“Porgy and Bess” CD release draws on Riverwalk Jazz archive

February 16, 2016
Hannah Frost
Porgy and Bess: A Jazz Transcription - CD cover

The producers of Riverwalk Jazz, the popular public radio program dedicated to presenting, preserving and promoting classic jazz, recently issued their acclaimed live production of “Porgy and Bess: A Jazz Transcription” on CD.  The original program masters, recorded in 1992 on analog quarter-inch tape, were paged from the Riverwalk Jazz collection held by the Archive of Recorded Sound and digitized at the Stanford Media Preservation Lab for the release.

Nathan Coy, who carried out the audio engineering at SMPL, describes the process: 

"The original two channel masters were recorded with Dolby SR. When the job came in, SMPL didn't have support for Dolby SR, so we used this occasion to purchase a two channel Dolby 363 noise reduction unit that includes Dolby SR and Dolby A. The original recordings had Dolby SR noise calibration signals recorded before the program material, making aligning the Dolby SR unit match that of the original recording unit quite convenient. After confirming correct azimuth and reproduce level alignment on our Studer 807 tape transfer machine, the Dolby 363 was aligned to the Dolby alignment tones recorded on the master tape.  A transfer was completed by capturing the signal through a Prism Sound Dream ADA-8XR convertor with two parallel, identical captures of the digital signal in two recording devices, allowing for confirmation of an accurate digital recording as written to disc via a null test using the two parallel recordings. As soon as the recording was confirmed as accurate on disc, an MD5 checksum was generated to accompany the digital recording for the purpose of checking file integrity through the production and archiving lifecycle." 

Promotion of the CD, now available for purchase from City Hall Records, has attracted more traffic than ever to SUL’s Riverwalk Jazz collection website, one of SUL’s most popular online collections since the site was launched in 2013. Offering streaming audio of the program archive 24x7, the site typically has 300-500 sessions per day, but with an email promotion of the CD last week, we saw nearly 1,000 visitors in a single day alone.

The Porgy and Bess CD is not the first time material held by the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound has been released commercially. Monterey Jazz Festival Records issued 12 releases in 2007-2008 drawing on historic concert performances by Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Dave Brubeck, Thelonius Monk and many others from the Festival's recordings preserved and archived by Stanford. 

For more about the Porgy and Bess program, read the accompanying essay in two parts: Part One and Part Two.

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