[Dixielandjazz] harpsichord, Guarnieri and audio technology
rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Sat Jan 1 15:55:09 PST 2005
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.
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,
> 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
> Dick Broadie, any thoughts?
> All the best
> Dixielandjazz mailing list
> Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
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