Waxing & musings. As jazz fans, we live in amazing times. Whatever period you enjoy, most of what you want is available online someplace as a download. Or it's easy to order. No matter how obscure, a quick Google search usually unearths the album or tracks.
Back in the 1970s, you had to walk the streets looking for the LPs you wanted. Many times what you were seeking wasn't in print. Or it was out of stock. Or if it was in stock, there was a high risk there was a defect. The most common flaw was that an album would be "warped." Meaning that when you put the record on, there was a wave in the vinyl that caused the needle to ride up and down when the imperfection came around. If the needle didn't leave the surface, you had distortion. If it did, you had a skip.One double album that I bought in 1973 that suffered from this problem was Sonny Stitt's I Cover the Waterfront, a compilation of the saxophonist's Argo/Cadet material. The cover was absolutely gorgeous. It featured a photo of what appeared to be a commercial fishing vessel slipping silently through the water as viewed from between two large rocks. What made the photo by P.B. Kaplan so appealing was that it was taken with a red filter (or a red wash was applied afterward). The album was blood red, with yellow type. Genius art direction by Neil Terk.
The problem with the double LP was that the first of the two records had a skip halfway into How High the Moon. No matter how many times I exchanged the warped version for a new one, the same skip would be in the exact same place. So within the LP hunt process was another hunt—for a flawless version. I must have exchanged the album 10 times. At which point the Sam Goody store was wiped out of copies.
When I finally was confronted with the choice of exchanging it for something else, I hesitated. Looking longingly at the double album on the counter and listening to the clerk's fingers drum impatiently, I decided to give up and keep it, flaw and all. I loved the cover too much.
Point being that today it's so easy to get perfect recordings of whatever we want without ever getting up from the computer. Some people look back nostalgically at those days of the Great Vinyl Hunt. Not me. LPs were fine then but they were painfully inconvenient, since you had to get up from your chair to turn them over or take them off. They also had to be cleaned delicately with a solution and filed carefully on a shelf so you could find it again later. I'm one of those listeners who happen to love today's digital technology. I can write and listen without worrying about tending to the medium. But as I hold my 36-year-old copy of I Cover the Waterfront, I'm reminded how much I miss big colorful album covers and large-size liner notes.
Paul Desmond. Doug Ramsey at Rifftides has a terrific post on alto saxophonist Paul Desmond's decision in 1974 to resume playing in a club setting. Doug includes a wonderful YouTube clip featuring a rare TV interview of Desmond on Canadian TV in 1976.
Desmond's body language speaks volumes about his discomfort with television. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't sufficiently warm him up and went too personal too fast, causing Desmond to nearly close down. It's fascinating stuff, especially if you've never heard Desmond speak. Go here.
Bobby Shew. After my interview series last week with trumpeter Bobby Shew, he sent along the following email. What a nice guy!
"Thanks again. You can't believe how many people are emailing me about having read these installments. It looks as if my career is getting a re-start, thanks to you! I guess I'd better keep practicing!!"
Bobby also sent along the following clip featuring a whimsical perspective on today's use of the English language.
George Avakian. Wall Street Journal jazz writer Will Friedwald will conduct a conversation with legendary producer George Avakian [pictured] on Wednesday March 17th in New York. The event will take place at St. Peter's Church (619 Lexington Ave. at 54th St.) and start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
CD discovery of the week. One of the most beautiful albums of 2008 that was largely overlooked by the media (including me) is Duets, featuring pianist Carlos Franzetti and bassist Eddie Gomez. The CD won the 2009 Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album. It should have won a Grammy as well.
Franzetti is a virtuoso player who was born in Argentina and moved to the U.S. in 1974, graduating from the Juilliard School of Music. His poetic, passionate sound on the keyboard is the perfect match placed up against the sympathetic, restless bass of Eddie Gomez, who, of course, spent years collaborating with pianist Bill Evans.
Dig what the duo does with the ballad If You Could See Me Now or the light bossa nova Pensativa. Or the lyricism they bring to Love Letter and Sometime Ago. Every note and chord voicing counts, and the music sounds intimate and up-close without ever losing its balance or joy.
You'll find Duets at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Smart album, dumb cover concept. This 1957 session was recorded for Roulette and featured Ray Copeland and Leon Merian (trumpets), Jimmy Cleveland and Jim Dahl (trombones), George Dorsey (alto sax, flute), Sahib Shihab (alto and baritone saxes), Aaron Sachs (clarinet and tenor sax), Pritchard Chessman (baritone sax), Hank Jones (piano) and/or Nat Pierce (piano), Clyde Lombardi (bass) and Specs Powell (drums). Hey, why use your imagination when an open moving van will do?
By the way, if you want this gem, I found it at iTunes with a different cover for $5.99.
And Guy Kopelowicz just wrote in from France to tell me that the cover photo was by Chuck Stewart and the arrangements are by trumpeter Ray Copeland.