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LJC’s BARGAIN BASEMENT
Not every collector has deep-pockets for trophy records. Searching for exciting jazz-on-vintage-vinyl on a tight budget can often lead you into disappointing reissue territory, but great sounding music can still be found, if you know where to look, and what to avoid. Introducing a new feature for the budget-conscious collector: the LJC
Cheapskate Bargain Basement Collection – exceptional sound quality on vinyl on a budget. First up, the tiny 70’s Artists House label.
Selection: Autumn Leaves: (long! but good, 15 minutes)
Thad Jones (cornet), Mel Lewis (drums), Harold Danko (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), recorded live at Airliner Lounge, Miami, Florida, September 24, 1977, engineer Mack Emerman, mastered by Phil Stern and Ed Michel, mixed at Kendun Recorders, released by Fantasy Records CA.
Brother of pianist Hank and drummer Elvin, Thad Jones featured on several well-regarded early Blue Note titles that generally end up in the $1,000 – $2,000 bin, The Magnificent Thad Jones (clearly modesty was never Jones strong point) and Detroit New York Junction. However neither grace my collection aside from a rather lack-lustre Japanese copy of Detroit, so this session caught my attention, being a smaller ensemble format rather than one of Jones trademark big band.
This session was recorded in 1977, shortly before Jones moved to Denmark, where he went on to help shape the Danish Radio Big Band and his own big band, Eclipse. Other Americans musicians resident in Denmark at the time included Horace Parlan, Sahib Shihab, Ed Thigpen and Idrees Sulieman. At a time when big band had largely fallen out of favour in the US, Europe was big enough to support two big bands: Danish Radio and the excellent Francy Bolland.
Jones-Lewis-Reid-Danko- Quartet is a delightful laid back club set, bluesy meets straight ahead. Whilst musically quite satisfying, the sound quality is outstanding, and once again thrusts you into the club front row, reaching for the now rapidly emptying whisky decanter. Bartender, another single malt. No, make that a double.
Sound Engineering Porn (Parental Advisory)
See below, now that’s what I call audio-porn! The drum kit is miked at every point, bass is direct to console recorded without noise reduction, the piano gets two mikes, even the audience gets a Neuman. I love it when they talk microphones, I don’t understand any of it but I know what I hear. And audiophiles weep, if vinyl is not enough for you, you could order reel to reel tape one-to-one from the master at 15 i.p.s. That is probably better than “musicians in the room”, more like joining the musicians on stage.
Hey, get the Artist House designer in here, my office now.
Thad’s trademark obscuring hat, that’s ok, but sponsorship by his dentist, can we discuss a cut? And who chose the yellow? I know the colour-wheel Blue and Yellow are opposites, but here? It’s horrible. Yes, I know this is 1977 but I have to tell you: horrible doesn’t become fashionable for another 30 years.
Vinyl: Artists House AH3
The link between Artists House and Fantasy Records is the presence of Ed Michel, late of the Impulse label, who survived the acquisition of everything in sight by Fantasy in the early ’70s, including Prestige. Anything to do with ’70s and ’80s Fantasy Records I tend to avoid, with just a few exceptions, often disappointing. Fortunately I had no idea who was behind the Artists House label, merely that this was a very inexpensive toe in the water with a label that had been recommended to me. The Artists House label was short-lived, managing a catalogue of only fourteen titles, including Andrew Hill and Ornette Coleman, and an excellent Art Pepper.
A superb piece of audio engineering and pressing but no distinguishing marks in the runout. I guess the artists and engineers get the credit, “pressing” plant was not worthy of mention.
The Artists House label was recommended to me a while back by reader Andy C, but I had never come across one in the wild until this came up on Ebay, caught my curiosity, and I took a punt, no other bidders.
The sound is among the best I have heard on this sort of vintage vinyl. Astonishing sense of live presence. Coming hot on the heels of the last post Art Pepper Live at the Village Vanguard, yet another excuse for a night in with the hi fi. More single malt required.