Selection: Quintet introduction:
Europe – a little island off the coast of America. Pity the poor MC At the Antibes Jazz Festival, tasked with introducing The Miles Davis Quintet. As regulars may know I’m something of a Francophile and in the LJC household we have an affectionate term for the French when they grapple with the English language – we refer to them as ” ‘ow you says “. (I’ve been called a “rosbif” before now so it’s payback time). For some reason the letter H causes problems to the francophone. The announcer does really well considering, ducking backwards and forwards between French and English, but he has nowhere else to go when he comes up against introducing the piano player, ‘ow you say…
Played at double the speed I am used to hearing, but it plunges you into the front row of the Pinedes, Juan les Pins, Antibes, which has a fantastic backdrop – the Mediterranean. Late July I imaging it still light in the evening, maybe the setting sun, 1963, a different time and place..
Miles Davis (trumpet) George Coleman (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Tony Williams (drums) recorded live at “Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival”, Antibes, France, July 27, 1963
The pre-Wayne Shorter Quintet, and a lot of the material of the latest recording at the time, Seven Steps to Heaven, featuring the same line up, only this time, live at Antibes, recorded for broadcast by French radio RTF.
Miles makes no concession to time and place, he performed everywhere and his music “speaks for itself”, or so we are told. So my favourite tribute to Antibes comes some five years previously from Dizzy Gillespie from his album Dizzy on the Riviera:Now that’s what I call the French Riviera, and Gillespie’s liner notes gives you the context:
About sums it up for me too, but I need the help of the LJC Time Machine to hit the right ambiance. Things are a little different today, Cap d’Antibes with its Russian oligarchs and their surgically enhanced girlfriends, Abramovich’s Navy parked in the IYCA, it’s a different Riviera. But luckily, music is timeless.
To more serious matters, not Star Wars repeats, but Stereo Wars.
The psychology of listening in mono and in stereo
It occurred to me that while the Stereo Wars generate masses of keyboard typing energy, the brain is smart at interpreting incoming signals, putting them back where they belong, as ingredients of music.
Whilst stereo studio production is one of Columbia’s great strengths, live concert music has never struck me as stereophonic experience – the music just comes at you from the stage, all mixed together. You never think of it requiring instrument position on a stage because you can see the position of the player, and you can hear them. Stereo is more an artefact of the home listening environment where you can’t see the artists: logically they can’t all be standing in one central position, so a soundstage is a logical inference. However when you listen to a mono recording in a home listening environment the brain tosses out logic, and “comprehends” that the music is compiled from different musicians, it cancels out the need for geo-location. There are some records where stereo placement creates an extra step in decoding the music, as musicians are in “the wrong place”
What prompted me to think about this was listening to a newly arrived stereo copy of Monk Solo on Columbia. The stereo was a delight, parsing the octaves of the keyboard left hand bass to right hand treble, you are hearing what Monk will have heard seated at the piano, not a listener perspective but a performer one. Not a mirror image, as sitting facing listening to Monk, his left would be your right, and not a mono perspective. There seems an inner logic that emulates left-to-right, bass to treble. Or is that only me? Any thoughts, the floor is yours.
Vinyl: Columbia CL 2183 Two-Eyes “Guaranteed High Fidelity” mono.
If a record could see, it would see me smile. Guaranteed High Fidelity, Columbia. Columbia are devilishly good late night listening. I am a complete convert to Columbia original US pressings.
Out go the UK Fontana and UK CBS as I acquire replacements. Six eye, two eye, no eye, its the walking eye for me.This one travelled all the way from Germany, for about the same price as just the postage from the US.
Because of the infernal business agreements Columbia signed with EMI to use the Columbia name in the UK, we Brits became hostage to Fontana and then saddled with CBS manufacture and distribution of Columbia recordings, which means Sixties Miles Davis and a good selection of Monk. Consequently there was no need to export US pressings, and as a result most copies in circulation are inevitably UK pressings. Sometimes that’s no bad thing. Esquires in place of Prestige and New Jazz, Interdisk in place of US Riverside, That’s a fair exchange, but not so Columbia. Original pressings are not optional, they are essential.
Of course, the story has no happy ending, as Columbia like everyone else, succumbed to the digital format, even on vinyl.
Ho Ho Ho. As I proof these final notes I see it is Christmas Eve, bah humbug nothing but Christmas Specials on television for the next few days: I do hate being “entertained”. So season’s greeting to all and any of you who have persevered with the LJC blog, another year coming up, I have no idea where to go from here, but hopefully you might enjoy getting lost in the music, in good company. I’m game, if you are. Could be fun.