Two Days in August: Stereophile's First Jazz Recording Page 2

By early afternoon everything was in place, and everyone was warmed up enough that we could run a sound-check. Things sounded pretty good—the studio has a marvelously warm acoustic, and the right wires seemed to be connected to the right microphones. We adjourned for lunch while John remained behind to reroute cables, recheck channels, zero out any DC offset on the Manley A/D converter's outputs, and do some eleventh-hour worrying.

By 3pm we were ready to roll tape, starting with "Followthrough." Neither John nor I had heard any of the tunes Jerome had written for the sessions, and we were a little nervous. But as Billy Drummond kicked through the opening and was joined by the band, we began to relax for the first time. The tunes were good—dense and airy at the same time—and the band had obviously come rarin' to play. This was going to be fun.

And it was. Time after time, John and I would listen to some tasty statement from Art, Marty, Steve, or Billy, and just grin maniacally at one another. These guys were great—so great it's hard for me to pick out individual performances as exemplary. Just about any solo on the disc is rave-worthy.

Throughout it all, Jerome pushed the band along, his great grooves bubbling up from down under. You'll form your own opinion, of course, but I love Jerome's sound. It's warm, organic, and quietly powerful. Part of that is due to his Taylor acoustic bass guitar, and, true to his audiophiliac convictions, Jerome goes to great pains to keep its sound unique. He matches the bass to an Aguilar tube preamplifier, a Rocktron Velocity power amplifier, and an Eden compact ported cabinet featuring two 10" woofers and a tweeter, while connecting everything with Alessandro Guitar II instrument cables. But mostly, it's Jerome himself who impresses here—the man's got monster chops, and he never plays anything the same way twice.

A little past 4pm that first day, Jerome called for "The Mooche," an Ellington standard. As he loped into the head of the arrangement, Art and Marty began the call-and-response that resolves into the first chorus. We were grooving in the control room when the band went into the stop time that sets up Marty's first solo, and we all felt the rest of the world simply stop. In that instant, time and space ceased being Aristotelian and became Ellingtonian. As solo followed solo, culminating with Art's brilliant plunger-mute chorus, we just sat and goggled. When Jerome's closing glissando had faded to silence, Chad ran out of the control room: "What was that?"

"That," answered Jerome, "was 'The Mooche.' "

Even the usually garrulous Chad was speechless.

We managed another take of the tune—even better this time, we all agreed—but Art felt he hadn't quite hit the solo he wanted yet. We agreed to try again the following day; the track, with Art using both plunger and Harmon mutes, really took a toll on his chops. The band ran through "Only Then" a few times, but by then it was 6:30pm and they'd put in a full day. We still had the 26th.

The great thing about recording in a studio, rather than on location, was that we could just leave everything set up for the next session. All we had to do Wednesday morning was show up and warm up—even with a late start, we were rolling before noon. There were only two songs we hadn't gotten on tape the day before, but it still took a couple of hours (and eight takes) to get them to the point where everyone was happy with them. Then we revisited some of Tuesday's tunes, including "The Mooche." Art was right—this time he smoked it. Hell, they all did. This is the version you hear on the CD. A few more "insurance" takes on other material and we had us a record.

We struck the gear and cleared out of the studio by 5pm. Seven great songs, five fantastic musicians, one obsessive-compulsive engineer (the best kind to work with), and a great performance space, all adding up to one helluva enjoyable CD, if I may be so immodest as to say so.

But don't take my word for it. Listen for yourself.
Wes Phillips