Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U DIG IT?: Cuyler Otsuka digitizes Monica Zetterlund's 1973 Swedish LP Waltz for Debby

The James R. and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection presents

neUmann DIGITization project
We're now giving interested students the chance to choose an LP to digitize from the ca. 50,000 jazz-related recordings currently in the Neumann Jazz Collection and then to answer a few brief questions about their experience. If you'd like to be a part of the project, you can find out more information here. Today our post is by Cuyler Otsuka (OC '14), who chose the 1973 Swedish release Waltz for Debby by Monica Zetterlund and Bill Evans (Philips 6378 508).

Why in general did you want to take part in this project?
I wanted to take part in this project because I am an avid collector of vinyl records in my spare time at home in Hawaii. I listened to the records online on OBIS and was amazed by the fidelity of the recordings and the clarity of the vinyl. I was unaware of the fact that Oberlin has a large collection of jazz vinyl records, and I wanted to explore that avenue further.

Why did you choose this particular record? 
When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I visited a record store on S:t. Eriksgatan, off the green line. I was actually looking for first pressings of ABBA CDs, but instead discovered a treasure trove of music popular in Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s. I asked the man at the counter what Swedish music he’d recommend for an American like myself. He looked like a rocker, but suggested the record I chose to digitize, Waltz for Debby. He said, “It’s one of the best Swedish jazz records of all time.” I actually bought the CD, but never listened the whole way through until this project.

How was this experience different from simply locating an existing digital version of the LP on YouTube or Spotify?
The musical experience itself was much warmer than it was listening to the album digitally. In this day and age, with record producers peak-limiting and compressing masters and selling lossy-quality audio to the general public, a lot of fidelity is permanently lost that I was able to hear on the record as I digitized it. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that there were very few distracting pops and hisses on the record. Nowadays, most used vinyl records have deteriorated due to quotidian use. This particular record in the Neumann collection has been preserved very well. Listening to the record through proper equipment was simply sublime.

What stood out to you as you listened to the recording, and what would you recommend future listeners listen for when they stream this content?

Musically, the simplicity stood out to me—voice, piano, drums, and bass. The music conveyed so much raw emotion—melancholy, poignance, introspection—through the nuances of Zetterlund’s alto register woven into the musical licks by Bill Evans’s piano and the deep bass, against the backdrop of the soft brushes on the drums.

I was glad to hear the Swedish language again, so hearing the compositions “Jag vet en dejlig rosa” and “Monicas vals” was a refreshing experience. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed “Some Other Time” as well, a composition I'd never heard before. I haven’t heard anything else of either Bill Evans or Monica Zetterlund, but this collaboration worked beautifully. I’ll be sure to listen to more of each of them in the near future. 

For other newcomers to the world of jazz music, I’d recommend the albums Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, both of which are in the Neumann Collection.

Can other students listen to the LP now that it's been digitized?  
Yes, just click here and, when prompted, enter your ObieID and password.  If you’re off campus, you’ll need to authenticate using Oberlin’s VPN.