Larry Kart

Walter Davis, Jr.

50 posts in this topic

theoretically when you go direct  - and he probably had some kind of circuitry that minimized the  necessary preamp - you get as pure and literal a sound as possible. But....there are factors along the recording and mastering path -  microphone, board, conversion, room - that really make such a thing not really literally possible.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Larry, the piano on the Mapleshade sounds to me like there's an emphasis added to the high/percussive end, either through miking or EQ-ing (you know, setting the "tone controls"). Either that or else it's just not a good piano. I hear a similarity in touch between this recording and all the others, yes, he was a very personal player, of course you would, but that piano sounds more like a Monk Prestige piano than it does Walter Davis anywhere else I've heard him, and it sounds different than the piano on the other Mapleshade recordings I have. I don't think that's accidental and/or supernatural, I think it's a matter of making the piano sound like that on the other end of the microphone.

Using the admittedly limited spectrum of YouTube audio for comparison, and assuming that these are the same pianos - even allowing for the wide damn near infinite spectrum of timbral difference possible though touch and pedal technique, does this sound like the same piano that Bishop used recorded the same way, at all?

I'm not accusing Sprey of anything dishonest, but I'm not viewing his recording choices as completely objective either.

I believe that Sprey's "studio Steinway" (his term) was a vintage instrument of some sort, which may account for a certain twang it has. As for EQ-ing, I thought Sprey's recording philosophy, a la that of the Rusch crew at CIMP, precluded anything like that.

Yeah, well, supposedly it does. Supposedly lots of things in life preclude supposedly lots of other things. But let's talk about close-miking a piano, and what that does to its sound.

Seriously - do the Davis & the Willis sound like they were recorded identically objectively? Not to me.

Again, not talking about differences in touch/pedal technique, etc.

I'm not sold that the piano in the studio had the same sound where Davis was playing it that it did once it got to the tape, that's all I'm saying, and although that's true of so many things, especially Rudy's piano, thery're not accompanied by a ghost story narrative either.

Did Sprey have it in his mind that since Davis had had a "visitation" by Monk that he was going to make a record hat carried that same feeling and then record accordingly? I don't know, but even if he did, that's not dishonest, that's a conceptual choice. All I know is that it sounds funny to me, unnecessarily funny, and does not serve the playing itself, which kind of pisses me off, because the playing amply carries its own water.

Anyway, it's not that big of a deal, really. It's just one of those quirky things that bug me, and that gets amplified every time I play the record, perhaps amplified out of proportion to the degree that it's happening. If you've not noticed it by now, there's certainly no reason to go looking for it!.

 

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Larry, the piano on the Mapleshade sounds to me like there's an emphasis added to the high/percussive end, either through miking or EQ-ing (you know, setting the "tone controls"). Either that or else it's just not a good piano. I hear a similarity in touch between this recording and all the others, yes, he was a very personal player, of course you would, but that piano sounds more like a Monk Prestige piano than it does Walter Davis anywhere else I've heard him, and it sounds different than the piano on the other Mapleshade recordings I have. I don't think that's accidental and/or supernatural, I think it's a matter of making the piano sound like that on the other end of the microphone.

Using the admittedly limited spectrum of YouTube audio for comparison, and assuming that these are the same pianos - even allowing for the wide damn near infinite spectrum of timbral difference possible though touch and pedal technique, does this sound like the same piano that Bishop used recorded the same way, at all?

I'm not accusing Sprey of anything dishonest, but I'm not viewing his recording choices as completely objective either.

I believe that Sprey's "studio Steinway" (his term) was a vintage instrument of some sort, which may account for a certain twang it has. As for EQ-ing, I thought Sprey's recording philosophy, a la that of the Rusch crew at CIMP, precluded anything like that.

 

Yeah, well, supposedly it does. Supposedly lots of things in life preclude supposedly lots of other things. But let's talk about close-miking a piano, and what that does to its sound.

Seriously - do the Davis & the Willis sound like they were recorded identically objectively? Not to me.

Again, not talking about differences in touch/pedal technique, etc.

I'm not sold that the piano in the studio had the same sound where Davis was playing it that it did once it got to the tape, that's all I'm saying, and although that's true of so many things, especially Rudy's piano, thery're not accompanied by a ghost story narrative either.

Did Sprey have it in his mind that since Davis had had a "visitation" by Monk that he was going to make a record hat carried that same feeling and then record accordingly? I don't know, but even if he did, that's not dishonest, that's a conceptual choice. All I know is that it sounds funny to me, unnecessarily funny, and does not serve the playing itself, which kind of pisses me off, because the playing amply carries its own water.

Anyway, it's not that big of a deal, really. It's just one of those quirky things that bug me, and that gets amplified every time I play the record, perhaps amplified out of proportion to the degree that it's happening. If you've not noticed it by now, there's certainly no reason to go looking for it!.

 

I really like the Mapleshade Davis Jr. record. Beyond that, I think "not that big of a deal" is where I'm at. Can't prove anything one way or the other about Sprey's version of what Davis supposedly said to him or about what Dwike Mitchell said or was thinking when he said what he said according to Sprey, don't want or care to.

 

Maybe I've misplaced my sonic detective badge,  but I can't tell much that's definitive about the recording jobs per se, versus differences that arise because they're different pianists, by comparing the Willis cut to the Mapleshade Davis Jr. record. Further, one is a YouTube clip and the other is on a CD being played back in my basement, which is a difference right there.

Edited by Larry Kart

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I like the record too. Also read the liner notes before playing it, so who knows, maybe the quirky piano sound just happened naturally and I just pinned it on the ghost story. Maybe that's actually the best recorded that Walter Davis Jr. has ever been.

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Jim -- You owe it to yourself to track down "Illumination," if that can be done. In addition to some top-drawer Davis Jr., Bob Mover plays his ass off on the tracks where he appears, and he and Walter are really tuned into each other. Also, some of the best Kenny Washington I know, and Ron Carter is in fine form. Hey, and it's engineered by David Baker.

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Found it on Amazon, reasonably priced, looking forward to it!

Also found, on eBay, another solo album on Owl, 400 Miles Away, looking forward to hearing the results from a recording standpoint.

Apparently there's another Davis album called Illuminations, on Denon, but going by the logo on the cover it does not appear to be one of those very first wave PCM Digital recordings. They used Reggie Workman for A&R for those, and it was an interesting series.

I do have another Davis Denon called Abide With Me that is a Denon PCM Digital,which I've not listened to in ages, but which I remember as being a good if slightly unsettled affair with a core group of Charles Sullivan, Carter Jefferson, Buster Williams, and Tony Williams. The engineers were two Denon(?) guys specifially there to do the PCM Digital thing, or so it looks.

AMG's review (by Ken Dryden) of the Denon Illumination does not appear too happy about the piano in general: http://www.allmusic.com/album/illumination-mw0000653939

Since Walter Davis, Jr. had relatively few opportunities to lead recording dates of his own, one would hope that conditions would be ideal for the occasional recording session. Sadly, he's stuck with a badly out of tune instrument on this occasion, making it almost excruciating to listen to his performance of his best-known work, the normally exciting hard bop vehicle "Scorpio Rising." Davis utilizes several different rhythm sections, including the likes of Buster Williams, Art Blakey, and Tony Williams. Guest Jeremy Steig's soulful, vibrato-laden flute is added for "Illumination" and trumpeter Charles Sullivan for a brief but haunting duet of Nino Rota's "Theme from 'La Strada'," while percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and rhythm guitarist Milton Frustino are added for the brisk, enchanting samba "Biribinya Nos States." But in spite of his best efforts, the lousy piano badly handicaps Davis' performances. The ironic cover photo, with Davis posing at a toy piano, may have indicated what he thought of the studio keyboard.

MI0001811548.jpg

Kinda interested in hunting this one down at a not crazy price, and also wonder if the presence of Sullivan, Jefferson, and Williams indicates inclusion of some (many, if song titles are any indication) duplication or alternate takes or just what from the Abide With Me date.

That one, btw, also has a really sweet, funny cover photo.

walterdavis-abidewithme%282%29.jpg

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Jim - as for sonics - that recording Larry posted is exactly the way I remember Davis sounding back in the '70s - I never saw a jazz pianist hit an instrument as hard - so it may not be Mapleshade so much as Davis' very sharp touch.

I have quite a few Mapleshade CDs, and that's exactly how it sounds to me. Compare to Larry Willis' touch on the same piano. Pierre Sprey may sound über-realistic, similar to some MPS piano recordings from the 1970's, but that's only because we're used to the common standardized sounds from most engineers. Most people I play a Mapleshade CD for do no like that sound, especially when they're attuned to ECM procedures. Sweetening everywhere, and when it sounds like you're standing right beneath the piano, they're scared ... ;) 

Re: the channelling thing: "Monk" and "Monk through Walter Davis' hands" are two very different things ... I love that story, and it sounds credible to me. We discussed this here before.

Walter Davis can be an enjoyable pianist. I kept his one Blue Note leader date for this reason, and have one on Steeplechase, Scorpio Rising, that never fails to make me smile. 

Did Sprey have it in his mind that since Davis had had a "visitation" by Monk that he was going to make a record hat carried that same feeling and then record accordingly? I don't know, but even if he did, that's not dishonest, that's a conceptual choice. All I know is that it sounds funny to me, unnecessarily funny, and does not serve the playing itself, which kind of pisses me off, because the playing amply carries its own water.

Maybe so - if you read through Sprey's liner notes, he has a "personal" story of this type on every other session.

But I am convinced that we perceive the piano sound he gets the way we do only because we're used to the softened sound on almost every other CD.

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But how realistic is it for a piano to come out of your speakers that makes it sounds like you're beneath (or even inside) it? When does that ever happen in real life?

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But how realistic is it for a piano to come out of your speakers that makes it sounds like you're beneath (or even inside) it? When does that ever happen in real life?

I know what you mean by "like you're beneath (or even inside) it," but I felt that on that recording it was more like my sonic vantage point was that of Davis Jr. himself. Probably not what you want every time, but I'll take it on that occasion.

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Solo piano, 1986: Medley: "Monk's Mood," "Criss Cross," "Ruby My Dear."

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Thanks for posting that - for me he catches the essence of Monk better than most.

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just an addendum; first time I saw Davis he was on a concert of pianists that included Duke Jordan, Barry Harris and Junior Mance. After Davis played, mid-way, the piano, particularly on the upper register, was noticeably out of tune.

I remember being at a concert at Penn's Landing ca. early 1990's, where Brad Mehldau was playing with Christopher Hollyday (and whatever happened to him?  Talk about channeling J-Mac, he had it DOWN).  Piano was horribly out of tune, Mal Waldron at the Five Spot out of tune.  Mehldau changed his entire style on the fly to minimize the impact of the piano, got into this very compact Jazz Messengers Cedar Walton sort of thing as opposed to the more open, flowing things he started the concert with.  I gained a lot of respect for him as a sideman that day (though his leader stuff still puts me to sleep).

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just an addendum; first time I saw Davis he was on a concert of pianists that included Duke Jordan, Barry Harris and Junior Mance. After Davis played, mid-way, the piano, particularly on the upper register, was noticeably out of tune.

I remember being at a concert at Penn's Landing ca. early 1990's, where Brad Mehldau was playing with Christopher Hollyday (and whatever happened to him?  Talk about channeling J-Mac, he had it DOWN).  Piano was horribly out of tune, Mal Waldron at the Five Spot out of tune.  Mehldau changed his entire style on the fly to minimize the impact of the piano, got into this very compact Jazz Messengers Cedar Walton sort of thing as opposed to the more open, flowing things he started the concert with.  I gained a lot of respect for him as a sideman that day (though his leader stuff still puts me to sleep).

I think Christopher Hollyday is based in San Diego and has been for many years.  Just found a reference to him playing a concert there last month:  http://www.meetup.com/sandiegojazzmeetup/events/224633392/

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these days he writes very bad orchestral music, I believe.

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I managed to find a reasonably priced coy of Illumination (the one Larry recommended), and he wasn't kidding. Killer stuff. 

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2 hours ago, blind-blake said:

I managed to find a reasonably priced coy of Illumination (the one Larry recommended), and he wasn't kidding. Killer stuff. 

:tup

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Been playing the Illumination in my car for a few days now, and the difference in piano sounds between it and the Mapleshade are polar opposites, I guess you could say, if that doesn't come down to some statistically provable metric. However, as nicely as Bob Mover plays, he sounds close enough to Charles McPherson that I find myself wishing for McPherson instead of Mover. Not in life, just on this record.

But those Davis originals,the tune selection overall, actually,  but those originals in particular, hell yeah!

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9 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Been playing the Illumination in my car for a few days now, and the difference in piano sounds between it and the Mapleshade are polar opposites, I guess you could say, if that doesn't come down to some statistically provable metric. However, as nicely as Bob Mover plays, he sounds close enough to Charles McPherson that I find myself wishing for McPherson instead of Mover. Not in life, just on this record.

But those Davis originals,the tune selection overall, actually,  but those originals in particular, hell yeah!

Glad you like it, but I think of Mover as a pretty individual player. 

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I'm sure he is (very small sample size for me, I heard his early recordings, waited, and then stopped), but it took a lot of people a lot of time to figure out how to make digital recording sound real. This recording sounds as "un-real" to me as does the Mapleshade, just in the other direction. So maybe between that and it being a car, his true germs of originality have not yet been adequately heard here. All I know is that from the first notes of "Be My Love", I was thinking charles McPherson, which is really funny, because McPherson's version sounds nothing like this one. So maybe I'm having that associative disconnective thing that's going around. Very possible.

Apart from that, did McPherson & Davis ever play together?

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Just checked and, geez, they played together on the soundtrack of "Bird."

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The most natural sounding recordings - EVER!!!! :g:g:g

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R-4373135-1523983324-8635.jpeg.jpg

anyome familiar with this one? Killer group with Carter Jefferson, Charles Sullivan, Buster Williams and Tony Williams. But is it any good?

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I have it. Worth having, but not coveting.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I have it. Worth having, but not coveting.

Thanks Jim!

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On 10/15/2015 at 2:50 PM, AllenLowe said:

Jim - as for sonics - that recording Larry posted is exactly the way I remember Davis sounding back in the '70s - I never saw a jazz pianist hit an instrument as hard 

Wasn't Cecil Taylor said to put pianos out of tune?

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