Actually, you'll need to judge for yourself. Many people think old recordings still sound great, and even prefer them.
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My friend... there is a German Label called Nagel Heyer. This label has 100 or so offerings of absolutely stunningly great music that is really, really well recorded. There are some audiophile labels like Mapleshade and Chesky that has recorded largely 3rd/4th tier jazz (mostly really weak music) that is recorded well. But Nagel Hayer is 1st tier awesome jazz recorded wonderfully. You cannot go wrong!
Most jazz recordings since the hifi era that started in teh late 50's, including those in mono, are pretty good quality I think. I enjoy most modern digital remasters of a lot of even older material these days. They are what they are soundwise and though often lacking technically from a hifi perspective, are heirlooms of a prior age that was different and should just be enjoyed for what they are, lots of good often fun music made by a lot of talented individuals that were recorded as well as the technology of the time permitted. Some digital remasters of even very old stuff from the 30s and 40s can sound surprisingly good, though few would be your typical audiophile fare. It all depends on what you find interesting that matters.
Among others, I have the Duke Ellington on Columbia Records Box Set with recordings on it from the 20's through 60's I believe.
THe sound quality of some of the older mono tracks in this set in particular astounds me. It made me realize that there is no reason to put a time boundary on the recordings that one listens to these days. The older the recording, teh more the chance of rediscovering some long lost gem that perhaps only our deceased parents would remember.
"Older Jazz recordings are of poor quality".......?
In the 1950 film "Sunset Blvd." Struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis meets the former silent film star Norma Desmond,"you used to be big". Desmond replies,"I am BIG,it's the PICTURES that got small".
Vintage Jazz recordings just keep getting bigger and bigger,it's just the I pods and DACS that got small.
Sometimes I think older may be better because they didn't have enough technology to mess things up. CD is a good example. Its 16/44 uncompressed. If we had lossy digital compression at the time when CD was developed, Redbook CD would have probably never happened. We would have went directly to MP-3's.
"Older Jazz recordings are of poor quality"
Let me offer a different point of view that older recordings (not only jazz) could be, and are, superior in many cases:
First, all the musicians were in the studio or on stage playing together as a group--there's something organic about that vs. the synthetic of overdubs, track bouncing, mix down, etc. The event was recorded in real time so it starts with a sonic purity of performance.
Second, the recording equipment chains were relatively short and pure. Mic to mic pre-amp, to mix console to master tape. Very little signal processing compared to later years.
Third, because that chain was all analog, there was no decimation processing. Once mastered the next phase is reproduction.
Pressing to vinyl, done well, is also a pretty short "chain" from lacquer to master to mother to stamper. There is some signal processing when creating the lacquer master--RIAA and some frequency extreme limiting but that's to ensure the vinyl is practically playable.
At its essence, with fewer "moving parts" in the recording and reproduction process, there were fewer places to go wrong. Try to listen to the Rudy Van Gelder recordings--they are a great starting point for "older" jazz well recorded.
Look for the Concord recordings made at Penny Lane studios in NYC with Ed Trabanco as engineer.There was a run of a few years that Concord did most of their NYC based recordings with this studio and this engineer. Sensational,organic,living,breathing recordings that capture the music in all it's acoustic splendor.A good one to start with is the Gerry Mulligan/Scott Hamilton-"soft lights and sweet music",great music and a recording that captures it perfectly.
Stepping back into the time machine...Most of the Japanese produced albums,notably Eastwind and Atlas from the 70's and 80's were carefully miked in the studio and the musicians played what they wanted to and it was a notable combination.
How will the ECM recordings stand up to time? They are like sonic icebergs to me and steer my boat clear of them,and I do own some but the music sounds frozen,they had a good long run,now those lp's seem to find their way into the bargain bins.Time has a way of sorting things out.
10-12 years ago, I posted several lengthy articles about jazz
which were pretty well received by the A-gon membership. You
can probably find them listed under my "Sdcampbell"
name. That said, I'll try to add a few ideas to those above. I
have a large collection of jazz LP's, and some of the best for
both quality of music and sound include:
1. Contemporary Records recordings from the latter 1950's
through the 1970's. In particular, the sessions done by
recording engineer Roy DuNann are excellent. A number of these
lp's have subsequently been remastered and released on high
2. "88" Records, a small Japanese label, has
released some lp's with superior sound quality, featuring
"elder statesmen" of jazz. Great attention was paid
to sound quality, and if this appeals to you go to the
website for "441records.com".
3. Verve Records, owned and operated at one time by Norman
Granz, has some first-rate lp's, many of which have been
remastered and issued on heavy virgin vinyl. You can find
these lp's for sale at Analog Sounds; Elusive Disc; and
4. Pablo Records, also owned by Norman Granz, did some superb
small group jazz recordings by some of the world's best
musicians. Check out the lp's by Art Tatum, Zoot Sims, Oscar
Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Pass, Count Basie, and other
5. Concord Records has already been mentioned, but let me
close by mentioning some of the labels that released generally
superior jazz lp's: Muse; Constellation; Palo Alto Jazz
(short-lived label owned by Dr. Herb Wong); Pacific Jazz;
Riverside; Prestige; and the following European-based labels:
Black Lion; Soul Note; and SteepleChase.
6. Although already mentioned above, it bears repeating: the
Blue Note recordings made by Rudy van Gelder. The current
reissue program has some great stuff.
Here's something that was an absolute truth for me. Older Jazz records (early '60's and before) suffered from a lack of bass content. To my ears, most acoustic Jazz recordings (virtually all of them) seemed to have had this muddy bass 'presence' but lacked in definition, melody, and impact. It truly wasn't until I got into better gear (namely, turntables) that I realized the bass was there all along!!
"Jazz at the Pawn Shop" syndrome.
The music was well recorded, and so the album is used endlessly to demo equipment. Pity the performance is crap.
Jazz IS all about the performance, and the performers interacting. And not much about 'sonic candy'.
A huge amount of really great jazz was recorded on 78
s, and basically all you can do to hear those is to listen to a transcription from someone's old 78 to CD, or to LP reissues still from 78 sources.
Then the late 40's and all of the 50's is still mono.
To ignore that music? wow.
As always, Elizabeth tells it like it is !
I like to listen to Jazz because it is fascinating to listen to 5 different guys playing 5 different instruments
play the same 8 bars is such creative ways not only in their solos, but in how they back up other players in idiosyncratic ways through different modes and changes.
And how such great masters like Horace Silver,Jackie McLean, Sonny Clark et al can say SO much in so few notes!
Similar ,to my ears anyway, to how the greatest classical pianists often say the most between notes.
Pity that "Jazz at the Pawnshop" performance turned out like grandma's jello mold.Arne Domnerus (alto saxophone) and Bengt Hallberg (piano) are so much better than that recording portrays. Both were leading lights of Swedish Jazz since the 50's.Domnerus(d.2008) was an exceptional player with a distinctive sound and Hallberg (d.2013) was a true world class pianist.
Both were firmly rooted in the Bop tradition and as they became older they leaned more to a refined,mainstream formula.
Sadly,they WILL be judged by this one performance that says nothing about a distinctive and unusual approach to Jazz and improvisation that is based on the Swedish "Folksong" tradition, and can be heard on many of their other recordings and other recordings by Swedish artists.
What truly sets these musicians apart from most other international Jazz artists is their ability to integrate the haunting and forlorn quality of much of this Swedish music and base their compositions around these distinct melodies.Baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin may be the best example with his "Danny's Dream" for metronome Records in the 1950's.This performance was filled with great emotion, austerity and a profound detachment that merges with the visual images of Bergman's "Seventh Seal" from the same period.Like American Jazz,it defines a national Art experience,and a story of a time and a place.
OK,Back to higher resolution Jazz,and better than that,back to Mono.
It's not hard to play 78 rpm records. Just pick up any old ceramic cart table with 78 rpm speed and reversible stylus for 78s and connect to any line level input. No phono pre needed. They'll sound better than ever on your shiny modern system. Lots of unique rare gems to sample. I convert mine to digital up front and play off my music server from there. Try it you'll like it. Oh and welcome back Liz.
It is hard to lump a whole label like ECM together. There is a lot of great interplay, and great musicianship over the years. Some may not be what you favor, but thats music.
Another nice sounding label is CrissCross.
as my reference disc I use;
Jamie Cullum- Twentysomething CD/SACD (2004) Verve
this is a killer release totally recorded in the analog domain for compact disc. The result is simply outstanding!
The best and last track on the disc is a "live" offering from the BBC studio- 1 take, minimal microphone usage. Test drive it for yourself. Happy Listening!
Xrcds or anything utilizing K2 mastering always sound good to me...Big band era has some seminal releases but often subpar sonics...like others have stated.
..late 1950s on up is usually hi quality recording...note-im a jazz enthusiast and not a scholar... But sold advice from jazzheads so far...I also have some Concord releases... Impeccable sound
As has been pointed there are a lot of very good sounding "older" Jazz recordings; albeit, and thankfully, with a different sonic aesthetic than the squeaky clean sound of some modern or "audiophile" recordings which doesn't serve the music nearly as well. Here are some recs (in no particular order) with outstanding sound and which are a good primer for jazz novices, and welcome to the wonderful world of Jazz:
Oliver Nelson "Blues And The Abstract Truth"
Art Pepper "Meets The Rhythm Section"
Wayne Shorter "Atlantis"
Sonny Rollins "Way Out West"
Chick Corea "Three Quartets"
Kenny Barron "Live At Fat Tuesday's"
Stan Getz "The Lost Sessions"
John Coltrane "Soultrane"
Pepper Adams "Urban Dreams"
Paul Desmond "My Funny Valentine"
Sarah Vaughn "Live In Japan"
Cannonball Adderly Qt with Nancy Wilson
Miles Davis "Someday My Prince Will Come"
Bill Evans "Quintessense"
Freddie Hubbard "Open Sesame"
Thanks everyone! I like that it was brought to light a few times about the recording of live jazz and how the vibe is different because of the musicians feeding and playing off of one another vs. recorded in a studio. I'm also hearing that Jazz in the 50's-60's has a different flavor or style compared to todays jazz.
Thanks again for giving me a different perspective on this topic. I suppose like any thread with good responses, it just leaves me with more questions than I initially had. You'll probably see me post some more threads pertaining to Jazz but not until I research the Archives some more.
Good to see (?) you again Elizabeth! I had been wondering where you were.
" I like that it was brought to light a few times about the recording of live jazz and how the vibe is different because of the musicians feeding and playing off of one another vs. recorded in a studio"
I always like live recordings for exactly that reason, but I think that given the improvisational aspects of Jazz in particular and how audience interaction can become a factor in that as well, I tend to prefer live Jazz recordings over studio ones the most.
Same as in classical music, everyone has to be perfect. The Emerson String Qt gets best reviews in the world, I've seen them live 3-4 times, like listening to a giant player piano. note perfect, zero soul.
Thinking about b.s. music , Bach must be the least b.s. composer of all time, no matter where he goes or does everything else stays in perfect balance , like God's own kaleidoscope.
Schubert, I sometimes enjoy the Emerson's recordings (haven't heard them live since the early 80's) but I agree that they get an inordinate amount of praise if not a free pass. Their Art of the Fugue CD sounds like a keyboard synthesizer to me. As far as younger quartets go, you might enjoy the Miro Quartet. With the demise of the Guarneri they are becoming my go-to group.
Thanks Tosta, I haven't heard the Miro but will check them out, and yes, the Guarneri had soul in spades !
My faves were the Lindsay and above all the long-gone Hungarian whose Beethoven and Bartok cycles are on Vox are to die for.
The Hungarian Schubert "Death and the Maiden " on Vox is perhaps my most treasured LP.
Here's some older jazz recordings that have fantastic sound ... if your system is up to the challenge.