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Founded during WWII by Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun, sons of the first Turkish ambassador to the US. The label’s recording engineer Tom Dowd played a crucial role in Atlantic’s success. Dowd joined Atlantic as a full-time employee in 1954, when the label’s New York office still sometimes doubled as its recording studio. He became the architect of the Atlantic sound, bringing an unparalleled clarity and concision to the recording of r&b and jazz.
“Tom pushed those pots [volume controls] like a painter sorting colors,” wrote Jerry Wexler in his 1993 autobiography Rhythm and The Blues, co-authored with David Ritz. “He turned microphone placement into an art…When it came to sound, he displayed an exquisite sensitivity.”
In an October 1999 interview for MIX magazine, Dowd noted that “in February of ‘58, the first [Atlantic] session on 8-track was Lavern Baker. Within the next 90 days, I went through Bobby Darin, the Coasters, Charlie Mingus, Ray Charles…I would be sitting in the studio doing the Coasters at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with Mike [Stoller] and Jerry [Leiber]. Ahmet would call me up and say, ‘Ten o’clock tonight, we’re going to do Mingus.’You want culture shock? Go from the Coasters to Charlie Mingus in ten hours!”
During his Atlantic years, Tom Dowd engineered landmark sessions by John Coltrane ( “Giant Steps” and “My Favorite Things”), Modern Jazz Quartet, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus
Atlantic was one of the first independent labels to make recordings in stereo.Dowd used a portable stereo recorder which ran simultaneously with the studio’s existing mono recorder. In 1953 Atlantic issued the first LPs recorded in the so-called binaural recording system, using two microphones spaced at approximately the distance between the human ears, with the left and right channels cut as two separate, parallel grooves. This required a special tone-arm fitted with dual needles for playback, and it was not until around 1958 that the single stylus microgroove system (in which the two stereo channels were cut into either side of a single groove) became the industry standard. (Source: Wiki)
Atlantic Labels Cheat Sheet
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