Gearbox Records has announced details of a partnership with leading independent jazz label Edition to issue limited edition 180g vinyl versions of their new releases, with the hotly anticipated Birds by Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset on the schedule for March. But first off the blocks in late-February is a milestone release for Edition and Gearbox, Mirrors by the great Kenny Wheeler.
Based in King’s Cross Gearbox is a remarkable operation. Run by Darrel Sheinman, a former punk-rock semi-pro drummer, and maritime industry risk specialist, with ex-Sony UK Jazz label head Adam Sieff shoring up marketing, the label has already built a cult reputation among the keen band of followers of the new vinyl reissue companies sprouting up in the last half-decade with its strong keeping-it-real analogue ethos, and passion for hard bop.
Speaking in the Gearbox vinyl mastering studio yesterday Sheinman told me a little of the philosophy behind the label, and played me extracts of ‘A Night in Tunisia’ from an as-yet unmastered new Simon Spillett record in the pipeline, as well as a track from a brand new Mark Murphy record featuring a sumptuous version of ‘But Beautiful’ with the bass sound of Curtis Lundy captured expertly.
Sheinman explained that Gearbox is set up to master what it wants. There’s no digital in the signal path but “digital has its place", in terms of restoring old tapes. Much of the equipment at Gearbox comes from Germany, and German sourced tape is key, with the studio centred around a restored Studer C37 valve 1/4 inch tape machine. The lathe, a Vintage Haeco Scully, with Westrex heads and cutting amps, is a beauty. Sheinman told me that Gearbox is also in the process of acquiring a tape baking machine that will be a major plus for the fledgling label.
So far Gearbox has put out releases by the Tubby Hayes Band, Joe Harriott Quintet, Don Rendell Quintet, and the late Michael Garrick, among others, tapping the substantial interest, especially in Hayes among collectors, and has even issued vinyl on the highly desirable but rarely seen 10-inch format. Sheinman says: “Interest in Tubby is also big in the US, and in Japan, and Gearbox has distribution there via Disk Union." Gearbox will also be looking to partner with other indie jazz labels who wish to issue their music on vinyl in the future.
The Gearbox vintage Scully lathe, above
Correction (20 December) Darrel Sheinman says: "Nice article. The only correction would be that whilst the tapes are sourced from Germany, none of the equipment is from Germany! The Studer is from Switzerland; the RCA KU-3A microphone is from USA; the Scully Westrex was from Columbia; the EMT 948 turntable was from BBC Bush House, and the rest of the stuff was from the UK." Apologies, SG