[Dixielandjazz] harpsichord, Guarnieri and audio technology

Richard Broadie rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Sat Jan 1 15:55:09 PST 2005

Hi Anton,

 Here's a circuitous reply to your "I ask the question because the quality 
of modern transfers from the 78s is so good that it allows us to hear things 
that formerly went un-noticed..."

I used to know Johnny Guarnieri in the 1960s and occasionally played bass or 
clarinet with him on a few rare occasions.  Funny thing is that the 
Harpsichord topic never really came up.  Our conversations were more 
centered on baseball and politics as I recall.  I can tell you that Johnny 
played more piano with his left (or right) hand than most played with two 
and that he'd occasionally play entire songs with one hand.  If you closed 
your eyes, you'd likely not notice in the quality of music produced.

The one consistent aspect of my life is that I am a lousy historian. 
Someday if I haven't long ago and now forgotten, I'll tell you of time spent 
with Hoagy Carmachael and Phil Harris, where I was supposed to learn from 
them all about Bix so that I could retain the stories long after their 
deaths.  Booze killed Bix, according to some.  If that's what Hoagy and Phil 
told me, I can't remember for sure because I tried to keep up with them at 
the bar as they related there tales.  I had phoned my wife to tell her I was 
staying at Hoagy's overnight to learn all about Bix.  The next day when I 
got home, Sharon asked me what I'd learned about Bix and my response was 
essentially, "Bix who?"

Getting back to Johnny, I had ample opportunities to interview him on the 
very subjects of your interest but, as usual, enjoyed him as a person who 
could hold a discussion not centered about music.  So you harpsichord 
question goes unanswered.

Now wearing my audio engineering hat, I can tell you that my mono to stereo 
invention sometimes unmasked sounds that were not perceived in the mono 
version.  I don't recall having worked with the harpsichord in any project 
I've done, but it wouldn't surprise me if some of the inherent noise 
producing characteristics of different types of instruments could be more 
easily distinguished through the use of current technologies, be they mine 
or others.  Below is a story about unmasking that you may feel to be 

Fire House 5 trumpet great Johnny Lucas and Warren "Smitty" Smith, 
trombonist of Bobcat fame, loved baseball, and especially the California 
Angels.  The Angels used to have spring training here in Palm Springs 
because Gene Autry (one of my former bosses) owned both the team and the 
Gene Autry Hotel.  Needless to say that Johnny and Smitty were frequent 
springtime guests (another instance where great jazz stories went untold). 
On one of the great Crosby Bobcat standards, Smitty hit a clinker on his 
trombone that the rest of the instruments covered up (masked is the 
technical term) as to make it invisible in mono.  However when "stereoized" 
the song through my invention, the bad note was clearly heard.  Smitty made 
me promise him that I would never release or make available to anyone, the 
stereo version until after his death.  It wasn't very long after he left 
Palm Springs that reports came that Smitty had drowned in a motel swimming 
pool, I believe, in Ventura County.  A very sad time.  I never did release 
that version and I never will.

Dick B

As for your suppositions of determining
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Anton Crouch" <anton.crouch at optusnet.com.au>
To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2004 5:27 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Artie Shaw and the harpsichord

> Hello all
> Now that we've gone through the cycle from hagiography to revisionism, 
> it's
> time for some curiosity.
> Like most DJMLers, I'm delighted by the Gramercy 5 recordings of 1940 and
> am taken by the use of the harpsichord. I've read that Johnny Guarnieri's
> instrument was a single keyboard model (presumably without pedal-board).
> The question: is the instrument a true harpsichord, with plucked strings;
> or a modified piano, with struck strings?
> I ask the question because the quality of modern transfers from the 78s is
> so good that it allows us to hear things that formerly went un-noticed.
> There is also the complication of different ambient acoustics - the sound
> of the 5 December instrument is less harpsichord-like than that of 3
> September.
> Dick Broadie, any thoughts?
> All the best
> Anton
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