The New Standard   Is Rock Hard Jazz

You could produce a jazz record today using ProTools at 192/24 or lower resolution, create a CD master, have it manufactured and then release it. To get in on the “vinyl resurgence”, you could use that 16 bit/44.1k master to cut lacquers and press records at a commercial pressing plant. It’s done all too often, I’m sure.

Or, you could hire a jazz engineering great to record and mix it minimally miked live to two-track analog tape and then have it carefully mastered from that analog tape by a veteran cutting engineer at a first class facility and press it on 180g vinyl at a premium quality pressing plant.

But these days would anyone go through the hassle and expense of doing that for a jazz record not likely to sell in great numbers? The producers Jamie Saft and Bobby Previte did just that for this double LP set (also on CD) released on the RareNoiseRecords label (they are also two-thirds of the trio that performs on the record).

They called upon engineering great Joe Ferla to record the album. If you’re not familiar, check out Ferla’s recording credits.

The jazz artists he’s recorded and/or mixed include Jim Hall, Betty Carter, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, John Scofield, Paul Motian, Cassandra Wilson, Bill Frisell, The Holly Cole Trio, Dave Douglas, Christian McBride, Leon Parker, James Carter and on and on. He’s also recorded Marianne Faithful, Horace Silver, B.B. King, Foreigner and Sonic Youth among others.

The musicians are all veterans of the downtown New York City avant-garde “loft scene” and will be familiar names to some analogplanet readers. Pianist Jamie Saft has recorded with John Zorn and released his own albums on Zorn’s Tzadik label. He’s also recorded with Bad Brains, Beastie Boys and The B-52s. Bassist Steve Swallow’s been in groups and recorded with Jimmy Guiffre, Carla Bley and Gary Burton. Drummer Bobby Previte has also collaborated with Zorn among many others and has an extensive discography. (Were this a “jazz-centric” site, none of these names would need identification).

Before reviewing this record, Stereophile writer Fred Kaplan spoke with Ferla about the production. I’m using these facts with Fred’s permission: The recording at Potterville International Sound, NY (Saft’s home studio) was live to 2-track ½” Ampex tape recorder with no EQ, nor compression, just “a little reverb” and no post-production effects. Previte’s drums placed in an isolation booth were miked with an overhead ribbon a pair of Beyer M-88s on the tom-toms and kick drum and a Neumann KM-184 on snare and high hat.

Beyer’s website describes the ‘60s era M-88 as having “earned its place in history in the Kick Drum….resulting in the tight ‘thump’ without the need for complex signal processing.” After you hear the monster kick drum sound on this record you will not need convincing of that!

Ferla some time ago switched from analog tape to DSD and 96/24 PCM but returned here to analog tape because this record is his engineering swan song: he called it quits after this record to concentrate on his guitar playing. What a way to go!

Seven of the mostly blues-based tunes on the double LP set are Saft’s. The others are collaborative improvisations that keep relatively swinging but not what I’d characterize as light grooves.

The goal is the production of thrust and power anchored by Swallow’s prominent, bass lines. The avant-garde, experimental music these guys play “downtown” are MIA on this set of straight-ahead tunes played with muscular swagger.

Saft is mostly light-handed on piano, hovering deftly on a chord and then rapidly “tickling the ivories” to produce a sonic shimmer (a move he repeats too often IMO) but when he switches to organ on “Blues Shuffle” he has a good time laying it on thick and sounding more like a rocker.

Previte’s drumming throughout is equally and pleasurably “thick and rich” and miked to take full advantage of the weight and power of his choices. This is a jazzy record that will shake your listening room. You’ll need but a few bars into the opener “Clarissa” to figure out that Swallow’s electric bass is plugged directly into the board and that Ferla’s not interested in creating an airy picture with strong L/R stereo spread.

The trio is centered and exceptionally well-focused on the stage with Previte’s drums sitting behind Saft’s keyboards—whatever the reality of the instrumental placement in the room. Only an occasional cymbal hit moves to the side yet there’s a palpable sense of space and three-dimensionality. The goal here is a combination of transparency and visceral power that the musicians and Ferla achieve fully.

Each listen reminded of a high-viscosity, far more dangerous and heavy sounding version of Modeski, Martin & Wood. Instead of The New Standard, they could have called this album No Pussyfooting, but the name’s already been taken.

The album is available as a “combo” (Double 180g vinyl+CD digipack+MP3+FLAC download), as just double vinyl+MP3, as CD digipack (strictly old school), as HD FLAC 96/24 download, as FLAC 16/44.1 download (for those who think 16 bit/44.1 is “perfect”) and as MP3 only, for now, all exclusively from the RareNoiseRecords website.

I originally wrote :"not sure where the record was manufactured (I think Pallas) but the copy I got was well-pressed and very quiet" but the producer corrects me below. It was pressed at GZ in the Czech Republic. I thought that a possibility but usually there's a "GZpress" stamp on records pressed there. This time not. The New Standard is definitely a record you’ll want to play for people who think vinyl can’t produce sensational deep bass and/or wide dynamic swings. You'll also definitely want to play it for your own pleasure.

COMMENTS
pmatt's picture

Nice to be able to check out clips of some of the tunes on the Rare Noise website. I've always loved recordings that capture the space in which they are made. If I had to be nit picky on this one, that monster kick drum sounds more like it's bleeding through the overhead and snare/hi hat mics. Such a contrast to the more closely mic'd sound of the snare/hi hat. Looking forward to the release and listening to the whole record (from this very armchair).

gbruzzo's picture

to Michael Fremer for the considerate and loving review of The New Standard.

Part of the vinyl cutting session (at Masterdisk NYC) was filmed - see http://youtu.be/lEdD5wPNaCs
TNS was pressed in the Czech Republic by GZ from lacquers sent by Masterdisk.

I received the mix from Jamie Saft December 31st 2013. Having collaborated with Jamie on a previous recording (Slobber Pup / Black Aces with Joe Morris on Guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass and Balazs Pandi on drums) - I immediately sat down to listen attentively (companion for that listening session was a bottle of The Chocolate Bloc, a "vigorous" blend of Shiraz, Grenach, Cabernet, Cinsault and Viogner produced by the Boekenhoutskloof Wineries, Western Cape, South Africa). By the time the listening session (and the bottle) had come to their inevitable end, I was on the floor both hallucinating and planning an urgent release of the album with Jamie.

Knowing that it may give others as much pleasure as it gave us is half the answer to the question "why would anyone go through the hassle and expense of doing that for a jazz record not likely to sell in great numbers?" The other half is simply "because it had to be done".

Many many thanks.

Giacomo Bruzzo

Paul Boudreau's picture

"Instead of The New Standard, they could have called this album No Pussyfooting, but the name’s already been taken."

So has "The New Standard" - see Herbie Hancock's 1996 album of the same name:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Standard_%28album%29

gbruzzo's picture

Herbie Hancock wanted to establish a new standard by transcribing pop music into jazz.

Jamie Saft's use of the title "The New Standard" refers to his notion of "New Standard of Excellence".

regards

Giacomo Bruzzo

Michael Fremer's picture
missed that one!
Paul Boudreau's picture

point of interest, no negative criticism implied!

conjotter's picture

Hey Mike.

Does Rare Noise have a U.S. website?

The link to order is in the U.K., priced in pounds.

gbruzzo's picture

Hello there Mike

RareNoise is a UK company. Stock bought from the RareNoise Ecommerce is priced in £ (GBP) and ships from the UK (London).

You may indeed find our stock in the USA - online retailers (amazon and similar), shops and via our distributor in California (www.darla.com).

Kind regards

Giacomo Bruzzo
RareNoiseRecords

PeterPani's picture

But today in Vienna we had on air a very interesting comparison of the new - in all the media - highly appraised Callas Remastered box. It was compared with earlier CD's a n d vinyl. And this on the most important Austrian radio station, which is still aired in FM and received with my good old tubed Leakthrough tuner. You can imagine the conclusion and it was very clear in front of the speakers: nothing beats the vinyl. Even when playing Callas "difficult to replay" voice, digital remastering at highest level is no contender. Who is able to understand German - the program is still 7 days on the "radiothek" (logically by now only in digital format): http://oe1.orf.at/programm/395701

my new username's picture

... that recorded drums and analog recording goes together like bread and butter. Musicians sometimes pick entire studios all for how it and the people within it can capture the drums. And yet digital wins the day for "good enough." Regrettable, isn't it?

Steelhead's picture

Played the Sheffield labs Drum record recently and man oh man talk about a "realistic" recording.

Jack Gilvey's picture

Ordered the lp set (of course) from a place on Amazon that ships from the US. Really like the clips,the thick sound and heavy bass and drums. Accessible, too - deep jazz is lost on me. Supporting production like this is worth it as well. Enough PT already.

cgh's picture

Great guy. Totally underrated. He wrote the first Real Book!

pmatt's picture

re: analogue recording and drums. Yes! Whether it's a given studio or a given space. Try to imagine, for example, John Bonham recorded in today's digital and compressed paradigm. All would be lost. Or even funnier... imagine Elvin Jones deconstructed with close mics and noise gates.

Catcher10's picture

From darla.com looking forward to spinning this.....Thanks for the review!

tresaino's picture

Me too, vinyl still on its way, I downloaded the 24/96 flac in the meantime, and am not pleased with it, neither musically nor sound wise. Knowing how much you like good jazz Michael, am surprised you gave this one such ratings.

isaacrivera's picture

Sampled on Spotify, which is what I keep a Spotify account for, liked it a lot and ordered directly from Darla.com.

cymbop's picture

Quote: Each listen reminded of a high-viscosity, far more dangerous and heavy sounding version of Modeski, Martin & Wood.

Michael, you ignorant slut.

Jack Gilvey's picture

Been streaming the album on Tidal but these take it to another level. Somehow the bass seems even more powerful and defined - incredible on my KAB SL-1200/DL-103R/Cinemag SUT. As you note, this is a great album for folks who think LP's can't do bass - as if discos weren't proof enough decades ago.

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