Remembering Jim Hall: a Jim Hall/Red Mitchell ArtistShare Project

A fleeting memory:

Early morning.
I'm sitting outside Penn Station.
Next to me sits Jim Hall.
A boy with an upright bass walks past us.
"Is that a walking bass?" Jim chuckles.
The boy, in passing, raises an eyebrow, glances over.
Keeps walking, doesn't think twice.
Oh, the irony.

If you are a lover or a maker of jazz (or any music at all) you must be a fan of the legendary guitarist Jim Hall, who passed away on December 10, 2013. At least, that is the hope I have seared into my mind, as to not completely lose all faith in humanity.

Perhaps I am biased, for I was fortunate enough to work closely with Jim Hall as I recently spent a few years of my life working for ArtistShare, the pioneering crowdfunding platform and jazz record label. ArtistShare is responsible for many Jim Hall albums you probably know and love, like Magic Meeting, Jim Hall/Joey Barron, Hemispheres, Free Association, and many more. ArtistShare is also home to Grammy Award-winning artists Maria Schneider, Billy Childs, Bob Brookmeyer, and more.

So, naturally, when word about ArtistShare's latest project reached my ears, I absolutely had to witness it in some way. This Jim Hall addiction doesn't feed itself, you know.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to join this record's producer (and the founder of ArtistShare) Brian Camelio (right in heading photo), mastering engineer Greg Calbi (left), executive producer Dave Marchant (center), and ArtistShare project manager Prawit Siriwat, at the mastering session that took place at Sterling Sound last week, and they were kind enough to chat with me.

Jana Dagdagan: What's the story behind this project?

Brian Camelio: It was recorded January 18 and 19, 1978, at the now long-gone jazz club Sweet Basil, that was down on 7th Avenue, a little bit south of the Vanguard. It was Jim Hall and Red Mitchell, and, I think later in that year (1978), a record came out of the performances from the 20th and 21st of January, which is now an infamous record of Jim Hall's: the Jim Hall/Red Mitchell recording. It's been long out-of-print but sought after by jazz guitar fans for quite a while.

I was over at Jim's house one time and he brought me down to his basement, he wanted me to help him clear out his basement where he had all these tapes. Amongst this big box of tapes, I had all these master tapes from this performance and he wanted to throw them out! So I salvaged those and brought them back to my office. When we started to go through them we realized what we had and we knew that this was some pretty valuable music. We decided, this year, to transfer the tapes.

We brought them to Battery Studios, where Mark Wilder transferred them into hi-rez formats, so we would have the true, highest-resolution audiophile files for them.

Then we brought them here to have Greg Calbi do the mastering. I met Greg while producing the record Inspired with guitarists John Abercrombie, Rale Micic, Peter Bernstein, and Lage Lund. We got to talking about the Jim Hall tapes and he was very enthusiastic about working on the project.

Greg Calbi: In this case, it's not a very complicated project. They have a very high quality analog tape that was transferred to 192k sample rate with a high-quality converter. These are the files that were delivered here. It sounded fantastic. The goal that I have is to convert that to another digital file that has the levels consistent song-to-song, that has any offensive noises removed as subtly as we can remove them. The decision-making comes with the signal path that I chose to re-convert this back to a 192 digital signal.

So it starts as digital, goes through some analog treatment, and then gets converted back to a 192k digital file again. So there's an in-between stage of analog treatment which has to do with making the file that I got a little bit louder so that it plays in the home environment.

Trying to pick the equipment in that signal path which enhances or preserves the signal, depending on what you're trying to do. In this case, it was to enhance something that was already excellent quality.

So that's what we're doing today: consistency, consumer level, and the best representation of that tape (which was already very well represented.)

JD: Can you tell me about the specific gear you're using?

GK: We're using a Sterling Sound D/A converter (built by our chief tech Barry Wolifson), Harmonic Technology cabling, Ayre A/D converter, Pure Mix software—to make the recordings of the audience flow smoothly as best we see fit, to keep the pacing of the show as realistic as possible—ProAc Response 4 speakers (I've worked with them since 1993), Pass Labs XA160.5 monoblocks, and Transparent Reference XL cables.

Technical information on the recording process of the original analog tapes (courtesy of Dave Marchant):

Recorded at 15ips with Dolby-A noise reduction by David Baker and Chip Stokes, and the remote facilities of SNS Productions.
Recorder: Studer B-62 two-track tape recorder with a custom-made, 8-input mixer (no equalization).
Microphones: Neumann stereo SM69 FET (left element bass) (right element guitar), Electrovoice RE15 on guitar amplifier, Electrovoice RE15 on bass amplifier, bass mixer preamp direct to mixing console.

Jim Hall plays on a Gibson ES-175 with fingerboard and bridge by Jimmy D'Aquisto and a single pickup by Attila Zoller. Jim uses a Gibson GA-50 amplifier. Red Mitchell plays a 200 year-old German bass with two Ibanez ceramic pickups, one Barcus-Berry pickup and one String-Vision (Swedish) magnetic pickup. Red's amplifier was custom made by S&S Stockholm and includes a 4-channel mixer-preamp and two enclosures with an 15" Altec speaker in each. Red's bass is tuned in fifths from C, like a cello, instead of fourths from E, the usual bass tuning.

Allen Fant's picture

Very sweet find! Jana.
when can we expect this release via ArtistShare?

Jana Dagdagan's picture

Thank you! September 16, 2016 according to the ArtistShare project page.

veentage's picture

Thanks for sharing this experience with us!

TNtransplant's picture

Wow, thanks for alerting me to this project -- still have the original ArtistHouse duo LP from when it came out ('Blue Dove' is magnificent) and had no idea that the 'Remembering Jim Hall' initiative included more tracks from the same dates. Too bad they're not using the original analog tapes to re-issue the LP with additional tracks; Sweet Basil was such a great space I find it hard to believe it would require digital edits to "enhance" the sound quality. Jana - go twist some arms among your former colleagues to bring them back to vinyl! (Bring Michael F along if you have to!!) Still, it's great that ArtistShare is getting this music out, as well that of Maria Schneider, Ryan Truesdell/Gil Evans and others..

crenca's picture

Unless I am mistaken (I have only clicked on a dozen titles or so) there is no way to discover/listen to music on the ArtistShare website. So, if you are merely browsing or looking to discover music, you can't - you have to already be committed to the artist and willing to purchase the music "blind" (i.e. without hearing it first - unless you happen to catch the music somewhere else).

Do I have this correct?

I have read much about Maria Schneider for example (I subscribe to Downbeat, JazzTimes, Jazziz, etc.) but I have never actually heard her music except once (the last 30 seconds of a track off of Thompson Fields the Jazz channel happened to play on XM radio in my car - not the best way to hear music). She has a very ideological stance as to having her music on streaming services, which makes no sense to me as it is THE way most folks discover music these days - the market is what it is and her attitude strikes me as a good way to not sell music.

In any case I noticed that Jim Hall has 20+ albums on streaming so but would this "project" ever end up being heard except by those willing to purchase it unheard??

mmole's picture

1-His performance with the Jimmy Giuffre 3 that opens the wonderful film, "Jazz on a Summer's Day."

2-His interplay with Sonny Rollins on what I think is Sonny's best album, "The Bridge."

For my money he was the best jazz guitarist of his generation.

John Atkinson's picture
mmole wrote:
For my money he was the best jazz guitarist of his generation.

Check out his album with Charlie Haden: Wonderful music making!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Mark Tarone's picture

Great article Jana. Thanks for sharing and for your prior efforts with ArtistShare.

Did anything about the recording or playback system jump out at you?

I managed a mix project recently and the studio's Solo6 Be's blew me away in terms of overall engagement and sound, as well as value (~$2,600 and are active speakers - just add a (balanced) source). Reviews (incl. one by Michael Lavorgna) show that others experienced what I heard. Not a new model but musicality never grows old.

crenca - while I understand your frustration, I suggest not blaming any artist or record label for withholding recordings from streaming services. For many or possibly most artists, streaming is a net loss. That's not the artists' fault. The music biz has been tough on artists for a long time, and it's harder today than ever. Recordings placed on streaming services are gifts from artists, not a right of the listener.

crenca's picture

I just don't get the objective. As you point out, it is a "biz" and these artists in the end do want to sell me (and everyone else) something. To do that, they have to have have exposure from somewhere. It strikes me with the demise of radio (I have not listened to music on broadcast for years now - only XM and I probably won't pay for that much longer) streaming is the primary (increasingly the only) way to do that. In a tough business environment sometimes certain priorities and ideals have to be put aside for more important priorities.

In any case as a Jazz lover with a very $large$ collection and taking into account the modern digital/streaming world, I find it strange that some artists (even highly lauded grammy winners) seem to think the will part me from my $money$ simply on...what, I don't know "word on the street" I guess. Those days are gone (for me and an increasing number of people - actually the vast majority of music lovers) and it seems to me ArtistShare is a bit of an anachronism...

Mark Tarone's picture

Crenca - the biz model you describe absolutely is the most effective model for some artists. For other artists, it's not. Many people (myself included in some instances) listen to an album repeatedly via a streaming platform and never buy the album itself. If Kamasi Washington's debut album was available via streaming, I most likely would not have purchased it. And touring is not a slam dunk business.

Jazz is the toughest genre of all. Almost never going to get enough streams to pay any bills and making a living off of jazz tours is hard.

That said, I 100% agree that every artist should give people the ability to listen the artist's recordings in some form without requiring a purchase. Joey Alexander / Motema Music is a good model in this regard. His debut is not available on streaming platforms but you can get a great taste of the album via a Motema YouTube video. After I watched / heard that, I bought copies for myself and some friends and all are thrilled that I did.

Allen Fant's picture

Thank You- Jana.
keep writing!