Arne Domnérus & Friends – Jazz at the Pawnshop

Jazz at the pawnshop

These are probably the most famous audiophile live jazz recordings every made. The music was recorded in a small jazz club in Gamla Stan in Stockholm named Jazzpuben Stampen, after a pawnbrokers’ shop which used to be in that block. The venue could hold up to around 80 people and the engineer, Gert Palmcrantz, had recorded music there regularly since it opened in 1968. There was nothing different in the preparation for the recording of these concerts on the evenings of the 6th and 7th December, 1976. Palmcrantz arranged his favoured two Neumann microphones facing the stage. More microphones were used to capture the instruments, and a couple more were placed facing the audience to help get the feel of a live recording. The sound was recorded onto 2 Nagra IV recorders, which he used alternately, since the 7” reels of tape only lasted for 15 minutes at 38cm/second. So it must have been something to do with the skill and good humour of the musicians, coupled with the enthusiasm and support from the audience that made these recordings so special.

The musicians were Arne Domnérus, on alto saxophone and clarinet, who was the leader of the group, Bengt Hallberg on piano, Georg Riedel on bass, and Egil Johansen on drums. They were joined by Lars Erstrand on vibes, on the second night. Most of the tunes must have been chosen by Arne Domnérus, as they were written and played by other alto saxophone and clarinet players. There is Benny Goodman’s “Limehouse Blues”, Charlie Parker’s “Barbados”, Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”, and Johnny Hodges’s “Jeep’s Blues”, amongst the tracks. In fact there are a good selection of both ballads, and up tempo numbers. Notably there is a track called “High Life”, an arrangement of an African folk tune, which really animates the audience, and you can hear their appreciation.

We still regularly get requests to play tracks from this album when we are demonstrating hi-fi equipment, even though it was recorded over 30 years ago. We have it on LP and CD, as well as on our server as a hi-res file. The reason is that it does not sound like just a recording, but makes you feel that you were actually there. You can hear the musicians tuning up, the clinking of glasses and the hubbub of the audience. You can hear the audience quieten down as the musicians start to play, how their murmurs of appreciation turn to applause and encouragement as they start to enjoy the music, and the quality of their performance.

Paul Janove, Grahams Hi-Fi, London

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