Ah but THIS story made Bob Stephens memorable to me

by Coscannon

"I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody"
posted by Emrah Erken

Taken from the liner notes of the Jazz Oracle CD "Jack Purvis" (by Michael Brooks):

In 1930 Purvis was sharing a brownstone apartment at 26 W.61st, just off Central Park West, with Bob Stephens, who worked for OKeh as an A & R assistant to Justin Ring. How the two met is a mystery, but Stephens, brother of the bass player Haig Stephens, had played trumpet with the Scranton Sirens and maybe Purvis had met him during his stint with Hal Denman, as the band frequently toured Pennsylvania. When I met Stephens in 1971 he was a benign elderly gentleman whose throat cancer necessitated him speaking through a voice box, but he was probably a very different personality in 1930. Stephens told me that he lost his job at OKeh due to the Depression and one night he and Purvis skipped without paying their rent, leaving behind a stolen World War 1 Lewis gun which Purvis had mounted on the wall above the fireplace. Worse, they left hundreds of unreleased OKeh test pressings. One of Stephens' duties was to listen to all takes of a recording and to select the best, based on the "wear test". When I asked him what that was, he replied:"OKeh set the standards based on musical quality and wear. If a take was good, then the second or third good take was supposed to absolutely identical, as the guidelines were laid down when everything was read from music and there was no improvisation at all, so the best take was judged by balance. Every test was played about twenty times and the take that wore the least was released. Of course, by 1930 those guidelines made no sense, as they didn't take into consideration improvised jazz and blues. I had a room full of alternate takes by Louis, Bix, Miff, Red Nichols - everybody. I often wondered what happened to them."

Posted on Nov 12, 2017, 3:58 PM

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