Compared to the music we're making now, the classic Blue Note stuff seems to me to have a certain darkness and richness of tone that I often miss elsewhere. Did I just out myself as an audiophile? I'm not so sure this is purely a question of production, though that's undoubtedly a significant question unto itself. Of course, physics tells us that the most basic way to get more, higher frequencies out of the same sounding body is to excite ever higher overtones by applying ever greater force; to wit, this bit from Ellery Eskelin caught my attention:
EE: And he [Gerald Cleaver] doesn’t play too loud, which unfortunately... I don’t even say that to criticize any other musicians. I’ve played with loud bands and I’ve played loud myself most of my life. It’s just the way we play today. I wasn’t around in the ‘40s or ‘50s, but I’m sure that we play two to three times louder than guys played then in terms of decibel levels. Sonic quality and resonance is another issue. Those cats could fill a room in a way that few people today can. But that’s not volume, that’s something else, that’s another quality.
Either way, the contemporary paradigm strikes me as higher and buzzier at all dynamic levels. Happily, this "other quality" has not been completely lost either: Jamire Williams, Nextboppy drummer about town whom I recently caught in person with the Walter Smith III quartet, has just about the lightest touch I think I've ever heard. Together with utterly fearsome chops and an unusually tasteful sense of when to bang and when to rustle, he makes magic with the high frequencies.