Sheffield Lab Recordings Releases The Harry James Sessions: Harry James and His Big Band

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Sheffield Lab Recordings has released a new Harry James CD set with all their original direct to disk recordings. This is a great opportunity for audiophiles and trumpet fans to have a collection of one of the trumpet greats, Harry James, recorded at the highest standards.

Sheffield Lab Recordings has released a new Harry James CD set with all their original direct to disk recordings. This is a great opportunity for audiophiles and trumpet fans to have a collection of one of the trumpet greats, Harry James, recorded at the highest standards. At the time, Harry James said, "In 36 years of recording, I have never been so pleased with the sound."

The CD set is a reissue of a historic recording: The Harry James Sessions. Consisting of three albums originally recorded direct-to-disc by Sheffield in 1976 and 1979, and now spectacularly re-mastered by Seth Winner from analog disc originals, this program of music from the height of the swing era is a vital representation of one of the great big bands of the 20th century. To hear this music recorded by Sheffield from the perspective of a single stereo microphone, is to hear this magnificent band as dancers heard it in front of the bandstand, with the impact and energy that we don't associate with historic recordings of another era. Pretty thrilling stuff!

We think your readers will appreciate hearing about the very high recording standards at Sheffield Lab and about Harry James' musicality. I personally got my first Sheffield Lab Harry James album with a piece of stereo equipment years ago that demonstrated the equipment's quality. The quality is the same here for a new generation. The quiet passages are incredibly quiet, and the band sound is lush.

Henry Haag “Harry” James (1916-1983) was a trumpet player and band leader who led one of the great swing bands from 1939 until the end of his life. His band was enormously successful in the forties, with a very high musical standard which Harry himself set with his extraordinary trumpet playing. His sound was brilliant throughout a wide range, with surprising richness in the lower register. A lyrical player and hot improviser, he was said to be such a quick sight-reader that if a fly fell on his music, he would play it.

Harry was born in Albany, Georgia. His childhood was with a traveling circus for which his father led the band. He taught Harry the trumpet, with a very strict regimen. Harry built up astonishing endurance from playing many circus shows a day, rigorous training indeed.

My partner, Doug Sax, is an excellent symphonic trumpet player who worshiped Harry James from childhood and committed many of his legendary solos to memory. He and I used to play in a college dance band. From the piano, I heard Doug playing “a la Harry” at the Jewish weddings and bar-mitzvahs for which we played.

In 1975, when I heard that Harry James and his Big Band would have an engagement at the famous Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, I was curious to hear if this band still carried the torch of swing. I took my girl to the Grove and we danced to that great band. It was then I knew that I had to find out if Harry James would make a record for Sheffield Lab. On a break, I approached Harry and found him unassuming and low key. He had no recording commitments at that time, would be interested in exploring the possibility of recording for us, and was intrigued with the “direct to disc” approach.
When Harry came to The Mastering Lab on our first day of recording, Doug had never laid eyes upon him. I asked him what it felt like to see Harry walk into The Mastering Lab from Hollywood Boulevard. He said, in typical Doug Sax style, “It was as though Jesus Christ, Himself, had walked through that door!”
Lincoln Mayorga -- May, 2013

For forty years, the award-winning natural sound of Sheffield Lab has been recognized throughout the world as the reference standard for musical and sonic excellence. Sheffield is the label that single-handedly brought audiophile recordings to high profile status with the astonishingly realistic quality of its direct-to-disc recordings. With the highest audio standard for its CDs and downloads, Sheffield's tradition of non-compromise audio continues in the digital era with stunningly beautiful sound, across its diverse catalog of pop, jazz, and classical music.

For more information, promo requests, or to set up an interview, contact Cindy Hermann at Mogul Marketing, (518) 794-7483. The CDs can be purchased, and music can be sampled, on the Sheffield Lab web site, at or from the home page at

CD cover photo, photo of Harry James at dinner, and Sheffield Lab logo are attached. The extensive liner notes from the CD follow.
Supplemental Information - Liner Notes
Harry James and His Big Band

Recording engineer: Ron Hitchcock
Design engineer for Sheffield Lab: Bud Wyatt
Engineering technicians: Steve Haselton, David Coe, and “Chance” Lake
Recording booth supervision: Wes Lindskoog
Music Preparation: Mickey Ingalls
Production assistant: Jeff Weber
Lathe operator (original analogue discs): Mike Reese
MADO - Mastered from Analogue Disc Originals by Seth Winner

Special thanks to The Reverend Lloyd John Ogilvie and Ted Behr,
First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood
Photography and original jacket art: Christina Farley
Album design: Dianne Steele (2013)
Sheffield Lab 2CD (SL10090A-B)
©℗ 1976, 1979 and 2013

From the 1976 Program Notes by Doug Sax, for the Original Analogue Direct-to-disc Release:
It was with great reluctance that we finally admitted that something had gone wrong with our recording of Harry James done in March of 1976. This recording had represented our most ambitious technical effort, a superb example of electronics serving music…

Our recording of Harry James was done in a chapel, with the perspective of a single stereo microphone (AKG C-24) feeding a portable console that drove a 600 foot line to the Mastering Lab, and without a single transformer in the circuit between the band and the disc cutting amplifier. None of this remote equipment existed 6 weeks prior to the sessions. That’s where we went awry, you say? Wrong! Our head design engineer, Bud Wyatt, both conceived and co-ordinated our purist approach to recording Harry James. All the electronics were specifically built for this record, and the deadline was reached only by a Herculean effort of 6 technicians, 7 day weeks, and eventually 16 hour days. And it worked flawlessly, our smoothest recording endeavor ever.

After evaluating the performances, we made test pressings, and sent them to our distributors. The response was terrific. But there were aspects of the sound that bothered us. We tried pressing in different vinyls, but one instrument failed to come back as it should have, and that instrument was, unfortunately, Harry himself. Now if maybe the string bass had lost something, or even the piano, that might be overlooked, but to lose Harry -----

The only member of Sheffield Lab that had any contact with Harry prior to the recording in March was Lincoln. Lincoln had followed the band while they were playing in Texas, recorded their complete repertoire on cassette, worked out the program with Harry, and cleared the songs to be recorded. He told us that both the band and Harry were everything a big band should be, an ensemble worthy of our best efforts. The entire staff of Sheffield Lab and the Mastering Lab got to judge for themselves when Harry first kicked off the band in Wylie Chapel. Every face carried a look of awe and pleasure. Lincoln was right, if we could but capture a piece of this on disc, the effort would be worthwhile.

And so the recording started, and Harry became omnipresent; leading the band, changing the order, checking out our endeavors, and playing his horn. He is unique, he breaks all the rules. He smokes like a chimney, stays up late, and is living proof that Beefeater gin does more for you than just make you feel good. His warm-up consists of two quick 3 octave runs on the horn --- loud. His sound had more identity than possibly any other instrumentalist. Above all, he is supremely musical. And his interest is totally with the band. Minute imbalances on playback were corrected by Harry: "I want the tenor to change chairs with the second alto, the trumpet should move over a bit to the left, and let's get the stands that we perform with so our sound projects more." everything he suggests works.

As per Sheffield Lab tradition, the band was taken to dinner at Musso & Franls before the last session. Musso's is Hollywood's oldest restaurant, established in 1919. It has maintained an excellence for 57 years, and is certainly a fitting place for Harry James and his band. Harry and I sat at the bar, with Harry insisting that he buy me a drink, a milk-shake glass full of Beefeater's martini. As my lips numbed and eyes glazed, Harry talked of baseball, and of his father who taught him trumpet. He talked of being 12 and hearing Louis Armstrong, of Bunny Berrigan with a whiskey flask in his pocket, and of Arturo Toscanini. But mostly he spoke of his band, the future, and the challenge of performing every night. It became apparent that this master of the most physically challenging instrument known had applied enormous thought and discipline to his craft.

As the time approached to return to the chapel, Harry ordered a large plate of spaghetti. "Caruso always ate a plate of spaghetti before performing." So back we went, and we finished the recording. The entire band and Harry listened to the takes. After a while, the band departed. Only Harry, Lincoln, and myself were left. Harry liked what he heard. "In 36 years of recording, I have never been so pleased with the sound. This has been a very enjoyable time for me." the feeling was mutual. on this friendly note we parted company with Harry James.

(In May,) Lincoln had (to drive to Disneyland, to perform) the unpleasant task of telling Harry that our March efforts had run into problems. Harry agreed to record again in July. during that time we did many tests to determine exactly what had gone wrong in March, and we finally came up with an understanding of our problem. Much of our misery could have been excited by the peak pulse information inherent in brass instruments (particularly Harry's brilliant solo sound). By the time July came around we were satisfied that our act was together and we were determined not only to be successful, but to make detail improvements in every stage of the recording chain.

The session started off poorly. Nothing sounded quite right. Two whole 3 hour sessions were gone, and not one note had been recorded. Harry was unhappy, and when Harry was unhappy, you WILL know about it. Our technical staff plugged on and pretty soon smiles were seen on what had been glum faces. Our recording engineer, Ron Hitchcock, was positively beaming, but the clock was running out. All present knew that the time to accomplish this meshing of art and science had arrived.

Lincoln had invited a sizable audience for the last 2 sessions, and the band did not record, they performed. Most of all, Harry played as only Harry can. He demanded much and gave even more.Harry's illustrious past is history, this recording is of now, and it NOT a nostalgia trip. It is an accurate capturing of a vital musical entity, the band Harry James has kept alive and well for 36 years.

Doug Sax
July, 1976

The Musicians:
Disc A: Tracks 1-13, Disc B Tracks 1-5

Trumpets: Harry James, Nick Buomo, Gino Bozzacco, William Hicks, Robert Berrenson
Trombones: Tom Padveen, Chuck Anderson
Bass Trombone: Houghton Peterson
Saxophones: Quin Davis, Pat Longo, Mel Kunkle, Bob Lawson, Norman Smith
Piano: Tommy Todd
Bass: Dave Stone
Drums: Les DeMerle
Recorded July 29-30, 1976, Wylie Chapel, First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California

Disc B: Tracks 6-16
Trumpets: Harry James, Nick Buomo, Clay Jenkins, William Hicks, Clyde Resinger
Trombones: Gary Tole, John Cochra
Bass Trombone: Stew Undem
Saxophones: Mike Buttera, Tino Isgro, Chris Guluman, Norman Smith, Jack Allen
Piano: Norman Parker
Bass: Dave Stone
Drums: Les DeMerle
Recorded March 26-30, 1979, Wylie Chapel, First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California


1 CORNER POCKET 04:10 Arraged by Ernie Wilkins
    Count Bassie (Bregman, Vocco & Conn, Inc.) ASCAP

2 LARA'S THEME from Dr. Zhivago 03:40 Arranged by Dave Matthews
    Maurice Jarre ( Robbins Music Corporation) ASCAP
3 CHEROKEE 01:18 arranged by Thad Jones
    Ray Noble (Peter Maurice Music Co. Ltd/Shapiro Bernstein & Co.) ASCAP

4 MORE SPLUTIE, PLEASE 04:58 Arranged by Thad Jones
    Thad Jones (Thad Jones Music/Music Makers) ASCAP

5 TRACES 02:48 Arranged by Rob Turk
    Buddy Buie-James Cobb-Emory Gordy (Lo-Sal Music Co.) BMI

6 DON'T BE THAT WAY 02:48 Arranged gy Ray Coniff
    Goodman-Sampson-Parish (Robbins Music Corporation) ASCAP

7 SWEET GEORGIA BROWN 02:58 Arranged by Rob Turk    
    Bernie-Casey-Pinkard (Remick Music Corporation) ASCAP

8 SHINY SILK STOCKINGS 02:04 Arranged by Ernie Wilkins
    Frank Foster (Lynnstorm Music Publishing Company) ASCAP

9 BLUES STAY AWAY FROM ME 03:54 Arranged by Jimmy Haskell
    Demore, Raney, Delmore & Glover (Fort Knox Music Co/Lois Publishing Co.) BMI

10 THE FOOT STOMPER 05:14 Arranged by Ernie Wilkins
Harry James-Ernie Wilkins (Music Makers Publishing) ASCAP
11 YOU’LL NEVER KNOW 03:51 Arranged by Bob Friedlander
Mack Gordon-Harry Warren (Bregman, Vocco and Cahn) ASCAP
12 MOTEN SWING 04:14 Arranged by Ernie Wilkins
Benny Moten-Buster Moten-Jean Eigel (Peer International) BMI,
13 TWO O’CLOCK JUMP 02:22 Arranged by Harry James
Harry James-Benny Goodman-Count Basie (Robbins Music) ASCAP

CD2 (SL10090B) 48:41
1 WATCH WHAT HAPPENS 02:48 Arrranged by Jack Perciful
Michel LeGrand-Norman Gimbel (Vogue Music, Jonware Music) BMI
2 TUXEDO JUNCTION 03:05 Arranged by Thad Jones
Feyne-Hawkins-Johnson-Dash (Rylvoc Music, Lewis Music) ASCAP
3 OPUS NUMBER ONE 02:14 Arranged by Bob Florence
Sy Oliver-Sid Garrish (Embassy Music) BMI
4 MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY 02:19 Arranged by Jimmy Haskell
Hank Cochran (True Fuel Music) BMI
5 BLUES FOR SALE 03:58 Arranged by Ernie Wilkins
(Harry James-Ernie Wilkins) (Music Makers Publishing) ASCAP

6 CARAVAN 03:39 Arranged by Johnnie Watson
Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol-Irving Mills (Mills Music) ASCAP
7 SATIN DOLL 03:45 Arranged by Bob Florence
Ellington-Mercer-Strayhorn (Tempo Music) ASCAP
8 ROLL ‘EM 02:29 Arranged by Harry James
Jule Styne-Mary Lou Williams (Robbins Music) ASCAP
9 SANFORD AND SON 02:06 Arranged by Bill Rogers
Quincy Jones (Norbud Music) BMI
10 MOONGLOW/THEME FROM “PICNIC” 03:54 Arranged by Jack Perciful
Hudson-DeLange-Mills (Mills Music/Scarsdale Music)
George Dunning-Steve Allen (Shapiro Bernstein and Company) ASCAP
11 TAKE THE “A” TRAIN 03:02 Arranged by Ernie Wilkins
Billy Strayhorn (Tempo Music) ASCAP
12 UNDECIDED 04:26 Arranged by Thad Jones
Charles Shavers-Sid Robin (MCA Music) ASCAP
13 CIAO 03:45 Arranged by Rob Turk
Harry James-Rob Turk (Music Makers Publishing) ASCAP
14 DANCE 02:47 Arranged by Bill Rogers
Paul Jabara (Irving Music) BMI
15 HELP ME MAKE IT THROUGH THE NIGHT 02:19 Arranged by Jack Perciful
Kris Kristofferson (Combine Music) BMI
16 ON A CLEAR DAY 01:57 Arranged by Jimmy Haskell
Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner (Warner Brothers Music) ASCAP

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