Monthly Archives: May 2013

Smalls: NYC’s Heavy-Hitting Jazz Underground

Take a walk to NYC’s Greenwich Village and you’re sure to see some jazz clubs you’ve heard of: Blue Note, the Village Vanguard, the Fat Cat etc. Though, the true gem of NYC may not be among the most extravagant venues, lacking a large flashing sign or wide raised stage. Instead, Smalls Jazz Club is a basement with a single small door and a crooked chalkboard for the featured performers. As you approach you’re likely to see a man with a modest cashbox and a violin sitting outside. If it sounds like something out of a novel, that’s because it’s pretty much how it feels when you approach.

I stepped inside with a group skeptical friends. Down a few short stairs and we peered into a dark but packed room as we barely were able to get our feet off of the last step. Eager college students strained to peer over others in the back while business casuals leaned on the bar. A young waitress pushed her way through the standing room in the back and took our drink orders. She smirked as Pabst filled the list. The front featured seating room, scrunched oddly shaped chairs that looked like they had been individually handpicked from various garage sales. Not surprisingly, the bar was impressive with the majority of the light coming from the backlit bottles behind the bartender. Though, this was all in a moments glance as the wholeness of my attention was yanked to the stage where EJ Strickland’s Quintet burned through their first number. We listened for two sets slowly nudging our way to the front until by the end of the second set I sat with my now gently swaying friend and our feet tapping next to the musicians. The others started to get up as the band left the stage and it hit midnight. The jam session started. After about a half hour the stage was full and at 45 min in, a short man in a tightly checkered button down and black suit and hat stepped on stage. The bassist stepped forward, “I’d like to introduce my friend Roy Hagrove to the stage.” Everyone looked up eagerly and from there, it got heavy real quick.

Needless to say, it’s a must see venue for any NYC trip. Whether you think you’re into Jazz or not, the bottom line is that it’s a music best served live and the more intimate, the better. With Small’s, you see, up close, the best musicians in New York, and you can partake in something truly special until the street lights die for the morning commute. Its not just a venue for a nice occasion but a spot to come after work any and all days of the week. Essentially, it’s the way music should be experienced.

If the space itself wasn’t good enough, their website certainly makes it a staple for the preservation and dissemination of modern music. Boasting a huge audio archive of all the artists that have passed through its doors in recent years along with an impressive live video feed of nightly performances, Smalls has the market cornered.

Their Mission Statement speaks for itself:

“The intention and purpose of this website is ultimately dedicated to the betterment of Mankind through the dissemination of this music. Our hope is that the music on this site is studied and enjoyed by people of open minds and clear thoughts. We ask that you research the artists and, if you enjoy their music, to support them by buying their cds or contacting them with positive feedback. We dedicate this site as a resource for musicians and fans to discover each others work and to share ideas. Through peaceful interchange we will be able to progress as Artists and as Human Beings.

Our intention is also to support Smalls Jazz Club and the Artists that perform there. By supporting this site, you are directly supporting the club and its Artists. We hope that if you are able to, that you come visit us in New York City and experience the club in person.

We ask that you not steal from this site and that you treat the material here respectfully. Much of the content on this site is here by the goodwill of the Artists who have performed at the club.”

You can check out the site here: www.smallsjazzclub.com

Producing the Modern.

Since the 60’s, “jazz culture” has been in constant distress attempting to come to terms with the what trends would be considered a development of the genre; especially as so many new musicians challenged widely held conventions. Not surprisingly, the same long standing point of contention has also caused a rift in the philosophy of how to properly capture, record, and produce a jazz recording. Does the belief in natural/pure performance necessarily mean that the recordist must be completely minimalist in his approach. Does the mix stage of the production loose value? The attitude of a large majority of mix engineers reflects the ideology that the ideal jazz recording is a stark and true representation of the performance so as not to get in the way or alter the intended dynamics of the group. This, of course, varies quite considerably when considering the many different styles but is a widely held stereotype none-the-less. Compared to the pillars the of modern pop recording (such as the Lord-Alge brothers, Brendan O’Brien, and Andy Wallace) the jazz recordist may seem elementary in his/her mixing approach and must instead be a master of the tracking session primarily. However, this is simply wrong. What is not understood is the necessity of interpretation. The carefully crafted and fragile performance will loose all emotional intensity when translated onto loudspeakers without the skills of the engineer. This is what makes audio engineering a true art-form; the engineer who believes that a lack of production on a jazz record is always the best way to convey the artistry of the performance is acting on a pretentious thought process. Necessity must govern the recordists art. As Wagner states, “art is born out of necessity” and the recording process is its own form of communication. If the recording truly benefits from minimal mixing then that is what is appropriate. However, in the contemporary studio environment the performance may often benefit from an extensive mix; whether this “extensive” mix is subtle or aggressive is the actual question. Sweetening and trimming may involve considerable editing and processing but is not easily heard as a defining element of the recording. On the other hand, aggressive mix moves which can be audibly identified by the average listener are often reserved for pop music. With jazz in its current state the aggressive mix and use of modern recording techniques (such as full isolation during tracking) is becoming a more necessary element in the development of jazz in popular culture. Young audiences do not crave antiquity but appreciate culture through entertainment which invokes response/reaction; and recordings are the primary form of musical dissemination. How could the whispers of the quartet be expected to move the young listener unless they are amplified to stand next to the overbearing and often laughable trends of popular music today. The fear and bitterness that emanates from many traditionalists are the weaknesses that such a powerful music must overcome. If jazz hopes to survive as an influential art form, not only must the music advance but the production as well.

 

The Color of Paramount

 

 

Meet Paramount’s brand new post production facility/team. As an audio engineer, this is the place to be (or a huge NYC studio like Avatar or MSR). The fact of the matter is that when you think of Hollywood, the romantic images of movie sets and backlots come to mind but there are more layers of beautiful scenery when you consider the huge and luxurious facilities that these places offer. Before technicolor, Paramount had post production services but studios like Universal, WB, Sony, and Todd AO really carried the torch in terms of world class Post facilities. However, Paramount just boosted themselves to the forefront of the major motion picture studios with this muscular display of creative capability. What an awesome place to grab an internship at…

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