Thursday, 6 October 2011

Even more ramblings

The other night on Facebook my friend Paul Sutton posted up a track by Walt Dickerson called Death and Texas. I believe it's from a 1961 LP though Paul had bought it on a 7 inch single (bless him).

It was one of those moments that brought back a few memories. I'm a fan of Walt Dickerson , I own a few of his LP's. I came to owning them for a number of reasons, firstly he made several "Direct Cut"  LP's. Direct Cut remains the best way of listening to Vinyl, the process is simple enough (I quote) 

" in the 1970's Direct Cut referred to the audiophile technique of recording directly to a vinyl-disc cutting lathe, without the intervention of a tape recorder. It was a notoriously difficult way to record; the musicians and all concerned had to record a complete LP side without any serious musical or technical mistakes. Otherwise, it was put another lacquer on the lathe and do it over. But the gain in sound quality was considered worth the trouble. (As typical commercial LP releases were cut from fourth-generation analog tape copies, the improvement in sound offered by eliminating all those layers of tape and electronics was not illusory.) 

My love of Hi-FI meant that I was always going to be interested in Direct Cut. Moreover Walt Dickerson played the Vibraphone and it was an instrument I owned and wanted to play myself. I owned a set of Vibes because I wanted to learn a musical instrument but lacked co ordination. I couldn't master anything too complicated, I wanted something I could hit but had "notes". The Vibes seemed easy enough, one of the bars had the letter "A" engraved on it, so how hard could it be ?  Another plus point was that they weren't exactly common back then, least not round my way.  So back in 1976 I took my £200.00 down to Manchester and bought an old (very old) set, took them home set them up stuck on a Roy Ayres LP and made a terrible noise.  If you want to play bum notes nothing is better than a set of Vibes, the purity of the sound doesn't lend itself to just tapping away. I needed help so I bought a book called "teach yourself Vibes" by Dick Hyman     which  I only bought because the name Dick Hyman was so funny (in a Carry On playing the Vibes way). The book didn't help much though I did master "Jingle Bells" after about 18 hours. Eventually I was able to play them (in a fashion) because I had too, I'd joined a band and it was the kick up the backside I needed, and along the way I learned a lot about music.

Walt Dickerson remains my favourite Vibes player. His Steeplechase LP's  are special to me, because he creates a theme of a melody and revisits it over and over. With each revisit he explores the melody further, making changes that are both subtle and vast. In between these revisits he does ultra manic fast runs up and down the bars like Roy Ayres on meth. The sleeve notes on the Steeplechase LP's explain this by referencing Coltrane, and by using a lot of fancy words. Whereas I say that he plays a lot of music (and notes) that are uncomfortable to listen too but the odd bit is just so brilliant. Take the track "To my Queen revisited", here he takes an old song of his and stretches it out to 23 minutes. I love this track. I've taken it and reduced it to about 6 minutes (in the past) but without the difficult bits somehow it's just not the same. So here you go 23 minutes of Walt, with upright Bass and Piano solo's I've never heard bettered....

P.S I do believe Paul Sutton played the vibes (but wasn't as good as me)