These recordings were made in 1976, since that time they have been released in various forms and have sold in huge numbers for jazz records. As well as the Scandinavian market, they have achieved large sales volumes in Germany and Japan.
It is interesting to examine the reason for their success. First of all there is the expertise of recording engineer Gert Palmcratz, his work on these sessions was a huge step forward in sound recording techniques where jazz is concerned. The recordings have a 'live' quality which is not present in many others. Secondly, this is real jazz, there were no rehearsals, the musicians, who admittedly had played together before, just got together and worked everything out as they went along. Thirdly these are all very fine musicians who understand what jazz is all about and each has a very broad experience.
There is another reason, by the 1970's the so-called avant guarde were closing jazz clubs regularly, playing music that they may have understood, but there customers didn't and even if the customers did understand what was going on, many voted against it with their feet.
In these recordings you are hearing shades of the Benny Goodman Quartet, shades of Charlie Parker and many other influences pulling together exhilarating jazz performances that have rarely been bettered.
Arne Domnerus has long been a favourite of mine, he is an extraordinary talented clarinet and alto sax player, who could hold his own with anyone in the world. Bengt Hallberg, likewise a master of both the accompaniment of soloists and also a superb keyboard improviser on any theme. Vibes man Lars Estrand is only heard on some of the tracks, but he is again very stylish and melodic in his approach. He complements the rest of the band very well. The Marimba sound he employs on some of the tracks was achieved by playing the vibes with the cover on! The bass player and drummer are also a joy to listen to, both are sensitive to the needs of the soloists and both can solo with some style.
If you haven't heard any of this excellent work before, get this issue, if you have others in the series get this one as well you will not be disappointed.
I listened to the Pawnshop several times by high-resolution stereo files (2x HD mastered) at DSD 64 which is also the format stored on SACDs.
In my opinion, puttin' files like these through a high-quality DAC by using the asynchronous mode can be an even better expereience than to listen to a stereo SACD. The buffer can be filled without problems and to fake a recording is not that easy - just my opinion.
Jazz At The Pawnshop is gloriously recorded. Start e. g. with 'Jeep's Blues' and go on at a low volume level so you can check out the sensitivity of your speakers by listening to incredible saxophone parts. Or listen to the 'Limehouse Blues' at a high volume to get the dynamics. The mood is incredible.
Recorded in 1976 at the Jazzclub Stampen in Stockholm - it's still alive to be visited - this is an expression of best sound mastering and a high-quality original recording from nearly four decades ago.
To me it sounds a bit like a tend-to-be-forgotten-art of sensitive recording in contrast to loudy recordings. Absolutely worth hearing.
All About Jazz -
On December 6 and 7, 1976, in a small jazz club called Stampen (The Pawn Shop) in Stockholm's Old Town, Swedish sound engineer Gert Palmcrantz recorded a group of leading Scandinavian jazzmen live, trying to get "the tight, harmonious sound of the records of my childhood." Conditions were less than ideal. A full house, a great deal of background noise. No rehearsals. No sound checks. The musicians just started playing with no one knowing what would be next on the agenda until reedman Arne Domnerus called it.
The result has often been hailed as the best live jazz recording ever. Amazingly, for a small country such as Sweden, the record sold more than half a million copies and still sells, at a rate of around 4,000 copies annually. In the past thirty years, it has been re-released in all manner of formats and become a cult album for Hi-Fi freaks, especially in South East Asia, where a Hong Kong audio magazine devoted five pages to an analysis of Palmcrantz's achievement.
Sound aside, the music is an absolutely glorious mix that seamlessly knits Ellington with Armstrong, melancholic Swedish folk songs with bop, and two takes of African High Life thrown in for good measure. Domnerus is at the very height of his considerable powers on alto saxophone and clarinet.
The highlights are a lovely, lyrical version of "Over The Rainbow" and his booting rendition of Parker's "Now's The Time," which follow one another on the second disc. Pianist Bengt Hallberg, usually an extremely delicate and very measured player, was obviously affected by the general ambience, and here and there cuts loose with awesome force. "Bengt went almost crazy on occasions," bassist Riedel recalls. Erstrand, one of Europe's best on vibes, played just one night but added a light, airy feel. He rides high on up-tempo numbers like "Limehouse Blues," but also provides subtle underpinning on ballads including "I'm Confessin'" and "Lady Be Good."
You hear the chink of glasses, the chime of the bell to acknowledge a tip, the burr of conversation. It all fits; that intimate club atmosphere that sparks jazz at its best. You feel as though you're there. Which is Palmcrantz's triumph, and why Jazz at the Pawnshop is likely to continue to fascinate both jazz and audio fans for a good many years to come.
Here’s the thing: If you who are reading this consider yourself an audiophile but you don’t own some version of Jazz at the Pawnshop, trust me, you’re not really an audiophile.
It’s been around now in various formats for some four decades, so you’ve had plenty of chance to hear and obtain it. The recording has developed something of a cult following among those in the know, and for good reason. The performances are first-rate and, more importantly, the sound is terrific.
So, what’s the fuss all about? Jazz at the Pawnshop is some pretty good jazz in some pretty astounding sound. The album’s producer and engineer visited one of Sweden’s most-celebrated jazz venues, the Stampen (or The Pawnshop because of a pawnshop that used to be there), and found its acoustics ideal for recording.
Then they set up their equipment to record live several of Sweden’s most-celebrated jazz musicians, a quintet that included Arne Dominerus, alto sax, and clarinet; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Larss Erstrand, vibes; Georg Riedel, bass; and Egil Johansen, drums. After two evenings of recording, they came out with tapes of some of the best and most realistic-sounding jazz that anyone had ever heard. The subsequent releases took off among audiophiles eager to demonstrate just how accurate their stereo equipment was when playing back music that live would have been largely unamplified.
The numbers run high to jazz standards, starting with Philip Braham’s “Limehouse Blues.” The quintet play well together, with Dominerus’s sax tending to dominate the ensemble but with plenty of room for the other members to shine and solo as well. Because it’s live, in the background we hear quite a lot of room noise, the clinking of glasses, shuffling of feet, occasional applause, audience comments, and conversation. One goes into Jazz at the Pawnshop for the music, certainly, but also for the vivid sound, which involves experiencing the ambience of the small club itself.
And so it goes throughout the eighteen selections, like the traditional “High Life,” Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque,” Johnny Hodges’s “Jeep’s Blues,” George Gershwin’s “Lady Be Good,” Charlie Parker’s “Barbados,” Morgan Lewis’s “How High the Moon,” Matt Dennis’s “Everything Happens to Me,” Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time,” Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellow Mood,” Bill Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and Harry Warren’s “Jeepers Creepers,” among others.
Producer Jacob Boethius and recording engineer Gert Palmcrantz made the album on location at the Stampen (Pawnshop) Jazz Club in Stockholm, Sweden in December of 1976. The club’s excellent acoustics and the simplicity of the miking probably led to the results that have been pleasing audiophiles all these years: Neumann U47, KM56, and M49 microphones, two Dolby A361 noise-reduction units, two Nagra IV recorders, a Studer mixing board, and two old Ampex loudspeakers with built-in amplifiers. Remarkable, given that sonically this antique array puts most of today’s state-of-the-art digital equipment to shame.