The Problem with Contemporary B3 Recordings

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Disclaimer: the title of this post in no way means that I think contemporary B3 recordings are problematic because of the playing or the musicians, just so you know….

In the last couple months or so I’ve been listening to a few recent recordings that feature B3.  And there’s something I’ve noticed that I can’t quite wrap my head around: the B3 on the majority, if not all, of these recordings sounds flat, weak, and small.

While I was checking out some recent B3 albums I was also listening to some older recordings by Shirley Scott, Charles Earland, Jimmy Scott, and a fellow whose name I’ve forgotten that is on a slamming Illinois Jacquet album.  On these albums (a mix of vinyl and CD) the B3s sound completely opposite from those on the newer recordings I’ve been listening to.  On these older records each B3, no matter who was playing it, sounded huge, alive, complex, and powerful.

I know that this dichotomy between the newer and the older albums does not have to do with a difference in playing between generations.  I’ve seen several organists over the last few years whose B3s were so powerful it seemed as if every molecule in my body was sympathetically vibrating.

So if contemporary B3 players are playing the shit out of their instrument just as their forebears did, why do contemporary B3s sound like a shadow of themselves on records?  Is it something to do with digital recording versus the analog of yesteryear?  Is it that so many more records from all genres are now being compressed? Is it that just about everything now is Pro-Toolsed within an inch of its life?

Whatever the reason, I wish engineers would figure out how to make the B3 sound just as good now on CD as it did decades ago.  The instrument and the audience would only benefit from it.

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