Friday, May 1, 2020

The joys of a record collection

So much is said about the value of streaming services and how you can explore at will, lucking onto great music you might not have otherwise heard. I don't disagree. But there's also something about having your own material collection that is hard to quantify. Case in point - tonight I was just doing some record playing and for no particular reason, pulled out an old chestnut - the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago

I looked at the cover, thought that might be fun to spin, pulled it from the sleeve and knew I'd cleaned it so it was ready to go but looking at the label and the vinyl I expected a somewhat rough sound from this 60 year old slab of history. Well, what do you know? Sure, a couple of clicks and pops on the run in grooves but then the music kicked in, and I sat back with a nice drink and just listened. Phew...what a delight. Sax oozed from the left, drums from the right, and yes, that was a classic case of real stereo separation (maybe a little too much, if you know what I mean) but what fun. 

A couple of tracks in, I'm reaching for the sleeve. Yep, Cannonball for sure but what else do I see....Coltrane, Kelly on piano, Chambers on bass, Cobb on drums. A small note underneath saying 'this session was cut while all the above were sidemen working with Miles Davis at the Sutherland Hotel in 1959!'. Oh now you're talking. Absolutely glorious sonics in a sort of 'to hell with frequency extension and detail, this is the pulse of a band playing in front of you'.  Then, in the lower right corner, a note entitled 'HiFi Information'

"This epochal jazz session was recorded in Feb 1959 at Universal Recording Studio B, Chicago, with Bernie Clapper, president of the firm, at the audio controls. In order to achieve the spitome in cohesive sound and coordiantion, the group was set up very tight, the way they worked in personal engagements,. Microphone sets were worked out to make for the most possible directivity of sound with very little crossover, because this is fundamentally a session which featured solos by these outstanding progressive jazzmen. Mike (sic) pickups included: Solo Reed Telefunken U-47;  Reed accent mike-RCA 44BX; Bass-Telefunken U-47; Piano-Telefunken U-47; Drums-Telefunken U-47; Rhythm accent mike-Telefunken U-47. The entire session was recorded at 15 inches per second on Ampex 350-2 modified tape recorders."

And the kicker -- the sleeve notes about the musicians has the following, written in 1959: 

"Cannonball Adderley looks forward to the future of jazz with great enthusiasm. He expresses justified confidence that his co-worker and prominent tenorman, John Coltrane will have much to do with the opening of new horizons"

Time travel indeed -  a small capsule of music, history and perspective, sitting on my shelf just waiting for the moment to remind me of what it all means. Try that Spotify!


Jim said...

I agree entirely, though my fix is provided by CDs, notLPs.Having made the decision sometime in 1990, the switch-over was painless (arguments about which format sounds better are to me as the farts of mayflies), and pulling out the CD version of an LP I originally bought in my teens provides every bit as much nostalgic value as the ur-vinyl would. Streamed or downloaded music, on the other hand, doesn't raise much sense of past experience, even if the noise is familiar (a personal reaction, obviously), The kicker for me, though, is the medium itself. Having sat working at a bloody computer for eight hours, the last thing I want to do is to play with another one in my leisure time.

PatrickD said...

Jim -- thanks for the comment. I tend to agree, it's the music that matters not the medium, but sometimes the material nature of some media carry bonus points in the form of tangibility-inspired context for listening. My CDs usually sound great too.