Jazzin the Piedmont?

Jazzin the Black ForestLast month at the Ars Electronica 2008 conference and festival, I had a chance to discuss with a number of very smart folks both my physical studio project, Manifold Recording, and my approach to creating a new recording environment/context, the Miraverse.  In the course of those discussions, a number of people mentioned Jazzin the Black Forest, a Book/DVD combination that documents the amazing history of the German MPS label.

The letters MPS stand for “Most Perfect Sound”, and as John Kelman writes…

in his All About Jazz article, MPS was “a distinctive brand that was more about an approach to sound and an elusive artistic aesthetic than that of any one genre.”   That resonates strongly with me and what I’m trying to do, so the recommendation I received in Austria was definitely on target.

Perhaps also on target is the fact that this studio was prodigious in both quality and quantity despite being in a relatively remote location within Germany’s Black Forest, far, far away from the taste-making capitol cities of Europe.   Nevertheless, MPS served a variety of clients, ranging from Oscar Peterson, Art Farmer and George Duke to Jean-Luc Ponty, Albert Mangelsdorff and Joachim Kuhn, and here’s where the story becomes interesting: the quality of the recording environment and the approach to the recording process was so authentic that European jazz musicians could be heard as distinct and independent of American jazz dominance for the first time.

While North Carolina has its share of world-class musicians, it does not have nearly the musical identity that places like New Orleans, or Austin, or New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles have.  But it could…because we do have the talent.  And perhaps we will, if those great musicians can find a recording home in North Carolina that doesn’t try to make them sound like they recorded in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, etc.  If the small town of Villingen could be the midwife of European jazz as a distinctive form, perhaps Pittsboro can do the same for North Carolina.  We’ll see!

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