George and I have been carrying some of our favorite our old vinyl albums around for years even though we haven't had a way to listen to any of these recordings since the 80's...but yesterday he walked in the front door with a new turntable!
We connected it to his vintage Marantz receiver and pulled a Phineas Newborn record off the shelf where it had been quietly waiting to be re-visited for the past 30 years.
Looking at the cardboard album cover brought back an interesting sensation. A large close up photo of Pheneas Newborn's beautiful face looking straight into the camera lens and the anticipation of what this then young artist was going to sound like.
I took the record which was enclosed in a yellowing white paper sleeve inside of the well worn cardboard album jacket out and admired the shiny black disc, tipping it side ways under the light examining it for any scratches. It seemed a familiar ritual I had forgotten about.
Lifting the dust cover up and placing the vinyl on the platter was like going back in time. I pressed the start button and watched the arm lift...gracefully move into place over the record...gently drop down into the first groove of side A and then I heard it...that wonderful soft crackle before the music.
The notes that came rolling out of the speakers from his first attack on the keys moved through me in a way I hadn't felt in years...it really was a different sensation I kid you not! There was something smooth and sonically satisfying about what was filling the room that digital means of listening can't replicate. I was thrilled by it. Then the low tones from Paul Chambers bass entered with Philly Joe Jones on drums. There was an occasional soft pop or crackle that somehow didn't detract at all from this unbelievable listening experience...in fact it somehow enhanced it all for me... bringing me to another place in time.
I turned the album jacket over to read the liner notes by Leonard Feather. I immediately realized that reading liner notes on those nice big cardboard squares was also something I had missed!
Side A with the most incredible drum solo on "Dahoud" by Clifford Brown (sonically astounding, and of course we're talking about Philly Joe so it was undoubtedly amazing) and one of the most beautifully voiced versions of Strayhdorn's "Lush Life" Charlie Parkers "Cheryl" and Dizzy's "Manteca" was over in 18 minutes. A soft crackle, then the arm of the needle lifted and moved back into it's resting place. There was quiet in the room. Now one can sit with what they've just absorbed for a moment and consider whether they want to continue on this musical voyage and if so, stand up walk over to the turntable, flip the disc to side B and you're ready for the next chapter. I love that pacing! It's sort of perfect!
George and I sat listening all evening. It had been forever since we did that. One record after another. Reading the liner notes, laughing out loud from sheer amazement at some brilliant musical moments that we seemed so privileged to be experiencing.
I just had to share my joy of listening to music in this analog way. It was so preferred to a possibly more perfect, more clean, more sharp digital recording. It went beyond my ears and into my body in a visceral way that is hard to put into words.
Thanks for letting me wax poetic about vinyl and I hope you can come catch some live sounds coming up soon with my band at the Elephant Room. All the details are on my web site www.suzistern.com
Happy Summer listening!