R&B in D.C. 1940-1960 (Bear Family BCD 17052 16-CD, 2021) adds a new chapter to the Bear Family Records deep dive into American popular culture. Historian/collector Jay Bruder worked with a small army of researchers and editors to compile the beautifully designed book and its accompanying 16CD discography. The box unearths an obscure story about the musical history of the Black population in the nation’s capital between the era of big band swing jazz and early rock’n’roll. Though the music part of the package covers only about two decades—the last recording date is 1962—the history goes back to the end of the 19th century.
One of the great ironies of the story is that very little music was recorded in the District of Columbia due to lack of a music-business infrastructure, even though DC was where the industry itself began— arguably—with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the Graphophone at Volta Laboratories in Georgetown. With recording labs based in DC, area artists were well represented at the dawn of the recording age, but, as Bruder notes, no commercial record company operated in the city between 1900 and 1944. “During the 1920s and 1930s,” he writes, “Washington artists had to leave town to make a record.”
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Round Trip: Ornette Coleman’s Blue Note sides
CH Precision D1.5 SACD/CD/MQA-CD Player/Transport
There’s a school of thought that maintains that among all hi-fi components, the D/A converter is easiest to perfect or come close to perfecting. Just make sure that every sample is converted accurately, that there’s little rolloff in the audioband, that aliased images are suppressed almost completely, and that background noise is extremely low, and you have a top-quality D/A processor. Use of a high-quality DAC chip is assumed.
Paradox’s remarkable Phono 70 Signature MC phono preamplifier
Stax, EAR, and Bob’s Devices
SINGING TO THE SOUL
THE MAGIC OF ART SONG ON RECORD
MayFly Audio Systems MF-201A LOUDSPEAKER
If you’ve ever read Homer’s Iliad, you probably remember the Cata-log of Ships at the beginning. It’s an exhaustive record of the contingents the Achean army deployed against Troy, naming the commanders, their hometowns, the number of ships in each contingent, and more. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a snoozefest. It makes you dread what’s next. But of course, if you come to this point only to abandon the Iliad in frustration, you’ll miss the fabulous war epic that follows, chockablock with action, drama, and romance.
Gold Note PH-1000 PHONO PREAMPLIFIER
Gold Note’s $11,999 PH-1000 is by a con-siderable margin the most sophisticated, most configurable phono preamplifier that any audio manufacturer has ever produced, at least that I know of. Remarkably, considering all that flexibility and sophistication, using and adjusting the PH-1000 is straightforward.
“Music Was Mine to Experience.”
For all its ghastliness and heartbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has been good to Keb’ Mo’. When the virus hit the US, it forced the cancelation of a string of his concerts. “I was getting a little burned out on touring,” he confesses.
The Secret History of Washington, DC, R&B
Forget about the sound of the recording.
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