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Columbia Introduces First LP Record

On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records introduced the first LP, or “long playing” record.

At the time the LP was introduced, nearly all phonograph records for home use were made of an abrasive (and therefore noisy) shellac compound, employed a much larger groove, and played at approximately 78 rpm, limiting the playing time of a 12-inch record to less than five minutes per side.

33 1/3 RPM Long-playing record

33 1/3 RPM Long-playing Record

The new product was a 12 or 10-inch fine-grooved disc made of vinyl and played with a smaller-tipped “microgroove” stylus at a speed of 33⅓ rpm. Each side of a 12-inch LP could play for more than 20 minutes. Only the microgroove standard was truly new, as both vinyl and the 33⅓ rpm speed had been used for special purposes for many years, as well as in one unsuccessful earlier attempt to introduce a long-playing record for home use. Although the LP was especially suited to classical music because of its extended continuous playing time, it also allowed a collection of ten or more typical “pop” music recordings to be put on a single disc.

Previously, such collections, as well as longer classical music broken up into several parts, had been sold as sets of 78 rpm records in a specially imprinted “record album” consisting of individual record sleeves bound together in book form. The use of the word “album” persisted for the one-disc LP equivalent.

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Les Paul Leaves Us

This is a post that I hate to have to write. Les Paul, musician, inventor, industry-changer and all -around great guy passed away today in White Plains, NY. Les was 94. Up until just a couple of months ago, he was still playing his guitar, live, every Monday night at the Iridium Jazz Club, in New York City.

Although he always considered himself a Jazz guitarist and never put out a Rock record, Les was, literally, one of the founders of Rock ‘n Roll. The inventor of the solid-body electric guitar; the creator of over-dubbing and multi-track mixing, Les Paul is at the heart of the modern recording industry. An inveterate tinkerer, he built his own equipment and then taught the mainstream manufacturers, like Gibson Guitar Corporation how to duplicate it.

I became a fan when I was just a kid, watching the Les Paul & Mary Ford Show on TV. It was purportedly filmed at their house (Les & Mary were married for fifteen years) and the performance of a couple of songs would be woven into some small episode of daily life like Mary planting new flowers. I remember one show where Les explained some of his unique recording techniques and the home-made equipment behind it.

In the late 1930s Les formed The Les Paul Trio with bassist-percussionist Ernie Newton and Jim Atkiins (Chet Atkins‘ half-brother). The trio played on Bing Crosby‘s radio show and Les backed Bing on several recordings. When Crosby made an investment in Ampex Corporation, he secured for Les one of the first commercially produced reel-to-reel tape recorders, the Ampex Model 200. Les immediately began to tinker and he added a second playback head, mounted in front of the standard record/erase/playback. This allowed him to record a live track on top of an existing recording, the first instance of “overdubbing.”

Here is a link to an archive of several of The Les Paul Show which ran on NBC:

http://www.archive.org/details/TheLesPaulShow

In 1980 a documentary of Les’ life and career was released called The Wizard of Wakeshau. Just a couple of years ago, PBS produced an updated version featuring current interviews with Les and some of his appearances at the Iridium Jazz Club. Keep your eye out over the next few days for your local PBS station or other cable channel to be running one of these shows. It is time well spent learning about one of the giants of the music business and one of the nicest guys ever.

Vaya con Dios, Les!

WAR on PBS

Cover of "All Day Music"
Cover of All Day Music

No, this is not announcing another documentary about World War II or Vietnam. This is in reference to the musical group WAR, and one of my local PBS stations ran a one-and-a-half hour concert last. They will be repeating it tomorrow (Thursday, June 4). They are in fund-raising mode and are using several music concerts during evening broadcast hours throughout the week to draw their  target donors. Monday night they ran the most excellent David Foster: The Hitman concert. Catch that one , if you get a chance.

The group that performed was fronted by one of the founding members of WAR, keyboardist Lonnie Jordan. Several other members of the original group perform under the name The Low Rider Band. WAR is most often identified as a rock band or, more specifically, a purveyor of 70’s Funk. Those familiar with some of their major hits like The Cisco Kid, Low Rider, The World Is a Ghetto and Why Can’t We Be Friends? would probably see the validity in that.

The stations in your area might not be running these programs this week, but keep your eye out for their pledge drive week. It has to be coming up soon. Hopefully, you have not already missed the Spring/Summer drive. Another program my local stations have run is Chris Botti: Live at the Boston Pops. It is a great show with terrific guest stars including Sting, Katharine McPhee. The Chris Botti show also introduced me to a new talent, Sy Smith.

Doesn't she look like she can really sing?

Doesn't she look like she can really sing?

So, why am I, the jazzmonger, plugging a concert by these guys? Listen to them do All Day Music and Slippin’ Into Darkness and tell me that’s not jazz. And this question of “What can we talk about in reference to jazz?” puts in mind of an interesting discussion I have been participating in over on Kevin Kniestedt‘s “Groove Notes” blog, which you can find at:  jazz24.wordpress.com.

Kevin is a gentleman and a scholar, and the dj hosting The Grooveyard on station KPLU. He also hosts an online jazz streamcast. Kevin knows his stuff. He recently posted about being “taken to task” by a listener of his radio show. The sin was having played the title track from Steely Dan‘s Aja album. Here is how Kevin stated the problem:

It was this most recent complaint that came across as far more angry than your average letter. In fact, the note made it quite clear that after hearing a particular song, the individual was “through” listening to my program.

The song in question was the title track to the Steely Dan album Aja. The complaint, in short, was that Steely Dan didn’t play jazz, and that Aja wasn’t jazz and didn’t sound like jazz, even if Steely Dan was a jazz band by nature.

And he concludes with this

So did I lose this one? Did I cross the line with Aja? Should I have just responded with “Jazz is free, it has no boundaries”? Should I have said “I’m the DJ, I’ll play what I want”?

Maybe I did the best thing I could do, and just not write back.

I responded, as did several others, that Jazz by its very nature is free-form and should be inclusive. plus, I added, why do we have to wall ourselves off from all other good pieces of music in order to be a jazz fan? Seems nuts to me. Go here:

http://jazz24.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/where-is-the-fine-line-in-jazz/

to check out the whole discussion, AND put your two cents in.

cc -Some rights

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