Roland Kirk: The Forgotten Jewel of Jazz.

Rahsaan Roland KirkRoland Kirk (1935-1977) was a Jazz artists with some very unique techniques. For starters, one of the most well known qualities that Roland had was the ability to play multiple instruments at the same time. Typcially, he devised a system in which he could wear two or three alto-saxophones and put all the reeds in his mouth and play various harmonies with each instrument.

Roland grew up in Columbus Ohio in a neighbor hood known as flytown. He became blind at a very young age due to poor medical treatment. Roland often preferred to be the lead member in a band, rarely showing up as a sideman in a band. However, he worked with Quincy Jones on a project that became popularized by the film Austin powers.

His influences were rooted in soul jazz and hard bop, however, he had a vast understanding of Jazz history, which gave him a competitive edge when it came to composing. Like a lot of other musicians in the 60s, Kirk was outspoken about political issues and civil rights. He would use comedic banter and rants as a part of his show to attract more people.

In 1975, Kirk suffered a stroke which paralyzed one side of his body. However, he still managed to still play music and record albums. He then modified his instruments so he could play his instruments with one arm. In 1977, Kirk died from another stroke after performing in Bloomington, indiana.

“He typically appeared on stage with all three horns hanging around his neck, as well as a variety of other instruments, including flutes and whistles, and often kept a gong within reach. Kirk also played clarinetharmonicaEnglish horn, and recorders, and was a competent trumpeter. He often had unique approaches, using a saxophone mouthpiece on a trumpet or playing nose flute. He additionally used many non-musical devices, such as alarm clocks, sirens, or a section of common garden hose (dubbed “the black mystery pipes”). His studio recordings also used tape-manipulated musique concrète and primitive electronic sounds” (Wikipedia)

Listen to the solo starting at about 2:00, You will hear two lines of saxophones happening simultaneously, which, are both played by Kirk. It’s quite an impressive feat of how he switches the lead melody from one instrument to another in order to create a new, neat texture in the music.

In the video below, you are able to see the technique in action. He puts one hand on Sax A and another hand on Sax B and then blows into both while maintaining some sort of chord within the key of the composition.

Another interesting element of his talents is his circular breathing. He utilizes this technique in order to create “Un-humanistic” breathing patterns. He has been known to hold a single note for twenty minutes! Something that also defines his musical quality is the phrasing he is able to do because of his circular breathing. You can really hear the impact of this technique when he plays various phrases on the flute.

INTERESTING TIDBIT: He was the flute player on the Quincy Jones track “Soul Bossa Nova”, which was re-popularized in the Austin Powers films.


“Rahsaan Roland Kirk.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)

Jazz is a beautiful mixture of composition and improvisation and has such rich textures that shape the sound of Jazz. One of these textures is known by the name, Jelly Roll Morton.

Jelly Roll Morton was a “Creole” composer…

Creole –

  • A person of European ancestry born in the West Indies or Spanish America.

  • A person descended from or culturally related to the original French settlers of the southern United States, especially Louisiana. (Dictionary)

who learned from and worked with black New Orleans musicians. His heritage was that of French Haitian decent and he had changed his name from LaMothe to Morton.

“One of the most colorful characters in American Music , Morton worked as a bordello pianist , pimp, pool hall hustler and comedian before establishing himself as a fastidious musician and recording artist–a pianist, singer, composer, arranger, and music theorist. He was also a diamond tooth dandy insufferable braggart,occultist, and memoirist.” (Deveaux, pg.65)

Jelly Roll made continuous claims that he was the true inventor of jazz, stating that he had been born in 1885, when in fact, he was born in 1890. Even though he cannot be attributed to the invention of jazz, he certainly propelled it into new heights and new possibilities, in a time when nobody really knew what Jazz was or was going to be.


Chicago, 1922, Morton was 33 years old when he spent 2 hot afternoons at the ramshackle Gennett Records Studio in Richmond, Indiana. It was in this studio he recorded with a very talented white band named “The New Orleans Rhythm Kings.”. One of the songs they recorded was called the “King Porter Stomp.”

A current Jazz standard – “King Porter Stomp.”

This is a great example of how he took “…the multiple theme structure and syncopated rhythms of ragtime to a new level, emphasizing a foot-tapping beat (he called “Stomp”) and tricky syncopations.”.


The Red Hot Peppers

In 1926, Jelly roll started playing with ensembles of 7-8 people and he referred to his group as “The Red Hot Peppers”.

It should also be noted that this was the same time that the “Victor Talking Machine Company” switched from acoustical to electrical technology, which made the recordings have a vivid fidelity, which was unlike anything ever recorded before in Jazz.

“What Morton’s music embodies above all is the raw, restless social energy of the early years of the century, when Jazz was a new hustle and the rules had to be made before they could be broken.”. (Deveaux, pg. 65)


Dead Man’s Blues

This is another Jazz standard that Jelly Roll is responsible for composing.

“A number of blues choruses in collective New Orleans style, this is Morton’s take on the New Orleans burial ritual. This is highly organized with even the bass lines written out. There is also an overlay of ragtime structure with various sets of choruses as ragtime strains.” (Deveaux, pg. 66)


The End of Morton

In the 1930’s, Jelly Roll’s music became dismissed as “hopelessly Outdated” and he would never know how impactful he truly was on the world of Jazz. At the end of his life, he was broke, ignored and belittled. He was truly one of the guiding figures in the shaping of the Jazz art form and is remembered now as “genuinely original, thoughtful, sensitive and permanent artist.”(Deveaux, pg.67)

Here is an extra tidbit to satisfy your craving for a little more Jelly Roll Morton.


DeVeaux, Scott Knowles, and Gary Giddins. Jazz: Essential Listening. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

“Yahoo Dictionary Web Search.” Creole. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <;_ylt=A86.JydAvNZUXQMAfeInnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTB0aWRtNmFyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1lIUzAwMV8x?p=Creole&amp;.sep=>.



The Viola

the viola

In an orchestra this is probably one of the most ignored instruments of all time. It’s one of those instruments that if you are not familiar with the tonality of the instrument, it’s easy to forget. However, much like how an electric bass adds depth to a recording and if taken out you notice substantially, there is a similar effect when taking the Viola out of the orchestra.

The alto of the choir

Viola music is usually notated in the alto clef, but to avoid ledger lines, the upper notes are sometimes written in treble clef.

Viola Range


Violin VS. Viola

“The viola is the alto voice of the string orchestra and its playing technique is similar Lo that of the violin. There are some problems to be kept in mind when writing for viola. The most obvious is the size of the instrument. It is quite a bit larger, sometimes as much as three to four inches, than the violin, and this means that the hand must stretch more to get the intervals in tune.” (For a more in-depth look into the differences between the Violin and Viola, Check out this article.)

Qualities of the Viola

1. The viola bow is slightly heavier and thicker.

2. The strings are also heavier; therefore, they speak a bit more reluctantly and require that the player “dig in” a bit to make them sound. Hence, the lighter bowings are more difficult to produce.

3. Harmonics are easier to play because the thicker strings pro­ duce them more reliably.



“The fingering system is identical to that of the violin, and the same multiple-stop patterns are available on the viola, but a fifth lower. Similarly, all the ideas already discussed about half-positions, chro­ matic fingerings, pizzicato, and other color effects apply equally to this alto instrument of the violin family.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.03.00 PM

The C-string

“The only string not found on the violin, it is, therefore, the most characteristic of the four. It has been described by the Belgian musi­ cologist-composer Francois Gevaert as “somber, austere, and some­ times even forbidding.”

The G- and D-strings

“The least characteristic, these may be called the “accompaniment strings,” because it is on these that the violist performs the many accompanying figures composers have traditionally given his instru­ ment. But they can also be exploited for their dark quality, as in the following solo”

The A-string

While not as brilliant as the E-string on the violin, the A-string is, nevertheless, quite piercing and nasal in quality. It combines beau­ tifully with woodwind instruments and, in some cases, doubles well with soft trumpets and trombones. Because of its carrying power, it has been used a great deal in solo viola passages.

The Solo Viola

The Baroque masters wrote many concertos for the viola, and some pre-Classical composers followed their lead. However, after that period, except for the Symphonie concertante of Mozart for violin and viola, and the solo part in Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, there is little significant solo viola music until Wagner and Strauss in the late nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, however, the viola has finally achieved an almost equal status with its relatives hi the bowed string group. We could cite as proof works like Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, Bartok’s and Walton’s viola concertos, Der Schwanendreher by Hindemith, and Flos Campi by Vaughan Wil­

 Overall, the Viola is an important part of any orchestra and should not be underestimated at the quality it can produce and it’s beautiful tone.

Autumn Suite

Comparative Analysis of Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring – Part 1: Adoration Of The Earth Dance Of The Young Girls”

It was much easier to define each conductor of this piece if I used a specific section. In the audio tracks, Bernsteins is about a three minute section opposed to Boulez’s minute and a half rendition and Solti’s two minute version.

Each conductor has their own style when it comes to re-working someones masterpiece and Rite of Spring is no exception.

Leonard Bernstein’s version of the piece is at the pace that I have come to love for the music. I like that the music is a little slower than most renditions of the work. Because of it’s slow pace, accents are brought out into the score more and create more tension and dynamics.  I believe it is the speed that actually helps the movement in the piece. Overall, the balance of the instruments and the dynamics of the orchestration is amazing. Also, it should be notes that out of all three versions of this song, this sounds the most polished and well recorded. One final thing that sticks out to me from this piece is the clarity of the instruments, specifically the brass. Because the brass is so clean and clear, it create more tension in the music as you continue listening.

The second recording is the same section from a conductor named Pierre Boulez.  His version of this piece was much faster. I found that this version of the piece was not as dramatic or dynamic as Bernstein’s version. This seemed very technical and in a way, it seemed to be a way for Boulez to show off how fast he could do the piece.  It’s obvious that he demanded perfection from his orchestra due to the lack of emotional content that is present in this very dense, overbearing version of the piece. Something else that was disappointing in this piece is that every instrument was intense. It was disorienting to be on the listening end of this song because it became harder and harder to enjoy due to the fact that every instrument that could make sound was blaring. Also, I couldn’t help but think of Beethoven after he had gone deaf. It seemed like the orchestra was desperately trying to keep up with the perfection and tenacity that Pier was bringing to the composition.

In Georg Solti’s rendition of the piece, compared to the other two this one falls somewhere in the middle. There are strong accents to each pulse within this movement which is great and it also has extreme dynamic range between instruments. This rendition also seemed to have a pretty flawless orchestra performing for it and was technically perfect however it was able to capture the emotional context of the music. Also, something that I really enjoyed was the additional layers in the strings section. Solti really brought out the tremolo in the strings and this added a lot of depth and clarity to this particular part of the movement.

After listening to each of these recordings and seeing which each one had to offer, I would say that my favorite version is Leonard Bernstein’s rendition. I enjoy the amount of dynamic range, the recording quality of the piece, the space of the orchestra in the recording and the overall tempo. When I first heard his version of the score it really shoot my emotions. I was unprepared for the pure raw power of the dissonant chords and the intense bass. I really enjoyed each version, but I particularly loved Bernstein’s version.

Digital Instruments In A Very Real World.

Music In Flims

When films arrived on the scene in the early 20th century one thing was established very quickly…what do we do about this loud projector noise!  The solution? Music. Putting music over movies has been a practice almost as long as movies have been around.

“Before the age of recorded sound in motion pictures, efforts were taken to provide suitable music for films, usually through the services of an in-house pianist or organist, and, in some cases, entire orchestras, typically given cue sheets as a guide.” (Wikipedia)

Orchestral scoring was once viewed as a very specific skill and potentially expensive. In the 1950’s you had Bernard Herrmann scoring Psycho with a similar feel to “The Rite Of Spring”.

In the 1970’s you had John Williams scoring Star Wars and Jaws.

The Invention of Midi

In the early 1980’s a brand new technology was created called MIDI. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It’s primary use was that of synthesizers, which we should all be familiar with because of the “sound” of the 80’s.

MIDI “… is a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface and connectors and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another. A single MIDI link can carry up to sixteen channels of information, each of which can be routed to a separate device.” (Wikipedia)

The Digital Impact

Over the last 10-12 years the digital impact of the computer world has really taken off.  I remember when I used the built-in MIDI on my original PC and it sounded awful. As time progressed, people started to use MIDI while composing for film and television. Ultimately it made it possible for a low-budget show or movie to be scored at a fraction of the cost. Most recently, this is how a lot of professionals have begun to creat mock-ups of theirs scores and even implemented digital samples into their final mix.

What is a Sampled Instrument?

“A sampled orchestra is a close imitation of a real one, or rather, the special-purpose recording and triggered playback of the sounds of individual orchestral instruments (or section of instruments). The playback of the sounds is accomplished by a new musical performance on a keyboard or with another type of midi- or non-standard digital controller. The way the samples are made ready for a composer’s use – the sound sourcing process – is fairly simple and standard:

First, high-quality recordings of individual notes played by various instruments are made, one by one across their entire musical range, capturing each note performed with different expressions and techniques, possibly using different microphone setups and even various spaces (concert hall, performance stage, studio, etc.).

Secondly, the combination of the hundreds of recorded samples are organized in a digital sample player (hardware or software) in order for the appropriate notes (samples) to be played back when striking the keys across a keyboard (or other midi controller) with various strength.” (Sampled Orchestras)

That explanation is a great introduction to what will be referenced in the rest of this post.  It’s important to note that all of these samples are recorded in various ways and depending on the pack that you purchase, and how you play it, drastically changes the outcome of the final composition.

The Unreal Orchestra (Sampled Instruments)

Hans Zimmer (an Academy Award Winner composer) has always been at the front of digital composing. He is known for mixing the real and unreal world of instruments. In his personal studio he has a massive wall of gear that will ultimately give him the sound he is looking for.

In one of his recent endeavors, he wanted to give people the opportunity to use sampled libraries to create more realistic scores when the budget doesn’t allow for a full orchestral session. The first volume of this has been recently released and you can watch a short video on their concept and the making of their samples below.

This is an all new percussion pack from Hans Zimmer’s collection.

Here is an example of an all orchestral score done with various different sample libraries, including the most recent Hans Drums.

*MIDI Composers Tip

“If I want a dramatic crescendo in the trombones,” says Cornish. “I raise the volume with MIDI, but also I use the mod wheel to crossfade to louder samples, which changes the timbre from light to aggressive — much more realistic.”(The Unreal Orchestra)

Changing Everything

Not only does this affect the big studios, not having to pay for full scored orchestras as often but this has also changed the face of the studio. Dave Porter, known for writing the music for Breaking Bad has a great studio that he made out of his two car garage. He has all the gear he needs and used real instruments combined with sampled instruments to create a seamless musical experience. Check out his studio below!



This revolution of incorporated sampled orchestras into real orchestras and even the lack of real orchestras in todays film and television world is amazing. One of the best things about it is that it allows for young composer especially to get their hands dirty and start composing for short films, student films and even commercials.


Finally, check out action strings.

Week 7: Classical (Orchestral) Music Recording.

When the average person thinks of Classical music, the common stereotype is someone sitting in a comfy chair in a robe with a cigar drinking a glass of scotch. Though this may be an accurate stereotype in some situations, let’s look beyond that. In the realm of Classical music there is one pure truth. Make the recording sound like the live performance.

Classical Music is still one of the purest forms of natural talent and should be treated as such.

“It is not an overdubbed, highly processed sound like some other genres. Any experienced engineer who works in any of these styles will tell you the “Classical” approach is different right at the start of the process in that musicians will always prefer to get it right in the first place: onstage, as an ensemble” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

When you decide to attend a symphonic experience (Seattle Symphony) you have a few expectations. These expectations contain that the audience member expects perfection in the music, skilled talent and an experience that will be a great memory.

“The classical audience comes to expect perfection, as well as a quiet, calm comfortable listening environment. It is that very environment (and performance discipline) that dictates this different approach than all other music recordings.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

The environment is very important for Classical music, most times, the audience goes to a beautiful Hall and sits down in a crowded room and listens to the symphony for a couple of hours. Sometimes, a visual element is also present, I’ve even seen full film scores played while accompanied by the film itself.

When it comes down to recording Classical music, the goal of the engineer is to give the listener that “Live” experience. Even though the listeners say they want a “live” experience, in reality, they actually want a studio experience that sounds live. As an audience member you have a filter that lets you ignore someone sneezing or coughing or dropping something on the ground. In the world of technically dynamic microphones, there is no such luxury or filter.

“…we humans process so many things at once. A well placed, single-source stereo pair of omni-directional microphones knows no such selective/human filtering.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

From my research I found that the most standard way of recording an orchestra has been either with two omni-direction microphones near the sweet spot of the auditorium or a tree-pair (Three microphones) with a left, center and right microphone to capture the orchestra.

“An omni-directional stereo coincident microphone pair is still the main component of our live recordings. But when required, it’s a missed opportunity to not expand the process further with spot mics, sectional, sub-group (and choral) mics, and even ambient mics out in the house – often dedicated to the rear, or ‘surround” component of 5.1 mixes, or just for natural reverberation and applause mics. Modern electronics, preamps and balanced cables with lower noise floors, with unlimited additional “virtual” digital tracks in the recording process all add up to more flexibility, and zero sonic tradeoffs.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

Overall, the quality of recording Classical music is somewhat demanding because of the expectation of the quality of technology. Listeners are wanting an immersive experience when they listen to music and engineers have the ability to accomplish that goal.

Week 6 – Album Review: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus

Live listening notes:

2 trumpet
1 trombone and tuba
3 Reeds
1 Soprano, Baritone Sax and Flute
2 Tenor Sax, Flute
3 Alto sax
Rhythm section
Piano, classical guitar, bass and drums
Recorded in 1963
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
Album first listen
The brass on the hard right is scratchy and bulk.
The stereo field is wide
The constant build creates  tension
The left stereo field has way more movement than the right side at first
There are a lot of slow, methodical phrases
“Back to the drum opening – 12:8, 6:8, 9:8, 3:4 –  whatever musical stenographers may care to title what the composer heard in his head, is part of a very old idea that someday all good music will return from its assorted labels which inhibit it with fashions, styles, and certain celebrated rhythms of pounding exactness that lead this composer to believe that either the musician or the audience playing or liking such repeated debuts of so-called musical inventions must be nuts to need drums, bass, guitar, and piano to pound out the already too obvious time night after night ’til actually if sanity can’t be sustained one begins to like it without twisting or even dancing, popping fingers, or at least working out one’s frenzy in ye old brass bed mama.” (Liner Notes)
The ending of this paragraph is a very true representation of how the music affects the listener. I enjoy that the author stats that one begins to like it without twisting or dancing. It’s such a great statement and straight forward thought.
The music is spread out well through the field.
There is very specific seperation between various frequencies.
“Time, perfect or syncopated time, is when a faucet dribbles from a leaky washer.”(Liner Notes)
This is a great way to look at the elements of this song, the various inflections and uses of time and syncopated rhythms impact the entirety of the composition.
Track 2
Piano heavy still pretty heavy in the left stereo field
The echo and call is great
Lots of sax on the left and brass on the right.
Sounds like footsteps
The muted instruments provide the character
The drums and the muted trumpet. Sounds like a voice talking
The bass line grooves well the whole time
Track 3
Opens with piano very classical with runs and chords
Shock of an entrance
The flute mimics the piano melody line
The tempo changes are fascinating
This melody is my favorite
Utilizing the stereo field
Classical spanish guitar comes in
Clean, clear runs off the original melody line
Mess of sound but somehow consistent
Started loosing attention due to trance
The amount of theme repetition is great.
Bass line going so fast sounds like heavy metal
Track 4
Bursts of instruments
Bass solo clean clear
Never settles
Classical guitar changes with them
The mix hasn’t really changed
Lots of movement, the drums are rolling off the toms
The return to the melody after it’s trip to crazy town was extreme
The copying instruments
The heaviness of the drums coming out of the break were very heavy and pounding.
The muted instruments talk to each other
I love the gaining speed moments into the slow release
The ending with the sax now in the right
Great Quotes in the liner notes:
“music will make another turn in this century so that people will know how serious spontaneous composition “improvisation” really is and not just how loud and long it swings or how we swing and sway.'”(Liner Notes)
This is such a great statement, from the beginning Mingus wanted to challenge the average music listener with his sound. In the end, I believe he did.
“The three reeds, baritone – Jerome Richardson, tenor – Richard Hafer, and alto – Charles Mariano, were placed in what I called a V balance with the tenor sax at the V’s bottom and the baritone and alto closer to the mike. My reason was that I wanted the tenor sax further from the mike, softer of course, if one is inclined to believe that presence need be obvious. The notes written for tenor were considered in the voiced reed section’s overall effect as an illusion of sound-overtones coming through between the baritone and alto that are non-directional so as to give the sound of more than two obvious saxes playing but with possibility of being perhaps four or five.”(Liner Notes)
This is such an interesting way of recording these instruments. The fact that Mingus used overtones in the music in order to make the band seem bigger and more dynamic is incredible.
“Don Butterfield opens on contrabass trombone with pedal point blast. The contrabass trombone to my knowledge is as rare to find as is a player such as Don. He has refused to play the instrument when requested by rock and roll promoters as a gimmick of odd sound that might start a fad and promote the sales of a million or so records. Don, aside from pedal point notes of both contrabass trombone and tuba, is written in counter lead and center tones on tuba to spread my voicings and help form the illusion of spreaded brass or full ensemble. Don plays two tubas at once with one mouthpiece. Yet it’s difficult to catch him doing this. It’s easy when he takes off a night though to realize that last night there were two tubas and tonight there is just one.”(Liner Notes)
The pedal blast is to what I was referring to earlier in this post. It reminded me of the first iterations of Hans Zimmer’s score of Inception. Also, the fact that he was able to play two instruments to help form the illusion of spreader breads is such a great concept and really adds to the composition as a whole.
“…heard it in my mind’s ear. Also for helping to show that modern music is not owned by adolescents who can’t or won’t play plunger or bend a brass instrument to sound other than what it sounded like in parade bands.”(Liner Notes)
What a great statement from an artistic genius. He was always wanting more for music, he reminds me of a love stricken husband who is frustrated that his wife (music) is not living up to her potential.
 “Classical guitar was originally heard and written as in this composition but played by piano at the Vanguard. I wrote the guitar solo; Bob Hammer wrote the one bar modulation going into and the two bars leading out of the guitar solo on the B side from a Spanish piece I’d written some time before.”(Liner Notes)
This was probably one of my most favorite moments in the entirety of the piece. I love when the guitar comes in, for me, it grounds the composition and gives you a different flare in a moment that desperately needs it.
“This music is only one little wave of styles and waves of little ideas my mind has encompassed through living in a society that calls itself sane, as long as you’re not behind iron bars where there at least one can’t be half as crazy as in most of the ventures our leaders take upon themselves to do and think for us, even to the day we should be blown up to preserve their idea of how life should be.”(Liner Notes)
It is important to point out that these are the thoughts of a genius. He was not finished with music, he heard more music in his mind than people needing water. He constantly wanted to continue to press on and make more music and transforming that music onto records.
“He seems to state that the black man is not alone but all mankind must unite in revolution against any society that restricts freedom and human rights.”(Liner Notes)
In the review of the piece, this quote defines the entirety of the record quickly and perfectly. Mr. Mingus was a tortured man and music was the only thing that made sense.
“In all three tracks of Side I there are recurrent themes of loneliness, separateness and tearful depression. One feels deeply for the tears of Mr. Mingus that fall for himself and man. There can be no question that he is the Black Saint who suffers for his sins and those of mankind as he reflects his deeply religious philosophy. His music tells of his deep yearning for love, peace and freedom. A new note has crept into his music. Where once there was a great anger now one can hear hope. As with much of his past music, Mr. Mingus cries of misunderstanding of self and people. Throughout he presents a brooding, moaning intensity about prejudice, hate and persecution.”(Liner Notes)
Music has such an intriguing way of getting the composers feelings out onto a pice of paper or through the fingertips. The loneliness that is present in this record is not hard to find and is demonstrated obviously and beautifully through the record.
“The deep mourning and tears of loneliness are echoed and re-echoed by the instruments in Mr. Mingus’ attempt to express his feelings about separation from and among the discordant people of the world.”(Liner Notes)
Overall, this record presents some incredible musical ideas and is simply too good to pass up. If you have any interest in Jazz, this is a must listen.

Week 5 – 78 RPM

The History of the 78

The 78 record was made around 1898 and continued into the late 1950s and playing at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute. The most common material that these records were made of is called shellac. This is a brittle material which uses a shellac resin.(Yale, 2014)


78s have various sizes, however, the most common sizes are a 10inch and a 12 inch diameter. The 10 inch records could hold about three minutes of recordings. The 12 inch record could hold about four to five minutes of recording time.

“Earliest speeds of rotation varied widely, but by 1910 most records were recorded at about 78 to 80 rpm. In 1925, 78.26 rpm was chosen as a standard for motorized phonographs, because it was suitable for most existing records, and was easily achieved using a standard 3600-rpm motor and 46-tooth gear (78.26 = 3600/46). Thus these records became known as 78s (or “seventy-eights”).”(Yale, 2014)


Due to the events of World War II, Shellac was in demand, therefore companies started pressing 78s to vinyl pressings.


Before the 1930’s, 78s were recorded by having the talent sing or talk into a big horn, their own voice was the power  that directly vibrated the recording stylus. Once this was vibrating, the stylus would cut the wax of the master record. These discs are known by audiophiles as “acoustic” recordings.


78 recordings are fascinating. It’s really the first step to all of the other steps that needed to happen in order to make the possibility of portable music. This was one of the first (if not the first) ways in order to record sound directly on to a recording medium.

This is a phenomenal short film from 1946 about 78s. It’s certainly worth the watch.


“The history of 78 RPM recordings.” The history of 78 RPM recordings. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <;.







Week 4 – “Bad” Jazz

First, It should be stated that when I say “Bad” jazz, I’m simply referring to the sound quality of the recording.

Things I’m listening for:

Are the instruments clear?

Is there any signs of clipping?

What is the instrument orientation like in the environment?

Does it sound good?

These are a few questions that I’m asking in order to locate “Bad” jazz.

On my quest to find some “Bad” jazz, I was led to the live recording of the Miles Davis Quintet, they were recorded live in 1969 in Europe. I choose this recording because I found the recording to be harsh and amateur. For example, during the drum solo, I found my self wanting it to be louder, clearer or even cleaner. Once the drum solos are over and the rest of the instrumentation comes in, you can hear faint echoes of a crowd that is there. The crowd was not incorporated into the recording very well, they sound very distant and disinterested.

The saxophone in this recording seems to hit the threshold of pain while listening to this recording. It’s full of clipped notes and unbalanced noise. Half way through the recording I didn’t even notice that there was a piano in the mix! The stand up bass is in the background and sticks out, however it is easily covered up by the unbalanced mixing when the trumpet comes in.

The trumpet (even though the featured instrument at times) seems tremendously overwhealming.

One of the main reasons that I think this recording lacks a good quality is because it’s not only live, but it’s recorded in Mono. This automatically limits the engineer in not being able to create a space in which the listener can relate to in reference to where the instruments are.  Compare this recording to a Rudy Vangelder live recording and you would be astonished!

Mono mix vs. Stereo mix Comparison of “Little Deuce Coup” (1963) by The Beach Boys

The beach boys have been apart of American culture since the early 60’s. It was their close knit harmonies and fun attitude that brought them instant popularity among the youth culture in America.

An interesting thing about the 50’s and 60’s is that music was undergoing a transition in how it was mixed. Most artist from the beginning of recorded sound until the 50’s and 60’s were recorded and mixed in monophonic traditions.  When the stereo mix came out, engineers didn’t know what to do with it. In fact, a lot of time the Mono mixes had the bands approval and the stereo mixes were something that the studio produced so they could sell it.

Below are two Youtube clips featuring the song “Little Deuce Coupe” from the 1963 capital records Lp. There are two versions of this song in which I will be comparing, a monophonic version versus a stereophonic version and the difference between them. Take a minute to listen to both versions.



Mono: The mono mix of this song seems to be overall well balanced and simple. The vocals are clear and the harmonies add a nice addition (which was their signature sound). The drums are apparent but not overwhelming and the guitar is crisp and add color to the fun culture of the song.

Stereo: From the opening of the song it’s apparent that the voices are now in stereo. The vocals stand out in an extreme way from the rest of the music. It’s almost as if Capital decided to just put the voices in a stereo mix and leave the rest in Mono. The music seems to be at the same level as the monophonic mix and doesn’t seem enhanced in any way. In the vocals specifically you can hear the inconsistencies in the recordings. The pops and slobber from the singers is also present which I found to be very distracting. One last comment, the lead vocal seems to be time delayed in each side to give a greater stereo effect.

After examine each track, it’s easy to see why a lot of people enjoy the original mono mixes over the remastered stereo releases. A lot of this music was actually meant to be heard in mono, so let’s keep it that way. However, as a Beach Boys fan I think I would love to listen to both side by side and do a comparison of the entirely of the record. Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to own the mono vinyl pressing and can’t wait to go and listen to it once again.