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No. 178 March 2019

AC RECORDS VINYL CLUB & „HIGH FIDELITY”
OR ABOUT WHAT ADAM CZERWIŃSKI CAME UP WITH, AND WE WANT IN

got to know Adam Czerwiński twice. My first "exposure" to this jazz drummer took place the moment I first heard Jarek Śmietana's albums, received from Rysiek Bartyzel - his friend, and a member of the Krakow Sonic Society, who for many years was one of the artist's albums sponsors. The second time, it was actually a phone call. I contacted him before the release of the Friends. Music of Jarek Śmietana album, that "High Fidelity" was a media patron of. Thanks to this, I finally had a chance to meet him personally in my home, while discussing his project named AC RECORDS VINYL CLUB.

| FIRST MEETING

Adam Czerwiński met with Jarek Śmietana in 1984 at a jazz workshop in Chodzież, where they played a few sets together. A regular cooperation began in 1991 (or in 1993, depending on the source). They played hundreds of concerts together, recorded a dozen albums, including the extremely popular A Story of Polish Jazz, and he stayed with him until 2013; then Jarek Waszczyszyn (Ancient Audio) and Rysiek Bartyzel (HF | No. 113) wrote a beautiful text Z dołka pisane about the late guitarist.

However, Adam Czerwiński's career began much earlier. In 1986 he graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin Secondary Music School in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz in the percussion class, but initially he was mainly interested in playing the vibraphone and thanks to this instrument he got to the Big Band Gdańsk led by Jerzy Partyka.

Adam Czerwiński in person A.D. 2019

I asked Adam about the reason for abandoning this instrument - an instrument he loved, he felt really good about and which he played a graduation concert on, Together with the orchestra, he played his own transcription of the Niccolo Paganini Concerto in D major, Op. 6 No. 1. The reasons for abandoning the vibraphone for a percussion were prosaic - there were only two high quality instruments of this type in Gdańsk area, one at the Gdańsk Philharmonic; There was no chance to purchase own instrument.

Quickly, however, he got used to playing percussion and sitting behind the drums, he soon played with the Gdańsk group Zu-Zu and the New Coast. As it reads in Wikipedia, the professional debut dates back to 1986, when he started playing in the Janusz Muniak band.

The most important documentation of his work from that period is, at least for me, the Lora Szafran Lonesome Dancer, the last release from the original Polish Jazz series (vol. 76, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SX2840, 1989). This is one of the most interesting jazz albums of the 1980s, and it was really well recorded too. Lora Szafran was accompanied by a band called New Presentation, which included great, young Polish jazzmen: pianist, composer and leader Wojciech Niedziela, his brother, bassist Jacek Niedziela, the hero of this text, Adam Czerwiński on drums, and trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik.

I'm talking about "young" musicians, because Adam Czerwiński was only 25 years old at the time. However, this album opened the door for further projects. In the following years, he worked with Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski and Zbigniew Namysłowski. In turn, during "Śmietana" period he played with such jazz personalities as Lee Konitz, Eddie Henderson, Larry Koonze, Harvie Swartz, John Abercrombie, Cameron Brown, Jeane Poule Bourelly, Bennie Wallace, Bennie Maupin, Larry Goldings and James Newton. Recently he also played with John Scofield, Jean Luc Pontym, Robert Plant and Nigel Kennedy. In 2017, the "Percussist" magazine named him one of the 101 Greatest Polish Percussionists of All Time.

| SECOND MEETING

For the second time, this time personally (sort of), I met Adam in 2014, when he asked for the patronage of "High Fidelity" over an exceptional album dedicated to his friend, Jarek Śmietana. The project was supposed to be special - the album was to be released on vinyl, and Christian Wright was supposed to be responsible for analog mastering. On the Friends. Music of Jarek Śmietana album we could hear the most important Polish jazz musicians, as well as Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson and John Scofield, to name a few guests from abroad (AC Records 005).

It was a digital recording – the recordings were made in more then one studio – the above mentioned Christian Wright was to make it more „analogue”. And he's not just one of many mastering engineers, he works in the Abbey Road Studios, and specializes in analogue mastering and cutting of vinyl records. Such work is possible, because the studio where, among others, The Beatles recorded their albums, has been again equipped with analogue equipment, including one of the still working „copper lathes”, using DMM, or Direct Metal Master, technology.

We described the DMM technology many times, usually when reviewing one of the Stockfisch releases, that are mastered by Hendrik Pauler in the Pauler Acoustics studio, that also uses a lathe with this technology (Neumann VMS-82 DMM).

So that's the guy who only in 2018 cut records of such artists as: Massive Attack, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Cream, Elvis and Ella Fitzgerald. So how did it happened that Adam Czerwiński record was prepared by him? I asked the best possible source, Adam:

To get to the Abbey Road Studios, to one of the best mastering engineers who would do the mastering in this legendary studio, in the best conditions possible, was not easy. I was fortunate enough to play with Neil Kennedy back then and his tour manager was Steve Cox, one of the renown personalities in the world of music. We know him, for example, from concert tours of such stars as: Iron Maiden, Amy Winehouse, Def Leppard, etc.

He contacted me with the manager of the Abbey Road Studios and "walked me in" through the main entrance, so to speak. That's what got me to the 'right' hands from the start. It also helped that he liked the music I brought with me, he was also pleased with the pre-mastering job done in Poland by Jan Smoczyński. Nowadays I feel at home there, if I can say that - I can make an appointment at almost any time.

My first record was prepared by Christian Wright. However, when I called about mastering of the In A Sentimental Mood, an album released as part of the AC Records Vinyl Club, it turned out that at the time he was already involved in some other project. The manager, I have already mentioned, offered me another mastering engineer who turned out to be the man - Alex Warton.

While Christian Wright is great, Alex Warton is a completely different story. He joined the ABS team fifteen years ago and specialized in cutting metal, copper-plated DMM discs. It was him who prepared the most important vinyl releases remastered in the Abbey Road Studio in recent years: The Beatles, My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Marvin Gaye. He is behind the success of Radiohead's The King of Limbs and was also involved in re-issues of the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney catalogs.

| AC RECORDS VINYL CLUB

The year 2014, which we talked about, turned out to be a breakthrough for Adam Czerwiński – in terms of his immersion in the analogue world. After the first album, however, there was a break until 2017, when recording the album MAP with his trio he decided to have it mastered in the Custom34 studio, which is one of the best-equipped analog studios, where - among others - the T.Love (more about the T.Love HERE) recorded their album. It was a digital recording, however the mix and mastering were done in analog domain. As usual, Alex Wharton took care of the mastering for the LP release.

It was not until December 13, 2018, however, that the vinyl club was opened, which is an event that interests us first and foremost. The idea is as old as an analogue record, and yet a fresh one. The point is that the records released by such a club are available primarily to its members who also receive related bonuses. The AC Records Vinyl Club is to release new albums every two months.

You can sign up for one of few plans – the longer the one chosen the more attractive it gets, so ones for 6 or 12 months seem most interesting. These plans offer:

  • discounts on all releases up to 12%,
  • additional materials and bonuses,
  • access to recording session files,
  • earlier deliveries of new releases.

Adam, however, gave it an extra dimension - the albums proposed by him are strictly limited, to 500 copies - 150 copies are released on red vinyl, and the remaining 350 on a black one, all are numbered. They feature a "gatefold" cover and high quality artwork. But the most important thing is the approach to the sound quality.

The first two AC Records releases were prepared in the Room 7,, one of just a few mastering studios in the world using Neumann VMS-82 DMM lathe. The third title will be different, because it will be prepared by another engineer - although also at the Abbey Road Studios - Sean Magee, most likely on a classic "varnish", that is using Neumann VMS-80, that is used in two mastering rooms - Room 5 and Room 6.

The first two albums, however, are a demonstration of the capabilities of Naumann's latest technology, the DMM model. In addition, they also use the EMI TG12410 analog console and four Studer real-to-reel recorders. Two of them are used as a signal source: A820 for ½" tape and a classic Studer A80 for ¼" tape and two other tape recorders used for the cutting process (with the so called "Advanced Head"), Studers A80 for ½" and ¼" tapes, the latter being also available with mono heads. The material is monitored using the PMC MB2-S-XBD-A main loudspeakers driven with Bryston amplifiers.

In A Sentimental Mood | The first item in the AC Records Vinyl Club catalog is the In A Sentimental Mood album, which Adam Czerwiński recorded with Wojciech Karolak (AC Records ACR 009). The recordings were made in an analogue Custom 34 studio on the 24-track, analogue recorder, Studer A 827 and Neve Custom Series console. The material was also mixed there and mastered by Piotr Łukaszewski. Adam took the prepared tape to London, where Alex Warton ("Analog Mastering") did his magic with it, using Shadow Hills Valve Compression compressors. This is a true AAA release, completely analog.

A Story of Polish Jazz | The second album released by the club contains a very special music. It's the A Story of Polish Jazz recorded by Jarek Śmietana in 2004 (AC Records 010). It is known mainly for two reasons. The first is that the history of Polish jazz in the title track is told by rappers from Krakow's Nowa Huta. The second one concerns involved musicians - the best Polish jazzmen participated in the recording of this album, for example Piotr Wyleżoł, Adam Czerwiński, Jerzy Duduś Matuszkiewicz, Wojciech Karolak, Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski and others, as well as foreign soloists, including Steve Logan.

The album was recorded in the Radio Małopolska Studio by Aleksander Wilk and Wojciech Gruszka in the digital domain, and soloists were recorded separately in Jarek Smietana's JSR mobile digital studio. Mix was prepared by Dariusz Grela in the NLD studio. This is a classic digital production. Adam Czerwiński, however, wanted to pay tribute to his friend and decided to remastered it in analog domain, and he asked again Alex Warton to do it. So one of a kind record was made, that includes a very special guest, Steve Logan who raps in the first track.

Alex Wharton while mastering in the Abbey Road Studios. Photo: Adam Czerwiński

| AC RECORDS VINYL CLUB & „HIGH FIDELITY”

When I am writing this text, Adam Czerwiński is still in Krakow, although he flies to London in a few days for mastering of the third album for the Club. We are already spent two days of brainstorming, discussing some ideas, making choices. When I heard about this initiative, I immediately thought that "High Fidelity" must be part of it. One of our basic tasks is to promote the best music and its best releases, and in the case of the AC Records we have both.

Truly yours with Adam Czerwiński, Kraków January 15th 2019

It seems that Adam also liked the idea of a partnership since on January 15th 2019, "High Fidelity" became the official partner of AC Records Vinyl Club. You will find in our magazine the most complete description of its releases, reviews, information and news. We will have access to descriptions of the first pressings, test pressings, master tapes and their digital versions.

Therefore, we strongly encourage all of "High Fidelity" and „Positive Feedback” readers, where I have my column as a Senior Cooperating Editor, to sign up for the Club. We would like to experience this adventure together with you and deliver the most comprehensive information about this initiative. Sigh in, listen and enjoy – it will bring all of us one step closer to the audiophile heaven.

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

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