my pocket money until I had enough to buy a 45, or single as it was known. I'd head off down to my local record shop looking for a particular record with particular a title or song in my head that I'd heard that morning on the Ed Stewart show on Saturday mornings, or even better Alan Freeman's Pick of the Pops (*) with his great Sign of the Swinging Cymbal theme tune. Of course if you weren't sure if it was the right record, or that you actually liked the record, you could stand and listen in a booth.

So why the nostalgia? Well here's a record recorded recently with the loving technology of the past, and with (what to me seems) great respect for sound and musical quality which reminds me of the work of recording artists in the 50s. As you will notice (from the cover) this is a recording from James Allsopp (tenor sax), Riaan Vosloo (double bass), Ross Stanley (piano), Tim Giles (drums). They've made a slight detour away from the normal paths of modern jazz that they follow in their own spare time to give us a 'blast from the past', but on their own terms. Once In A While is dedicated to the sound and style of the great jazz recordings of the 50s. It's a collection of standards with a couple of tunes re-written over standard changes that conjure up the atmosphere from past times perfectly. You may wonder .. does that mean the music is old fashioned, not so! For anyone who follows the jazz scene today we know the majority of musicians are trying to find new avenues of adventure to present themselves in - which is a good thing. However, it's rare to hear young musicians taking such care to reproduce not only the music, but also the sound. Tunes such as Moonlight in Vermont, Isfahan or Chelsea Bridge are not only loving remakes (which will have you curled up around a real fire), but also fine pieces of playing in their own right. The sound of James Allsopp's tenor sax literally gave me deja-vu. Even if his solos are truly his own one can help but hear 'The Sound' (**) himself hanging in the air, as if somewhere unforeseen in the studio. Yes, the ghost of Stan Getz (for me) looms high over the group, giving the music a timeless feel. One For Swiss played over the changes of Cherokee bring back memories of Getz and Oscar Peterson's versions of Tours End, or Cherokee itself from the Getz and Lionel Hampton meet Peterson collaboration. All the players on this release seem totally immersed in the music and play it with the true feeling that is needed. Ross Stanley accompanies the group totally within the idiom, and he solos hard when needed. Tim Giles and Riaan Vosloo do what a rhythm section should do .... play time and make everybody sound good! The solos are short and never outstay their welcome, giving a balance to the recording which makes it thoroughly enjoyable on many levels. One can enjoy the music for what it is, and from a modern viewpoint looking back as a tribute of sorts. However this is not some sort of nostalgia record, the music swings hard when needed (in fact most of the time), and with the inclusion of Coltrane's Syeeda's Song Flute you have reference to the bridge between the Broadway musical tradition and modern post bop which brought us contemporary jazz as we know it today. 

Lastly the aspect which caught my imagination (and ear) so much is the beautiful sound of the recording, something which I think is worth more than a passing phrase. When listening to the record one notices how warm the music is, not only the notes but also the sound itself. This not only adds to the music, but is in fact part of the music, and something we rarely hear (or notice) nowadays on recordings. A band on CD sounds nothing like a band live, due to the 1s and 0s being so perfect. However, this recording places the group right in your front living room with just the right balance between the instruments and the brightness of the sound, or as already mentioned it's warmth.     

I asked Riaan about the making of the record to which he replied :

"We wanted to make a record that was relaxing to listen to, not only in terms of the musical content but also in terms of the sound. There was no digital involved in making this record at all, we recorded to tape, mixed to tape and then mastered directly from the tape to the lacquer! The only time digital came into the equation was when we recorded the vinyl into the computer!"

What more can I say about this record? Not much really, it's a record to own not only because of the excellent music, but also the concept and presentation of the project - you can always check out this album here. But if you want a real treat buy the LP (***) and enjoy that lovely warm sound of vinyl which will fill you (and your room) with music as it should sound.

Footnote on the art of the LP : Of course all that seemed to have disappeared and we now have mp3 downloads, and CDs with covers that are so small it's difficult to read some of the text, if they have any cover notes. Here we are in 2012 and it seems that vinyl is in a healthy state considering it was meant to have been wiped out many years ago. For a few I won't have to convince you, but for others who threw away their systems, LPs, decks and amplifiers I recommend you spend a few bob and reconsider moving back into the vinyl world. It not only has the advantage of being it's sounds great (especially with the new 21 gram releases), looks great, AND it can't be copied, or at least as easily as mp3s, and it's a real object ... you can hold it! Long Playing Records, also known as LPs, a 12 inch or a 33 (because they turn at 33½ rpm), also have the advantage of their 12" square cover size, inspiring many great covers (or art works), something that CDs don't lend themselves to so easily. Check out some of the more original, or bizarre covers for jazz here, or rock here. Oh well, enough of all that, who needs convincing, they're just great, I wouldn't give them up for anything!

* = Check out this amazing link with a complete recording of Pick of the Pops. What's amazing is the reel-to-reel featured. We also (my dad) used to record the program sometimes so we could listen later. This way I'd single out certain tracks and be able to find out who'd sung or played what. It's also wonderful to be able to hear (again) what we were listening to at the times.
**= Stan Getz was know as 'The Sound', and rightly so.
***= Be warned, this a limited edition (of 300 copies)!

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