Shrdlu

Where's the bass, Rudy?

14 posts in this topic

Someone posted a rather nasty post about Rudy not long ago, which kinda shocked me, as I am very grateful to him for so many classic recordings. In the post, the writer said that Rudy seemed to hate bass, and should have recorded it at a higher level. I had not really thought about that much, but I now think there is something in it. I just set up a good speaker system in my living room for the first time in years, and I grabbed some BN CDs first up to test it. Such things as "In 'N' Out" and "Delightfulee", as they happened to be nearby. There was almost no bass, even with the bass knob turned fully clockwise. I was wondering whether the speakers were poor. Then, I dropped in a CD of the Bill Evans "Moonbeams/How My Heart Sings" sessions, and suddenly, BOOM, you can almost smell the dust inside Chuck Israels's bass. That guy was right.

Any comments or thoughts on this? I'm not trying to attack Rudy, and I still like his recordings.

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I think you are right that Rudy's vintage recordings tend to be light in the bass category. But upon reflection I think it's one reason I like them so much. I find they are truer to the sound captured in a good listening venue, say the Vanguard, when the bassist is using minimal or no amplification. It's a bit quieter than we're often used to, but it's still full and rich. There's a refreshing lack of boominess and artificial bottom end that plagues so many studio jazz recordings.

On a slight tangent: what WAS the deal with the way bass was recorded in the early 70's through mid 80's? My God, THAT was a horrid sound - a weird, twangy, thin thing, without any sense of resonance, flat and dull. I hate to say this because I admire his reissue work so much, but many of the dates produced by Michael Cuscuna during that era are some of the worst offenders. Funny enough, I also find RVG's later recordings (e.g for Muse and Reservoir) often have a little of that horrid sound, he seems to have changed his approach (and I know there are also many other factors like digital recording technology).

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I agree with you, Dr J. The sound of the bass on records did change toward the end of the 60s, and I'm not keen on it either. If it ain't broke, why fix it. There is a Lee Morgan album ("Caramba", I think) where the bass sounds awful and kinda drowns out even Lee. It is very distracting and horrible. If I had been Lee, I would have made the engineer alter the balance. A bassist is supposed to accompany, not to take over the show. (The actual player is Reggie Workman, who is a favorite of mine. It's not his fault.)

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This is the time of electric instruments, and the bass players responded with pick-ups. This gave them equal footing with the rest of the band, and it went to their heads. Silly bass players started asking engineers for the electric sound and the engineers started taking the sound directly into the board. Bass players also found they could get a decent "direct/amp" sound on cheap instruments and forgot about the "real" sound of a good instrument.

I heard a story from Cuscuna where he asked for miking of the bass and the engineer said "Have you ever heard Buster's bass?"

In 1979 when I recorded Leo Smith's "Spirit Catcher" at Rudy's, Wes Brown caused a minor crisis 'cause his bass didn't have a pick-up. Rudy automatically tried to attach one and Wes stopped him. Rudy went in the back and found a lavaliere mike no one had ever seen, and all were happy. Wes asked Rudy what is was, and Rudy said "ask Chuck".

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Those are great stories, Chuck, thanks for sharing them!

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I agree about the acoustic bass sounds from the classic BN period, but Rudy's Hammond bass... now that's a different story! Those old organ records shake rattle and roll in the bass!!! Especially on vinyl. There's nothing like the bass on an organ record from vinyl...

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I love it, too, Jim! When I got my first organ LP, a used copy of "Chicken Shack", I was amazed at the walking bass lines. (Until then, the only electric organs I had heard were the cheap wedding reception types - playing rubbish like "More" - you know what I mean!) It must be very difficult to play those bass lines and solo at the same time.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the BN CDs that I used to test my speakers were TOCJs. (Not a big sound, not a small sound, but a round sound, har, har!)

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On the contrary, I've always liked Rudy's bass sounds and soundscape placement. Maybe in this day and age it might sound low for some ears. But we live in a super-bass age of ridiculousness. And I agree with the horrible Buster Williams, Ron Carter pickup-d/i sounds of the 70's. It stinks (Of course everyone has this sound now, horrible)

For a great bass sound listen to Bruce Swiedens' handling of the bass on "Here is Billy Mitchell." Also Rudy's magic works well for Paul Chambers on "The Sonny Clark Trio" session.

I haven't played a session with a mic'ed bass ever I think. Horrible.

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I hate that thin twangy direct bass sound as well. It's on many many newer discs I have, about the only two players in my collection that have a nice, thick round tone of recent stuff are Christian McBride and Steve Rodby.

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The entire Art Pepper Galaxy set appears to have the twangy bass thing as far as I can tell.

It's just ok but seems incredible that no one noticed that the sound had taken a backward step with this pick-up miking.

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Yes, Clunky, all the Pepper Galaxy stuff was recorded during exactly the era that I'm talking about, where the "twangy bass" sound was most prevalent. A huge number of titles in the Muse catalog also suffer from this, sadly.

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...not to mention every live jazz setting is DI "twangy crap" bass sound. :tdown

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I was thinking of how awful some bass from the seventies up has been recorded when listening to the cd by Cachaito . . . the bass on this cd is so nicely recorded, rich and yet not muddy. Great cd too!

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My son had a "boom box" (that is, a subwoofer) in his last car, but he recently changed cars and has not had time to install this monster into the trunk of his new car. I once heard it in his bedroom, and it was quite impressive (!), so I borrowed it to hear it with my new speakers.

Wow, what bass! (And I'm not talking all this deafening kid stuff.) I tested it first with the Japanese K2 CD of Milt Jackson's "Jazz 'N' Samba", as I knew that that would sound good. Richard Davis sounds wonderful with that woofer. What a rich sound.

It was a mistake to test the thing with that CD, as it's the best CD sound that I've ever heard. My next CD was the JRVG of Herbie Hancock's "Speak Like A Child", as Ron Carter plays so well on that. Man, it sounded awful - like an AM radio. Hans, where are you?

I'm going to try it soon with a Jimmy Smith BN.

Anyway, the Shrdlu household is going to get its own sub soon. After all, the speakers and box are basically the same as my 60s stuff: 10" Wharfedales in large boxes.

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