email at 47west63rd@gmail.com

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Joe Harley, Steve Hoffman and the gang at Music Matters

I was over at the Steve Hoffman board and its amazing how dismissively people speak of the job Rudy Van Gelder did in recording the legendary Blue Notes/Impulses etc.. I wrote a response but they do not take kindly to differing opinions so I will just post it on my own blog here:

But the original impulses sound so GOOD!

I guess someday I'll pay $50 for one of these reissues and check it out but I have to say I have many original impulses and they sound- to my ears- simply wonderful....A record like Lorez Alexandria the Great, or Coltrane and Hartman.. those are some of my favorites and I just love the way they sound.. ANd when I read some of the stuff on this thread its almost like "Is there something wrong with my ears?" I mean I have some records that sound horrendous but I would never say that about the Impulses..those were well done jobs IMHO.. Same with Blue Note..Right now I'm listening to Hodges "Creamy" (original Norgran) and it too sounds good to me..

And I guess what people are saying is that they can sound EVEN BETTER and thats cool but there's something to be said- at least for me- about playing the original LP that came out in 1955 and Johnny Hodges himself took a copy of it home. I understand someone like me is not the market audience for these reissues and thats cool.. I appreciate anything that gets more vinyl out there...These classic albums deserve to be reissued forever... I wouldn't call myself a just a collector but more so an "originalist".. I like the classic stuff.. Sometimes stuff was done well the first time around and there's value to be attached to an item/product that still can give one great pleasure 54 years later. Its the real deal to my mind.

Also it would be interesting- because I do read some stuff about Van Gelder - if people think they could have done a better job if they had been in his shoes.. To my mind his contribution to recorded jazz is incredible. He was basically recording - I think- two or three jazz classics a week for a long stretch... Albums that I think its fair to say at least in some small part owe their classic status to the fact that they sound really good... There's a reason people love those Blue Notes and part of it is that they sound darn good. Now a new generation of sound engineers or whatever they are called spend their time reworking Van Gelder's original work and of course they say they are doing it better... But Van Gelder's contribution to the recording of jazz I don't think will ever be even close to touched and it would be nice to see him get a little more recognition instead of having him kind of dismissed as being "clever" in dealing with the rickety limitations of recording technology at the time.. I think he did a great job! Those old Blue Notes sound great. period.

Finally, the endless repetition about how great the Music Matters reissues are and how they blow the originals out of the water seems to me excessive. I mean is there a need to say it in every single thread about jazz LPs?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Well in my lifetime, I saw that the 50-60's left us with an abundance of classic's that run the gamut of stage; Elvis, Autos; the 57' Chevy, tube gear, horn and extraordinary full range speakers, NOS tubes and transformers like will never be realized again. American JAZZ, BLUES and of coarse Rudy Van Gelder. Now, I love that era as much as yourself and the sound it produced but eventually traded up to high resolution tubed and horn gear, cables and so on so as extend my listening range. Why not own Classic and modern vinyl that does the same? I am with you, my friend, but as a tech I will always endure my quest for the truth, if possible. A purist also has to learn and to respect that Art will evolve. After all it was DaVinci that said; Where the sprit does not work with the hand, there can be no Art! Be comfort4ed that there will always be room for evolution in spirit!

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Well in my lifetime, I saw that the 50-60's left us with an abundance of classic's that run the gamut of stage; Elvis, Autos; the 57' Chevy, tube gear, horn and extraordinary full range speakers, NOS tubes and transformers like will never be realized again. American JAZZ, BLUES and of coarse Rudy Van Gelder. Now, I love that era as much as yourself and the sound it produced but eventually traded up to high resolution tubed and horn gear, cables and so on so as extend my listening range. Why not own Classic and modern vinyl that does the same? I am with you, my friend, but as a tech I will always endure my quest for the truth, if possible. A purist also has to learn and to respect that Art will evolve. After all it was DaVinci that said; Where the sprit does not work with the hand, there can be no Art! Be comfort4ed that there will always be room for evolution in spirit!

Joe Harley said...

Hi guys,

I've never seen this blog before until someone clued me today. I'll have to go back and check it all out. With a name like 47west63rd it has to be great!

I just want to be clear, since I am named in the heading here that I have the UTMOST admiration for Rudy Van Gelder. Just last week I did a series of seminars at the Listen Up stores abut Rudy and Blue Note. I sang his praises to the heavens believe me.

Our point, with our Music Matters reissues is that we are allowing you to hear, possibly for the first time, what Rudy really recorded on his master tapes. And what is on those masters is flat out amazing! That is why you keep hearing people rave about the sound. It isn't because we're "better than Rudy". We are no such thing. But we are allowing you to hear what is on those master tapes.

Think about it for a moment. Rudy had to transfer his masters to a medium that would play back without problems for the systems of the 50s and 60s. The bane of any record companies existence was the return of records because "the needle sticks". How do you keep the needle from "sticking"? There's only one way....you make the record easier to track and you do this by rolling off the low end to some extent and by applying limiting to keep groove excursions under control.

I DO think Rudy was extremely "clever" in his use of these techniques to enable Blue Note LP customers to best hear what he had recorded. "Clever" is not a put down at all.

The phono cartridges and speakers of the 50s and 60s had in common a frequency response droop in the high frequencies. This is not an opinion, it is accepted fact. In addition to the limiting and low end roll off needed to make the LPs playable, Rudy typically boosted the upper mids a bit to put back some of the top end he knew would be lost through the gear.

How do we know this? Between my partner Ron Rambach and myself, we have virtually every Blue Note release (and generally several copies) in mint condition of the first pressings. Ron has been a seller of rare jazz records (including of course Blue Notes) for many years.

When we master Blue Notes we always bring the mint original with us. How do we know what Rudy did to make his LP transfers? We compare the master tape with the original edition LP.

When we get out test pressings back we do the same thing.

Instead of looking at our program as somehow looking down on what Rudy did, consider that we might be allowing thousands of listeners to hear the absolute GENIUS of Rudy Van Gelder in all of his glory by allowing them to hear what he recorded live direct to two track on these masters.

You mention that you have not heard our reissues. Let me know how to reach you and I'll send you a couple. Do they sound different than the original LPs? Yes. Do they sound nearly indistinguishable from Rudy's master tapes? Yes!

We transfer at 45RPM so that we do not have to apply any limiting at all. As I mentioned in my seminars last week in Colorado, it is stunning to hear how incredibly dynamic Rudy's master tapes really are.

If we view the goal of recording to be to allow the listener to be transported as much as possible back to the original recording studio to hear what happened that day, then I feel quite confident that our Music Matters Blue Notes give you the very best available sense of being back in Hackensack or Englewood Cliffs to hear what went down at the session.

Now.....if the goal is to listen to a cherished memory of the way the original LP sounded , that's an entirely different pursuit, and a valid pursuit. Owning the original edition LP and jacket? Totally cool, it's owning a great piece of history. And does it mean that the originals sound bad? No! But is there a way to better hear what was on those great master tapes of Rudys? Yes!

Speaking of jackets, you probably know that we have arranged through Michael Cuscuna, to include original session photos...many of which have never been seen before since we now have a gatefold to work with since each album comes ads two 12" 45RPM records.

Our feeling is that, between the session photos and the ability to really give you what Rudy recorded that day, we are allowing a lot of people to kind of go back in time and experience the thrill of (nearly) being there.

That some people who post on the Hoffman forum may get carried away and seem to criticize Rudy Van Gelder’s work in the 50s and 60s is sad. We at Music Matters would never do that. Our admiration for Alfred, Francis, Rudy and Reid Miles knows no bounds.

Criticizing Rudy's CD reissues? That's a whole ‘nuther topic for another day. But Rudy in his hey day was an amazing documenter of great jazz history!

Joe Harley
Music Matters Ltd.

chet baker sings said...

Joe Harley,

Thanks very much for your thoughtful post.

Well, I always try to be willing to learn...and improve.. I suppose I should allow records to do likewise.

I can be reached at 47west63rd@gmail.com