SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Percussion Direct” [TrackList follows] – Groove Note 45 rpm Direct Discs (2)

A 45 rpm direct disc! Analog audiophiles will drool over this one.

Published on January 28, 2013

“Percussion Direct” [TrackList follows] – Groove Note Black Label 45 rpm Direct Disc double-vinyl GRV-1041-1 ****:

(The Larry Karush Ensemble; Bill Cunliffe & Paulihno Da Costa; The Robin Cox Ensemble)

Coming across this album at the Original Recordings Group site was a real surprise. Almost no one is still doing direct-to-discs, due to the great care and frustration of recording without the ability to edit, the lack of breaks between tracks, and the reduced timing per side. Only a few APO label (Acoustic Sounds) direct-discs are still available of their blues artists, and they are rather hard to find. And to cut them at 45 rpm instead of 33⅓ rpm makes it even more of a challenge. Only a very few 45 rpm direct discs were released during the heyday of direct-discs in the ‘70s. They were usually the epitome of analog fidelity at the time. The Elusive Disc site lists this double album as released in 2010, but the date on the album is 2008, so I’m not sure. The original recording was made in LA in 2007.

Bernie Grundman ran the modified Scully cutting lathes, with a Westrex 3D cutting head and Haeco tube cutting amps for this difficult cutting session, and three different jazz groups with a strong focus on the percussion contributed to the album. The producer was Joe Harley. I don’t think there are any other direct-to-discs in the Groove Note or Original Recording Group catalogs, and it’s probably easy to figure out why.

The individual members of each ensemble are not listed, but the Larry Karush group who are heard on Side A and Side D of the set seem to be the largest. Their opening side is a Latin-flavored cha-cha improvisation with lots of percussion. Versatile pianist Bill Cunliffe and noted Brazilian percussionist Paulihno da Costa perform on Side B, and their first and longest track is a delightful trip on Cunliffe’s original tune “Belinda.”  The Robin Cox Ensemble steps in for the third vinyl side, and although there is only one title, there are two tracks. The second one has a lovely doublebass solo that comes across with amazing realism and melodic feeling. The first of the two tracks by the The Larry Karush Ensemble which take up Side D, “Song for the New City” is my favorite of the whole album.  It has a variety of solos and exciting percussion breaks, fastidiously reproduced with great clarity and low-end impact, as is true of the whole album.

If you have a top-quality turntable and tonearm system and don’t own a single direct disc from that era, pick up this one to see just what could be accomplished with this now-superseded technology. 45 rpm vinyls made from analog tape seem to be coming back (though at great expense), and they may be the ultimate in analog reproduction today, but well-done 45 rpm direct disc could be even better.

TrackList:
Side A: Larry Karush – 7 Cha-Cha
Side B: Bill Cunliffe & da Costa – Belinda; Improvisation #2
Side C: Robin Cox – Square Feet
Side D: Larry Karush – Song for the New City; Country 

—John Henry




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