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  • richardmitnick 2:52 PM on November 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michael Cuscuna, , Rudy Van Gelder: How He Pioneered the Ethos of Making Records, SOUNDFLY   

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette: “Rudy Van Gelder: How He Pioneered the Ethos of Making Records” 

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette , a truly important resource

    Visit The Jazz Gazette

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    Brad Allen Williams has written an apt tribute to the work of recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder and has even included the video interview that I did with Rudy in the early 2000s. By the way, let me put to rest the rumor that Rudy would sometimes change microphones so photographers would not capture what he really used. That would have been make work and he was more secretive of his equipment and recording techniques than of his mic choices.

    -Michael Cuscuna

    Rudy Van Gelder: The Optometrist Who Pioneered an Ethos in Record-Making

    August 29, 2016
    Brad Allen Williams

    Rudy Van Gelder died 25 August, 2016 at the age of 91, having made some of history’s most enduring sound recordings. If you’ve explored the variegated tapestry of 20th century recordings lumped together under the criminally reductionist banner of “jazz,” you probably know the name. If you’ve dug through crates and slid records out of jackets to look for the distinctive block-letter “RVG” in the dead wax, you understand that a name can be synonymous with an ethos of record-making — one that, when entwined in double helix around a complementary ethos of composing and performing, formed the DNA of some pretty significant recordings.

    With a tiny sapphire stylus, Rudy Van Gelder scribed a sizable chunk of the Rosetta Stone of American music, translating the genius of artists like Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, and scores of others for the masses.

    Rudy Van Gelder’s boyhood interests in amateur radio and trumpet naturally evolved into a passion for high fidelity audio. He began recording friends in his parents’ Hackensack home at age 22, and in 1959 (seven years after beginning a fruitful association with Blue Note Records), he quit his day job in optometry and opened a purpose-built studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It was here that he recorded seminal works for Prestige, CTI, Verve, and Impulse!, including Coltrane’s landmark A Love Supreme, as well as nearly every classic Blue Note side before 1967.

    Just perusing through the discography of Van Gelder Studios is enough to induce a headache!

    Van Gelder recorded his most important 1950s and 1960s work direct to either mono or 2-track stereo tape (or both simultaneously). This technical and aesthetic high-wire act combines tracking and mixing into a simultaneous procedure in which numerous microphones are balanced by the recordist live to tape as the musicians play. To do this successfully, performers and mics must be positioned optimally in the room and equipment must be in impeccable repair and alignment. But most importantly, the recordist has to have it together from the first beat, because with artists of Blakey’s caliber, the very first run-through could be the final take.

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    A sample from Soundfly’s collection of albums touched by the skilled hand of Rudy Van Gelder.

    There is no “undo.” Any decisions (or non-decisions) are permanent. Equipment failure or human error could mar or render unsalvageable an otherwise brilliant performance. High stakes, immense responsibility, and innumerable pitfalls demand clear judgment, foresight, decisive action, and quick but measured reaction. This is how Rudy Van Gelder made records in the 1950s and ‘60s.

    But despite all of this, the recordings are so engaging, with focus so superbly directed to the artists, that it’s easy to forget that they’re Rudy Van Gelder performances as well. Although the record and mix were complete as soon as the last cymbal decayed, Van Gelder was no Lomax-style documentarian. Like so many of the artists he recorded, Rudy’s work had personality, and his performances were distinctive and individualistic for better or (occasionally) worse. Charles Mingus famously preferred not to record with Van Gelder, alleging that “he tries to change people’s tones… the way he sets [a player] up at the mic, he can change the whole sound.” And although he was famously opaque about technical details, most agree that Van Gelder probably incorporated some then-unconventional techniques, such as DI capture of Hammond organs in combination with microphones on the Leslie speaker, in the case of the wild organist Jimmy Smith.


    The title of Thelonious Monk’s Hackensack is a reference to RVG’s original home studio where many of Monk’s tracks (including this one) were recorded.

    These clues suggest that Van Gelder was most likely guided foremost by the goal of achieving good-sounding recordings, as opposed to any preoccupation with literal verisimilitude or procedural dogma.

    Secretive until the end (there’s an apocryphal legend that Mr. Van Gelder sometimes put up different microphones for photo shoots than he actually used on the sessions), we can only make informed guesses about what Van Gelder actually did. We know there are a lot of Schoeps M221b condensers in the photos (always with the windscreen installed!).

    There’s a famous shot of him posed in front of two Ampex 300 1/4” tape machines and a mono Altec 4322c limiter. A pair of U47s are in the frame with a pensive John Coltrane in a photo from the Blue Train session. We hear a fair bit of room and spill on the records, suggesting that the musicians were most likely allowed to perform more-or-less together, with minimal isolation — an impression supported by the fact that there are certainly no headphones in any of the session photos.

    But in the end, these are mostly superficial details of process, and to focus on the technical would be to miss what makes Van Gelder’s work great. So immediate are the recordings that even the occasional defects — the clipping distortion on the bass drum of an enthusiastic Idris Muhammad (née Leo Morris) during the breaks of Reuben Wilson’s original 1969 recording of “Hot Rod,” for instance — seem to become powerful signifiers of the moment and its authenticity. And when the flaws in your work become features, you are unquestionably an artist.

    For a deeper look into Van Gelder’s mind, check out this interview with producer Michael Cuscuna.


    RIP RVG.

    See the full SOUNDFLY article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 11:04 AM on November 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Herbie Nichols, Michael Cuscuna, ,   

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette: “Herbie Nichols on Thelonious Monk” 

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette , a truly important resource

    Visit The Jazz Gazette

    Thelonious Monk, Minton’s Playhouse, New York, ca. September 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb

    Wow, this is a discovery that I am thrilled to read. When I was writing the booklet for our first Mosaic set, The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk back in 1982, I found a brief write-up by Herbie Nichols in Music Dial in 1944, which I quoted in the booklet and which was a very mixed assessment of Monk’s successes and failings. This 1946 write-up is a revelation and redemption. Herbie nails it on Monk as only he could.

    -Michael Cuscuna

    From Ethan Iverson
    DO THE M@TH

    Ethan Iverson 2016 photo by Jimmy Katz at http://www.jimmykatz.com, with permission

    Herbie Nichols on Thelonious Monk

    What a thrill! Rob van der Bliek, the author of the Thelonious Monk Reader, reached out after reading the big DTM overview and sent me the scarce 1946 article by Herbie Nichols for the Afro-American periodical Rhythm.

    Amazing. I am overdue to read Mark Miller’s Herbie Nichols book and this glorious find is just the right push for me to do so. The book is available here.

    “Here’s the scoop on the elusive Nichols piece on Monk from 1946: At the time I was gathering and putting together the material for The Thelonious Monk Reader in the late 1990s, there was confusion about Nichols’ piece, since he was quoted as saying in A.B. Spellman’s Four Lives in the Bebop Business that he wrote the profile for the Music Dial in 1946. I was at the Institute for Jazz Studies perusing their files and came across a photocopy of a column Nichols had written in 1944 for the Music Dial, in which he briefly mentions Monk as someone to watch out for, and after consulting with a number of people and having searched the remaining issues of the Music Dial, concluded that this was what he was referring to. Not so … As it turns out, years later both Mark Miller, who was working on a biography on Nichols, and Robin Kelley, who was working on his Monk biography, unearthed the 1946 article, but as it turned out it had been published in a magazine called Rhythm.”

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    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 11:01 AM on October 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'Trane, Are These the 10 Best John Coltrane Solos?, Jacob Adams 01 Feb 2012, Michael Cuscuna,   

    From Mosaic Jazz Gazette: “Are These the 10 Best John Coltrane Solos?” 

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette , a truly important resource

    Visit The Jazz Gazette

    1
    http://johncoltrane.com/

    Jacob Adams on PopMatters has taken on the impossible task of identifying what he thinks are John Coltrane’s ten best solos. I couldn’t narrow the list down to eighty! But I am pleased to see that Adams ranked as #1 Crescent, the title tune from the Coltrane quartet’s supreme and overlooked masterpiece.

    -Michael Cuscuna

    Read and Listen

    The process of deciding which John Coltrane solos are the best of the best gave me a good reason to go back and listen to his catalog once again, as if an excuse is even needed. I hope you do the same.

    Jacob Adams
    01 Feb 2012

    John Coltrane completely changed the face of music in a recording career that lasted only a little over ten years. He was so influential in so many ways that it’s impossible to list them all. Naturally, many of his compositions have become part of the standard jazz canon, tunes that all young jazz musicians must contend with in order to be considered legit. He completely redefined the vocabulary of the genre with his “sheets of sound” and modal approaches. Coltrane revolutionized the way people play the saxophone, from his adroit use of the upper registers (known as altissimo) to his popularization of the soprano saxophone in jazz. His classic 1960s quartet is considered the apotheosis of the modern jazz combo for many. Above all, though, Coltrane played some of the most innovative, sublime, poetic solos in the history of the music. Every jazz musician aspires to capture even an iota of Trane’s musical and spiritual energy.

    Ranking one Coltrane solo over another is an act of absurdist thinking. Nevertheless, the process of deciding which Trane solos are the best of the best gave me a good reason to go back and listen to his catalog once again, as if an excuse is even needed. I hope you do the same.

    10. “My Favorite Things” from My Favorite Things

    Coltrane popularized the use of the soprano saxophone in jazz, and this track had a lot to do with it. “My Favorite Things” demonstrates the broad appeal of Trane’s art. He managed to take a Rogers and Hammerstein tune that everyone has heard before and turn it into a pleasantly meandering epic, one that fellow musicians gawk at for its technical prowess — yet also became a radio hit (albeit in an edited form). Instead of soloing over the tune’s chord changes, Trane solos over an extended vamp of only two chords, thus cementing the modal approach that he had been working on for a while by 1960. There’s a mesmerizing, bewitching quality about it that’s a far cry from the original tune.

    9. “Oleo” from Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet (Miles Davis)

    Despite his gaining fame for the experimentalism of his later career, Trane could play straight-ahead bebop like none other as well. “Oleo”, a tune by Sonny Rollins based upon the ubiquitous “I Got Rhythm”, is the perfect vehicle for Coltrane to show off his chops and artistic creativity. “Oleo” is definitely one of the most sing-able solos in Trane’s catalog. During every chorus, he manages to throw out an improvised melody worthy of a pop song. This is Coltrane at his height with the Miles Davis Quintet. Straightforward jazz doesn’t get much better than this.

    8. “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” from Coltrane’s Sound

    Standards have always been the hallmark of the jazz canon. As musicians learn how to play jazz, they always must contend with the repertoire of show tunes and American pop songs that often get called on the bandstand. Coltrane had a way of taking standards and twisting them to the point where they are sometimes barely recognizable. There are a multitude of examples of this phenomenon, but “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” is definitely one of my favorites. This version features an Afro-Cuban-inflected groove and a chord structure that’s modified from the original to fit the modal sounds Coltrane was embracing in 1960. Trane’s solo moves in and out of keys, while keeping the essence of the standard tune intact. Here we have a primary example of Coltrane the masterful melodic manipulator.

    7. “Blue Train” from Blue Train

    Above all, Coltrane was a bluesman. He’s played so many amazing solo on blues tunes that I don’t even know where to start. There’s a reason “Blue Train” stands above the rest, though, and has become so famous. Trane’s solo on this title track swings like mad. The saxophonist is so locked in with the rhythm section that it seems like they’re inseparable. Coltrane blows his way through eight blustery choruses, rarely pausing to take a breath. “Blue Train” finds Trane at an intersection between the bebop of his early career, the blues that he would redefine throughout his life, and the technical “sheets of sound” approach that he was developing at the time. There’s something here for fans of each stage of Coltrane’s musical development.

    6. “Jupiter” from Interstellar Space

    Coltrane’s latter music, the stuff he was making right before his death in 1967, is controversial to say the least. Much like the final music of Beethoven, Coltrane was breaking through to something new at the end of his career, music that was wildly forward-looking and misunderstood by many. Interstellar Space was originally not released until 1974, and consists entirely of freeform duets with drummer Rashied Ali. Most of the tunes abandon principles of melodic and harmonic structure. Coltrane is playing with a kind of wild abandonment, making squeaks and squawks come out of his horn that nobody even knew existed. The interplay with drummer Ali is the glue that holds “Jupiter” together, though. It’s interesting to hear how Trane can make relevant art with essentially no parameters. In some ways, this is harder to do than when you are given many guidelines.

    5. “Alabama” from Live at Birdland

    “Alabama” was written as a memorial to the four girls killed by white supremacists during the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Coltrane plays with the kind of sparseness and spiritual sensitivity appropriate to the subject manner. The music in and of itself serves as a eulogy. You can hear the emotions of sorrow, anger, and hope all coalescing into one solo. It’s also one of Coltrane’s most accessible solos, thus a really good place to start for anyone who’s not that familiar with his music. The opening and closing sections are out of time, with Coltrane and his band mates moving together at their own languid pace. The effect is wildly hypnotic.

    4. “Resolution” from A Love Supreme

    A Love Supreme is justifiably one of the most well-known records of all time, jazz or otherwise. Musicians and artists from all different genres and mediums have cited Coltrane’s 1965 masterpiece as an important influence. Trane’s creative juices were really flowing here, for he was making music that was both technically brilliant and spiritually relevant. It was like Trane was channeling something here, a sort of energy that only he possessed but was kind enough to share with the world. The entire album is essential, and there really are no standout tracks or solos. “Resolution” is as representative as any, though. Trane’s solo features equal influence from the blues and the more experimental, modal music that’s a hallmark of this record. Coltrane takes a melody and shifts it through several different keys, as if to prove its versatility.

    3. “Giant Steps” from Giant Steps

    You haven’t really made it as a jazz musician until you learn to play on “Giant Steps” a tour de force featuring a new chord change on virtually every beat. Although this type of song structure has the potential to yield boring, mechanical music, Trane’s solo goes beyond just breathtaking on a technical level. This was the pinnacle of Trane’s “sheets of sound” approach, wherein his goal was to create music vertically (focusing upon arpeggiating chords) rather than horizontally (focusing upon creating distinct melodies). Coltrane would explore the many implications of each chord, often substituting alternative chords for the more traditional one that the listener would expect. Within the barrage of notes, though, the shifting patterns create a kind of spellbinding effect. Coltrane brilliantly returns to certain key notes to create a sense of repetition, providing an anchor for the listener. Nobody can do this like Trane.

    2. “Blue in Green” from Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)

    When one thinks of Coltrane on the saxophone, one most likely thinks of flights of technical brilliance that leave one breathless. This is understandable, since Trane no doubt played a lot of notes during his career. However, he was also one of the greatest melodists in the history of the music. Never did his abilities to construct a beautiful melody shine through more than on “Blue in Green”, the most sublime, gorgeous track on Miles Davis’ landmark 1959 record Kind of Blue. Trane’s solo is short, but sweet. The chord changes to “Blue in Green” are complex, often shifting modalities and moods. Coltrane manages to construct a simple melody amongst all the harmonic complexity, one that is relentlessly sing-able. I often go to “Blue in Green” when I experience major events in my life, whether positive or negative. It always seems to speak to my current emotional state, and Coltrane’s sensitive solo deserves a lot of credit for the song’s power.

    1. “Crescent” from Crescent

    Here we find Coltrane at the height of his powers, playing with perhaps the greatest ensemble in jazz history. In 1964, Trane stood betwixt and between the tonal music that had made him well-known, and the experimental, free-form jazz that would define his latter career. “Crescent” employs definite chord changes, but Trane pushes the limits of what is possible in tonal music, often slipping in and out of the keys. He never loses his sense of melodic construction, though. The more abstract moments on the record are tempered with beautiful, bluesy melodies that sound as natural as anything Coltrane has ever played. The solo’s effectiveness is enhanced by the playing of fellow musicians Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), and McCoy Tyner (piano). Their playing is remarkably tight and calm. No matter how animated Trane gets as a soloist, they keep the groove locked down. Tyner even drops out about halfway through the solo, giving Trane all the space he needs to do his thing. Saxophonist Dave Liebman has ranked this solo as amongst Coltrane’s most memorable, citing its uniquely poetic qualities. I agree with him.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 10:44 AM on September 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Charlie Parker, , Michael Cuscuna, , , Whitney Balliett   

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette: “Whitney Balliett on Charlie Parker, Ethan Iverson ‘Wayne Shorter’s 1964′” 

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette , a truly important resource

    Visit The Jazz Gazette

    Whitney Balliett on Charlie Parker

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    Charlie Parker. No image credit

    This posting of Whitney Balliett’s March 1, 1967 New Yorker review of Charlie Parker’s Savoy sessions is a welcome reminder of what an astute observer and creative writer he was. Who else would describe the sloppy execution of a theme by writing “the ensembles are smidged”?

    -Michael Cuscuna

    Read the article…

    2
    Wayne Shorter’s 1964. No image credit.

    Ethan Iverson is fast becoming as remarkable a journalist and historian and he is a pianist. On the eve of Wayne Shorter’s 85th birthday, Ethan examines the three masterpieces that Wayne recorded for Blue Note in 1964 and illustrates the very different musical arenas in which each project was created. A fascinating must-read.

    -Michael Cuscuna

    Read the article…

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 12:23 PM on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 41st Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar, Michael Cuscuna, , , Pittsburgh CityPaper   

    From Pittsburgh CityPaper via Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette: “Michael Cuscuna: Unabridged interview” Nov 2, 2011 

    From Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette is a truly important resource

    Pittsburgh CityPaper

    On Thurs., Nov. 3, he speaks at the 41st Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar, in the William Pitt Union at 7 p.m.

    Michael Cuscuna: Unabridged interview

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    Michael Cuscuna from Open Sky Jazz

    Michael Cuscuna set the standard on box-set reissues when he launched Mosaic, a mail-order label that works in deluxe, comprehensive jazz re-releases. Released in limited editions, each set compiled a complete overview of a particular period in an artist’s career, packing it in a 12-inch-by- 12-inch box, with a detailed booklet full of information that jazz geeks relish. Today, Mosaic still releases that package, though nearly all the sets appear on CD only. They’ve also branched out to include Mosaic Select and Mosaic Singles, which cover smaller scopes of releases. In addition to this extensive work, Cuscuna became the go-to guy for the numerous labels re-releasing their jazz back catalog.

    On Thurs., Nov. 3, he speaks at the 41st Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar, in the William Pitt Union at 7 p.m. This is the long version of the interview that Mike Shanley did with Cuscuna.

    You’re the guy who listens to all the alternate takes to decide what goes on box sets and reissues. After hearing all that stuff, how do you keep from getting jaded?

    Well, I don’t think you ever get jaded when it’s something you really love. But there is an overkill period. After almost every Mosaic set, there’s a period of time after I finish working on a box where I don’t want to hear that artist for at least four months. Ironically the only two artists I didn’t feel that way about were two of the largest sets that I produced. One was the 18-CD Nat “King” Cole trio set. I got so deep into him that I never got tired of it. I just kept listening to him from the end of the project onward. And Count Basie. I did that complete Roulette [Records] live and studio boxes. Man, I love that band. It just swung like no other band. I can never get enough Basie, from the Lester Young-Jo Jones period, but also from the ’50s and ’60s.

    For the most part, I experience overkill but I always bounce back. You never get jaded. What you do get is very exhausted, in the sense that [you’re] listening intently. With reissues, the most exhaustive part is the decision making process — listening to unreleased alternate takes and deciding if any are worthy of release. If they are, why? And then you have to play devil’s advocate and say why not. Which is one reason I always try to get somebody who played on that record, or a younger musician who idolized that musician, to listen to any alternate takes that I want to put out, to see if they agree that it’s worthy of release or if it shouldn’t be.

    That’s one of the bigger responsibilities. If I put out music that is really unworthy or would embarrass the artist or make an artist unhappy, then I think that’s the worst sin I could commit. I take the responsibility of what has been unissued, what has never come out. If I’m going to cause it to come out, I better have a very good reason.

    The thing I love about Mosaic boxes is listening to the alternate takes and knowing what to listen for, because of what is written in the liner notes. Figuring that out must require a lot of concentration. Not so much with a Thelonious Monk set, where the songs where all three minutes, but with albums where the songs were longer.

    Yeah, like a later Blue Note session. I think it’s a soloist’s phenomenon. With Chu Berry or Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young [all saxophonists from the ’30s and ’40s], we have plenty of alternates, but if you’re addressing a big band — Maynard Ferguson or Count Basie or Duke Ellington — alternate takes don’t come into play that much because everyone is striving for the perfect take. And guys are replaying what worked on the previous take but making it better. So there’s usually one good master take unless you have a really extraordinary soloist, like a Lester Young or a Wayne Shorter, where every time is something new and amazing.

    The whole thing about alternate takes is that when CDs first came out, I started — originally on Blue Note CDs — to put an alternate take after the master take, because that’s the way I like to listen to them, so I could compare them with a fresh memory. And I almost got lynched for that. So I eventually had to start putting them at the end of the disc. Which is fine because you can fast forward quickly if you want to hear them that way. I understand that a lot of people put the CD on and walk away and hear the album as it was. That’s one thing that changed drastically.

    You’ve worked on a lot of re-releases for pianist Andrew Hill.

    Andrew’s been one of my passions since the mid 1960s. And it’s great because through Blue Note and even more so thru Mosaic, I’ve been able to get so much of his stuff out.

    I remember talking to [Blue Note founder] Alfred Lion about [how there were] so many of the albums that I put out that [Lion] had produced 20 years earlier. I’d say, “Why didn’t you put this out?” And he’d say, “I don’t know, they sound great. I have no idea why I didn’t get around to putting them out.”

    The same thing happened to me with Andrew Hill’s material. There was a Mosaic Select with the rest of the unissued stuff, it was like a clean up project. Some of that stuff was like man this stuff is so great why didn’t I want to put this out [on 19TK Hill box set]. And Andrew agreed. It’s strange, but it’s when you hear stuff. Your opinions change. There’s no absolute in any decisions.

    And there’s so much of that stuff, it can be hard when you’re weighing this sessions versus that session, and thinking about budgets too.

    Oh yeah, well there’s that! [Laughs] That didn’t used to be the case but that’s certainly the case now.

    Rudy van Gelder [who engineered most of the sessions for labels like Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse!] once said that he’s recorded so much music that he can’t enjoy listening to it casually. Do you ever get that feeling?

    Yeah. I rarely will go home and put on music if I’m working with it all day. I need a break from it. Or the other thing to do is if you’re working on [progressive trumpeter] Charles Tolliver all day, the good thing to do is go home and listen to Aretha [Franklin]. Something that’s really very different and always something that you’ve had nothing to do with. Then you can relax.

    Sometimes if I’m driving in the car with the radio on, a song will have a tick in it, and when I hear that tick, every muscle in my body tightens. Then I realize, it’s not my problem. I’m not listening to a test pressing. My body relaxes.

    Speaking of Andrew Hill, do you think the Mosaic reissues helped regenerate his career in the final years of his life?

    I think it helped, yeah. It was a confluence of a bunch of things. In the late ’90s he put together this sextet that did Dusk on Palmetto [Records]. And it was just magical combination of people. It harkened back in the textures to Point of Departure [his best-known Blue Note album from 1964], but he just started writing music again like crazy. All wonderful. That really started a renaissance in his career and his work opportunities.

    In 2000 Andrew called me out of the blue and said, “Remember that 11-piece band record we did? You listened to the tapes and said it was a train wreck? We’ve got to revisit that.” And I said okay because a couple people who played on that record, Lenny White [drums] and Howard Johnson [tuba, bass clarinet], have always been asking me if they could hear it. So I ordered CD-Rs of this session. They sent them to me and I sent one to Andrew. And he called me and said, yeah you’re right this is a mess. But I said let me listen one more time. And I listened and the reason it sounded like a mess was because only half of the stereo was feeding into the machine. You could hear a bunch of other instruments in the echo. I said, “This isn’t the complete thing!” It was one of those rare Rudy Van Gelder [sessions] recorded on eight-track. I got the eight-tracks and put them on and it was great.

    That was the album that became Passing Ships [released in 2003]. For better and for worse it was named album of the year everywhere from the New York Times to the jazz magazines. And I say for worse because it’s kind of sad when a record made 30 years ago becomes record of the year. But that really helped him too. And that let me to revisit everything that’s in the can. That’s what that Mosaic Select was about. And I’m happy to say it was a 25-30 year odyssey but that’s how long it took me to get every Andrew Hill session out, but I finally got them out.

    Going back to the original tapes – where were they? Did Rudy keep them?

    Cuscuna: No. Rudy never keeps tapes. I wish he did because there’s some John Coltrane Impulse! stuff that’s lost forever.

    They were all at Blue Note in New York in the ’60s and early ’70s. Then around 1973 they all got shipped out to California because [the label] it was owned by United Artists. They’ve been in five different locations since that time, around the LA area. For the most part I’ve found every tape that should exist with five or six exceptions.

    When you come to Pittsburgh, the title of your lecture is The Business of Jazz, right?

    Cuscuna: I called Nathan [Davis, head of the Pitt Jazz Seminar] this morning and said, “There’s a million different directions I could go on this.” He said, “I want you to talk about reissues. How you do them, why you do them, all the stories about how they sell.” That’s basically what I’m going to talk about. It’ll start with the Blue Notes and the Mosaics and the Columbia stuff with the Miles Davis sets, and also John Coltrane on Impulse!, which I worked on in the ’70s and back to in the early ’90s. There’s a lot to talk about.

    I’m sure I’ll get bored with what I’m saying and veer off into other little anecdotes or opinions. [laughs] I’ll probably just have a 10-word outline and go from there and encourage people to interrupt. There’s no point in talking if people want to hear something else from you other than what you’re talking about. I like feedback, you know.

    Where is the jazz business – in a precarious state?

    Cuscuna: The recorded music aspect of it is in extremely dire straits. But I find that there are more talented young musicians, top level musicians, coming up every day. And they’re all finding work. And not just in New York clubs. They’re getting sidemen gigs, going on tours and I think the state of jazz itself is very healthy. When you think of downbeat, JazzTimes, Jazzis, the amount of press that the jazz world supports is quite amazing to me.

    The record companies are ailing. And there will be consequences for artists as a result of that. But the consequences for them will be, as well as mastering your instrument, you’ll have to know how to record and produce your own record, have them pressed and sell them off the bandstand and on the internet, and you’ll have to learn how to maintain your own website. Those are now as rudimentary as scales for a musician who wants to have a fulltime career. They’ll become more and more important as time goes on. I don’t know what the future will be, but I know that the skill set for musicians is going to triple.

    With Mosaic are you still seeing people who are still interesting in the tactile experience of music, rather than just listening to downloads?

    I don’t know. Certainly for people my age and older, it’s a big part of it. It took me three years without a functioning turntable in my house before I got rid of my record collection.

    Nooooooooooooo! Even then I still have every Blue Note album.

    OK. And everything I’ve worked on. But other than that, I got rid of everything. And I had country, blues, I had everything. But I miss the 12 X 12 field for cover art. I miss the 12X12 field for information and prose. Not just information and prose, but information and prose that you can actually read in a typeface that’s legible, that’s black type on white paper instead of orange type on green paper. I swear every art director in the CD world is completely illiterate because they have no respect for words or information. I miss that.

    They keep talking about a resurgence of vinyl in all genres of music but it’s still a very small select group. A lot of it is kids who like to make mix tapes and use turntables that way, like DJs. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, which is overly wealthy people who have $35,000 sound systems who want original pressings or 200-gram pressings. Those are two marginalized groups. I don’t think vinyl’s going to make a real comeback in any sense. I miss it. And I think anyone that was raised on it does too.

    I’ll tell you what I miss most from the LP era, is the lack of burnout. When you bought an LP, or just pulled it off your shelf, rarely did you play both sides. If you played one side, you’d play an 18, 20-minute program of music. When you get a new CD you pop it and when I see 74 minutes pop up, I think woah this is unbelievable. And unless I’m listening to a set that I’m working on, I’ve never gotten through a whole CD of anything! It’s just a different way of listening now, and more exhaustive. I think a lot of young musicians don’t help themselves. If I’ve never heard of you, but I heard something on the radio that I like, don’t give me 74 minutes of originals, brand new music, with no anchors to compare you to someone else and get a fix on. Give me 60 minutes and make 20 minutes of it compositions I know, so I hear how you deal with something that I know.

    s re-releasing their jazz back catalog.

    Visit The Jazz Gazette

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    stem

    Stem Education Coalition
    See the full article here .

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
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