Chesky Records Recording Session: An inside view
David Chesky wears plenty of hats these days. As co-founder of Chesky Records and HDTracks, David's also an accomplished classical pianist and is often seen and heard playing congas inside NYC's Central Park. For more than two decades Chesky Records - a Grammy Award-winning independent audiophile label - has captured and delighted our spirits with contemporary greats like Sara K, Christy Baron, Rebecca Pidgeon, Kenny Rankin and Livingston Taylor. These names are synonymous with state-of-the-art recordings among most audiophiles I know.
The Chesky Records philosophy "to create the illusion of live musicians in a real three-dimensional space" sounds easy but is quite the opposite. A few years ago David, his brother Norman Chesky and his recording team started experimenting with Binaural recordings using a dummy head (named Lars) equipped with special calibrated microphones (B&K model HD 4100s) located at each ear. Binaural has been around for a long time but it's been relegated to headphones since it's considered almost impossible to create the ambience it provides from a pair of loudspeakers. However, after hundreds of hours experimenting with Lars and hi-rez 192kHz/24-Bit recordings David and his team achieved the impossible: true ambience retrival from a standard pair of loudspeakers!
Subsequently, two Binaural recordings have been released: Explorations in Space and Time and Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show (available via HDTracks). Having listened at length to these recordings I will contend that they do sound extra open and more dimensional. However, I found the material to be less than ideal. David's next challenge proved to be the most exciting for me personally, he wanted to do a series of jazz recordings featuring what he officially named Binaural+.
Having recorded such legendary jazz greats like Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, Jimmy Cobb and Ron Carter David wasn't afraid of placing Lars in front of a new crop of jazz musicians who've already made their mark in the world of contemporary jazz. In fact, David's latest recording entitled Primal Scream - an avant-garde style of jazz music - composed by David (where he's on piano). His band Jazz in the New Harmonic features (above from left to right); Peter Washington (bass), Javon Jackson (Sax), Jeremy Pelt (Trumpet) and Bill Drummond (drums). Recorded in a Greek church located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (my old stomping grounds) Primal Scream is scheduled for release later this year while Chesky's Jazz in the New Harmonic will be performing live at Jazz at Lincoln Center on October 1st.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is not the same Williamsburg I left back in 1999. It's the hippest place in NYC at present and really reminds me more of the Soho and the East Village. The cost of living there has skyrocketed and although I lived there for more than 12-years, I felt like I was visiting it for the first time.
Inside the Greek church is huge but amazingly it produced the right amount of ambience. The space sounded acoustically correct and/or neutral - especially where the musicians were placed.
Notice Lars' location (the dummy microphone) was situated in the front of the band adjacent to the Chesky's Yamaha piano and Peter Washington's upright bass. The wonderful advantage of being there is when the recording becomes available. Will I be able to point at the members of the band exactly as they were placed? That's the enviable position I find myself in. Obviously, I am excited quite excited at this opportunity.
But I think what most excited me about this recording date is that Billy Drummond, Javon Jackson and Peter Washington are my friends and also qualify themselves as audiophiles. Their tastes for their components are as different as their chosen instruments. Billy is a big-time Maggie (Magnepan) fan and tube lover (owns a pair of Quicksivers monoblocks) and has even written an article or two. He's the craziest of the bunch because he also got three other systems in his home and can't tell you which one he likes the most. Javon has been a fan of Tact Audio (my old favorite) but has most recently switched up to something else. I do not recall what his new amps are but I know he has an old pair of Ensemble loudspeakers too. Peter is the Single-ended, high-sensitivity transducer-lover of the bunch. His Tannoy Endinburg HE loudspeakers and Fi 300 B mono tube amplifiers has him singing high praises on the legendary synergy this combo creates.
Besides hearing these Young Lions perform live like I did on this day, there's little that can match the feeling of sitting besides these three of these guys into my listening room and hearing them share their experiences working alongside their mentors. What makes these guys so great is just that: they're audiophiles who also make the music we love to enjoy. I want to personally thank David Chesky for the opportunity to join him in another recording session. This time, however I got the chance to hear him play for the first time. All I can say is, I can't wait for this CD's official release date.