The OKeh Recording Studio, New York City.

The OKeh Recording Studio, New York City.

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

November 12th, 2017, 5:35 pm #1

Irving Kaufman made several recordings with Bix in the OKeh studios in New YorkCty. Here is Irving in a recording session in the OKeh studios. From the Phonograph Monthly Review of Dec 1927. Note some of the names: Sannella, Rockwell, Bloom, Ring, etc.

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Albert
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 12th, 2017, 7:43 pm #2

I was especially amused by the description of Bob Stephens as "harmonist" in the caption. That makes it sound like he was there as one of Irving Kaufman's backup singers. In fact, as I recently pointed out on the forum, Stephens was Tommy Rockwell's assistant producer and later became a record producer n his own right. He produced Count Basie's sessions for Decca Records in 1937-1939 and, though John Hammond was very upset that Decca had beaten him to sign Basie, he had nothing but praise for the sound quality Stephens got on Basie's records despite Decca's cheap, substandard equipment.
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James Kidd
James Kidd

November 12th, 2017, 10:48 pm #3

I doubt that Decca had 'cheap, substandard equipment'. They were one of the big three, focussed their operation on Bing Crosby, sold millions of records at 35 cents and only seemed to compromise on the quality of their pressings. Their studio at 59 West 57th and later at Pythian Temple was small but adequate for those low-fi days. Let's not assume that Jack Kapp didn't have the best hardware needed to compete with Victor and Columbia!
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Coscannon
Coscannon

November 12th, 2017, 11:58 pm #4

I was especially amused by the description of Bob Stephens as "harmonist" in the caption. That makes it sound like he was there as one of Irving Kaufman's backup singers. In fact, as I recently pointed out on the forum, Stephens was Tommy Rockwell's assistant producer and later became a record producer n his own right. He produced Count Basie's sessions for Decca Records in 1937-1939 and, though John Hammond was very upset that Decca had beaten him to sign Basie, he had nothing but praise for the sound quality Stephens got on Basie's records despite Decca's cheap, substandard equipment.
"I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody"
posted by Emrah Erken

Taken from the liner notes of the Jazz Oracle CD "Jack Purvis" (by Michael Brooks):

In 1930 Purvis was sharing a brownstone apartment at 26 W.61st, just off Central Park West, with Bob Stephens, who worked for OKeh as an A & R assistant to Justin Ring. How the two met is a mystery, but Stephens, brother of the bass player Haig Stephens, had played trumpet with the Scranton Sirens and maybe Purvis had met him during his stint with Hal Denman, as the band frequently toured Pennsylvania. When I met Stephens in 1971 he was a benign elderly gentleman whose throat cancer necessitated him speaking through a voice box, but he was probably a very different personality in 1930. Stephens told me that he lost his job at OKeh due to the Depression and one night he and Purvis skipped without paying their rent, leaving behind a stolen World War 1 Lewis gun which Purvis had mounted on the wall above the fireplace. Worse, they left hundreds of unreleased OKeh test pressings. One of Stephens' duties was to listen to all takes of a recording and to select the best, based on the "wear test". When I asked him what that was, he replied:"OKeh set the standards based on musical quality and wear. If a take was good, then the second or third good take was supposed to absolutely identical, as the guidelines were laid down when everything was read from music and there was no improvisation at all, so the best take was judged by balance. Every test was played about twenty times and the take that wore the least was released. Of course, by 1930 those guidelines made no sense, as they didn't take into consideration improvised jazz and blues. I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody. I often wondered what happened to them."
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James E. Parten
James E. Parten

November 13th, 2017, 4:11 pm #5

I doubt that Decca had 'cheap, substandard equipment'. They were one of the big three, focussed their operation on Bing Crosby, sold millions of records at 35 cents and only seemed to compromise on the quality of their pressings. Their studio at 59 West 57th and later at Pythian Temple was small but adequate for those low-fi days. Let's not assume that Jack Kapp didn't have the best hardware needed to compete with Victor and Columbia!
Mr. Kidd is right about Decca's recording equipment: it was state-of-the-art for its time.

Sometimes the recording quality actually made it to the final pressings--as in the April, 1935 calypso recordings.

BTW: I was unable to access the article that Mr. Haim cited.
It would come on, then the whole screen would be blocked by an altar call to sign in and/or open a Facebook account.
I opened a Facebook account years ago, then decided I didn't really meed it, and have not gone back to it for years.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

November 13th, 2017, 5:55 pm #6

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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 15th, 2017, 3:53 pm #7

"I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody"
posted by Emrah Erken

Taken from the liner notes of the Jazz Oracle CD "Jack Purvis" (by Michael Brooks):

In 1930 Purvis was sharing a brownstone apartment at 26 W.61st, just off Central Park West, with Bob Stephens, who worked for OKeh as an A & R assistant to Justin Ring. How the two met is a mystery, but Stephens, brother of the bass player Haig Stephens, had played trumpet with the Scranton Sirens and maybe Purvis had met him during his stint with Hal Denman, as the band frequently toured Pennsylvania. When I met Stephens in 1971 he was a benign elderly gentleman whose throat cancer necessitated him speaking through a voice box, but he was probably a very different personality in 1930. Stephens told me that he lost his job at OKeh due to the Depression and one night he and Purvis skipped without paying their rent, leaving behind a stolen World War 1 Lewis gun which Purvis had mounted on the wall above the fireplace. Worse, they left hundreds of unreleased OKeh test pressings. One of Stephens' duties was to listen to all takes of a recording and to select the best, based on the "wear test". When I asked him what that was, he replied:"OKeh set the standards based on musical quality and wear. If a take was good, then the second or third good take was supposed to absolutely identical, as the guidelines were laid down when everything was read from music and there was no improvisation at all, so the best take was judged by balance. Every test was played about twenty times and the take that wore the least was released. Of course, by 1930 those guidelines made no sense, as they didn't take into consideration improvised jazz and blues. I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody. I often wondered what happened to them."
At least one Bob Stephens test pressing of a rejected Bix take survived: the alternate take of the Bix-Tram "My Pet." The label scan in the booklet for "Bix Restored, Volume 4" shows Stephens' initials and credits him with the decision of what take of that song got released originally.

My reference to Decca's "cheap, substandard equipment" was a quote from John Hammond, who was mainly associated with Brunswick and Columbia but also did occasional sessions for Victor and Decca. James Parten's comment that Decca had state-of-the-art equipment and "sometimes the recording quality actually made it to the final pressings" suggests that the problem may have been with the quality of their pressings rather than the equipment used to record the masters.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

November 16th, 2017, 12:16 am #8



Alber
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