Eye on London's Gearbox Records

This is a story you will like! About a decade ago former punk and jazz drummer Darrel Sheinman decided to start a new record label and release previously unreleased live recordings.

It was going to be a "hobby" type operation with the first vinyl release being BBC Jazz For Moderns a 1962 recording of British tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes who passed away in 1973. It sold out.

Encouraged by this, Sheinman continued his "hobby" releases. In 2011 while watching Ray Staff at AIR Studios cut lacquers for a vinyl reissue of Jazz Jamaica All Stars'Massive Vol. 1 Sheinman figured he might enjoy running an all-analog recording and lacquer cutting studio. So, using money he'd made in maritime security, in 2012 he assembled in the Tileyard Studios complex in King's Cross, London a collection of vintage and modern gear, and to complete the experience, furniture from the same era.

The studio is equipped with, among other gear, a 1/4" tube-based Studer C37, a 1969 Studer H37 1/2" deck with 3 and 4 track headbocks, and a vintage Haeco Scully cutting lathe (circa 1967) fitted with a Westrex head and cutting amplifiers and everything else vintage needed to create a high quality mastering chain including an ex-DECCA all tube mastering board, a Maselec master control and a vintage Lang Pultec EQ. Monitoring is all Audionote, including a Tomei power amp, M6 tube amp, unspecified Audionote speakers and cables.

Mr. Sheinman is also the main cutting engineer along with Cicely Balston, who has since left to understudy Ray Staff at AIR.

A cozy space you'd like to visit and sit in, right? Since 2009 Gearbox has released a serious of previously unreleased recordings by British and American jazz artists including Joe Harriott, who I'm pretty sure I've written about here somewhere in a review of a living-room based recording, Michael Garrick and Mark Murphy (unknown to me), as well as some new artists.

Apparently in 2016 Mr. Sheinman's high quality vinyl label specializing in relatively obscure artists and recordings has become a success. The Gearbox offices have become a watering hole (well, a whisky drinking hole) for jazz fans who come to listening to original Blue Note LPs.

The entrepreneur has hired Adam Sieff, a former Sony Music jazz director, to be the company's marketing manager and he's got big plans for this year including a budget turntable (!) and a new joint venture label Live At Ronnie Scotts. The famous club has tape recordings of Sonny Rollins, Yusef Lateef, Roland Kirk and Freddie Hubbard, among others that have never before been released.

Best of all, Sheinman "gets it". He's quoted in a MOJO story saying "It's not about quantity. Our ingredients have not been diluted for mass consumption. The majors might think that if it's round, black, flat, 12-inches, then it doesn't matter if it was mastered badly from an MP3. We think all the details are important."

The label has released more than thirty vinyl records and mastered more for other labels interested in an all-analog signal path. The mastering facility has tie-lines to producer Mark Ronson's Zelig Studio next door, and the reciprocal arrangement allows Gearbox to use Ronson's live room to record direct to disc or to 1/4" or 1/2" machines. How great is that?

We've got some Gearbox titles here and will follow up shortly with reviews.

COMMENTS
Bobsblkwax's picture

Are there any US dealers for these titles yet?

Bobsblkwax's picture

Music Direct has some....

gubarenko's picture

So now everyone without experience, but with equipment can cut records? Or Balston cutting and Sheinman just signing?

HalSF's picture

This killjoy comment is what is formally known as a threadcrap.

Toptip's picture

"The mastering facility has tie-lines to producer Mark Ronson's Zelig Studio next door, and the reciprocal arrangement allows Gearbox to use Ronson's live room to record direct to disc or to 1/4" or 1/2" machines. How great is that?"

Mark Ronson is a talented DJ who produced some very catchy hits. But let alone analog, his music barely even uses live instruments...mostly computer generated, sampled melody and a singer. It sounds very good. But a connection to his studio probably does not advance analog.

I once had a rather large friend, she used to eat whatever she felt like but always topped it off with something diet, like frozen yogurt in place of ice cream. As a weight loss regimen, that was not a great success.

Music has become like that too. If the final presentation is on "vinyl," there must be analog magic no matter what greasy digital went into it before. Luckily either way it sounds great and is low calorie.

HalSF's picture

And this sneering off-topic comment is known as a long-winded threadcrap.

Eskisi's picture

The unquestioning faith and lack of humor amongs some of members reminds one of a now famous organization in the Middle East!

DRCope's picture

The connection is to a larger room than Gearbox has within its space. Ronson, his music, choice of instruments, etc... have nothing to do with who's recorded, what they play, what instruments are played, etc. His contribution is room and a run of cable between facilities.

DRCope's picture

These two titles, one of their first and one of their most recent releases are simply astonishing. Great, fun music, high energy performances, life-like sound.

Glotz's picture

Getting really tiring that so many people with the same love of this hobby are so full of hate- for no good reason.

Bob Levin's picture

With that and the all valve/tube mastering chain, this is seriously fantastic news. (I'll check my misgivings at the door about Pultecs.)
Once the Sonny Rollins disc is released, I'm buying a copy and that's that!

isaacrivera's picture

they are imported by Light In The Attic:

http://lightintheattic.net/shop-the-catalog?filter%5Blabels%5D=202

Prices are much lower there. I just placed an order for a few interesting titles.

bongo-hifi's picture

As a subscriber in the UK to Analogue Planet I was until now wondering when you might get around to giving some coverage to Gearbox Records. I have a number of their titles including Jazz Jamaica, Simon Spillet, Binker & Moses and Applewood Road (recorded around a single microphone). These are all new pure AAA recordings and sound exceptional as are the pressings which I understand are done at Optimal in Germany.
Lovers of good music and all analogue records need to check this label out and I would heartily recommend any of the aforementioned titles.
As for the ignorant gripes on here regarding the arrangement with Mick Ronson, this has nothing to do with the recording process. As I understand it, this is simply an arrangement whereby Gearbox uses the Live room and recording spaces at Tileyard studios to connect to Gearboxes vintage AAA recording and mastering equipment. Just because Mick Ronson owns the space doesn't mean he has any malign influence on the recording philosophy of Gearbox.
These are simply great records, properly produced and manufactured by people for whom this is a labour of love.

X