Acoustic Sounds

Kirsten Edkins

shapes & sound



Label: Cohearent Records

Produced By: Dave Connor

Engineered By: Kevin Gray

Mixed By: Ryan Wirthlin

Mastered By: Kevin Gray

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray

By: Michael Fremer

January 30th, 2023





"Hackensack West"'s First Published Recording Fulfills Kevin Gray's Sonic Quest

25 Prospect Avenue re-imagined for the 21st century

Cohearent Recording, Kevin Gray's new living room studio, which he jokingly calls "Hackensack West" was the venue for this, the first record released on Cohearent Records. The all-analog all-vacuum tube recording chain used to produce sound every RVG fan will swoon from was outlined in a video Gray recently posted on YouTube we've embedded here.

So-Cal based jazz saxophonist/educator Kirsten Edkins, who's played in Bill Holman's Big Band, the Claire Fischer Band among others leads a small ensemble featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Ahmet Turkmenoglu, drummer Chris Wabich and trombonist Lamar Guillary through a set of eight songs, six of which are her originals, plus one from drummer Wabich and a take of the familiar, often covered "Dedicated to You" (you probably know it from Coltrane and Johnny Hartman).

Edkins' compositions, like the recording technology and techniques used to grab the sound, mostly have toe-tapping Hard Bop Blue Note-like grooves and strong Afro-Cuban accents you'll hear on album opener "Party Slug". No mystery about from where came the inspiration for "Bird Shapes", the second tune, and from there it will also be clear (if it wasn't from the opener) from where comes Gray's recording inspiration. Edkins' strong, muscular tone immediately brought to mind Joe Henderson and if in a very few tight musical spots she sounds on less firm footing, consider both that the album was recorded during the height of the Covid epidemic and more to the point, in the "old school" no headphones, no punch-ins, no isolation booth style Rudy Van Gelder used in his Hackensack, N.J. living room recording studio, which was about the same size as Gray's living room.

The side closer, "The Goose" will surely remind you musically and sonically of the Van Gelder/Blue Note vibe except that Gray gets better recorded piano sound. The mixes put Clayton's piano center stage, with Edkins stage right (left channel), Wabich stage left (right channel) and bassist Turkmenoglu in the same central plane as Clayton. It's a classic recording with all of the glorious microphone leakage there, giving you the room sound you both crave and deserve.

If you start with the final track, Wabich's "Hula Hoop" (Do younger readers even know what that 50's era "starter hump toy" is?) when you hear Turkmenoglu's stand-up bass actually sounding like a stand-up bass playing in a room, with its attack and timbral character so naturally presented, you'll realize how rarely contemporary recordings manage what Gray gets on tape here. And a shout out also to all of the musicians for their willingness to record this way!

The packaging is not "old school Blue Note", rather it's "new school Music Matters/Tone Poet", with laminated gatefold "tip on" jacket and black and white session photos. All that's missing are Rudy's venetian blinds—which is not meant to suggest Kevin Gray has copied Van Gelder's recording technique or sound. He's for sure been inspired by them.

The first RTI pressing of the record is either sold-out or soon will be. Gray wasn't sure how this would be received. Now he knows so he's having more pressed.

There's no irony or hypocrisy in having just given an "11" to a digital recording (Patricia Barber's Clique!) and an "11" to a pure, tube driven "old school" analog one. These two epitomize "state of the art" in both domains.

With kind permission from newly minted "record biz mogul" Kevin Gray here's an excerpt from "Dedicated to You" (you'll also get to hear Esoteric's Grandioso T1 turntable [review in The Absolute Sound to be published late Spring/early Summer], Kuzma's Safir arm [TAS review coming sooner] and Audio-Technica's AT-MC2022 cartridge [review shortly posting here]):

Dedicated to You (excerpt)

Music Specifications

Catalog No: CR-AV-2201

Pressing Plant: RTI


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: analog master tapes

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-01-31 12:27:40 AM

    Come on wrote:

    This iconic one an 11, the Clique! LP, too and the Clique! DXD legitimately a 12 or 13 then? I still see many digital recordings (for example quite the whole catalog of Stockfisch, Chesky or Sound Liaison) be better than this Barber and not above this and other AAA recordings.

    But maybe this is a sign that we have to get used to reading less of AAA and more of DDA vinyl everywhere soon…probably sometime exceeding the AAA ratings…reminds me of an era in the 90‘s with so called CD‘s.

  • 2023-01-31 08:40:03 PM

    Martin Straub wrote:

    It's sold out. one copy on discogs. $260.-- up for repress.

    • 2023-01-31 10:07:26 PM

      Come on wrote:

      I guess we can be confident all the VIP‘s were readily supplied before the record hit the streets and the first review was published ;-)

  • 2023-02-05 01:44:15 PM

    WJ Wicks wrote:

    I bought this only because of Kevin Gray, I saw his video on YouTube talking about his new all-analog all-vacuum tube recording chain. I watched the video, found it at Acoustic Sounds, bought it. Simple. No VIP treatment here. I agree with Mikey's score: the sound is an impressive 11. It sounds fantastic on my system, and everything else he says about the music I also agree with. The rhythm section is tight. I would only add: if this is "Hackensack West" and Kevin is channelling RVG - then, Kevin desperately needs a modern day Alfred Lion. This 'passion project' as Kevin calls it, could do so much more with better acts and better music.

  • 2023-02-22 06:24:42 PM

    Scott Swarens wrote:

    I purchased a copy on the primary market and love it. I'm looking forward to the future projects Kevin undertakes.