Joscho Stephan Trio—Paris - Berlin/Berliner Meister Schallplatten Direct to Disc 180g vinyl

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For those of you not familiar with vinyl Direct to Disc technology, think of it as cutting out the recorded medium middle man. New to me Berliner Meister Schallplatten explains the process as:

The recording is made onto a lacquer disc. With a galvanic process this lacquer disc is turned into an extrusion die. Every vinyl disc is thus an original copy of this recording. Because lacquer discs and extrusion dies are destroyed or worn out during the manufacturing and multiplication process, the pressed vinyl discs are ultimately the best possible reproductions of a direct-to-disc recording.

Lacking a storage process on tape or as a computer file, there are very short and direct signal routes. The instruments' sound waves are transformed into electrical oscillations by microphones, and cut into a groove on the lacquer disc by the cutting stylus directly and without any delay. Direct-to-disc recordings do without digitizing the music, and also without a lossy storage on analogue tape.

Our direct to disc musicians, the Joscho Stephan Trio, are proponents of the gypsy guitar style. Joscho Stephan lead guitar, Volker Kamp double bass and Sven Jungbeck rhythm guitar.

The recording was made by the famous Emil Berliner Studios, one of the very few in the world to employ the direct to disc recording technique.

The pressure is on the musicians—what they play on a take stays on the recording. Retakes are very expensive. Preparation is the keyword, but spontaneity is the musical by product.

This spectacular recording features musicians unknown to me. The lead guitar, Joscho Stephan is an expert in the gypsy guitar style. Think Django Reinhardt. Stephan is a virtuoso with a wonderful style and an arsenal of sounds. The two other musicians add to the overall effect and play very well, but the floor belongs to Stephan.

Each side has songs influenced by two cities, Paris and Berlin. Berlin gets some very toe tapping oom pah with a descant of gypsy virtuoso, but Paris gets the full ‘Hot Club de France’ treatment, with obvious Django and Stéphane Grappelli  influences. It’s magical stuff. And played so beautifully. I love Berlin, but there’s nowhere like Paris.

The recording is spectacular. The three instruments are perfectly situated and sound so real. Musical, with a huge wall removed. The three instruments have very specific musical tasks, solo, rhythm and bass. The recording captures the cornucopia of sounds in microscopic detail. But, it never sounds clinical.

Direct to Disc has had spotty success. Sheffield Lab released quite a few albums. The Moscow and LA Phil records developed quite a following and do sound very good but a lot of Sheffield’s catalogue featured C list players. Fine, but hardly Heifetz and Horowitz. Berliner Meister Schallplatten also use players from behind the front rank—maybe top drawer classical stars don’t want to risk their reputation on such risk-laden recording sessions? That said, the great Berliner Philharmoniker put its reputation on the line recently with their conductor Sir Simon Rattle on a (very expensive) Deutsche Grammophon Direct to Disc vinyl set of the four Brahms Symphonies. Rattle said the experience was amazing but terrifying!

The recording medium posed no risks for this superb trio. They make their joyful music sound effortless and risk free. Of course, it’s not risk free, but that’s what is so good about the album. We get virtuoso quality, unique repertoire, deeply personal performances, all heard in a world class recording, Very highly recommended.

Further Information: Berliner Meister Schallplatten