ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 9 * * All Arts News On the Web * * February 17, 2005


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for live music and more at the Fairfax Music Sessions at the Foothills Bakery in Fairfax most Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m., at ChowBella or at the Overtime Saloon in St Albans 8-10 p.m. most Wednesday evenings, at the Bayside in St Albans Town most Sunday afternoons, and the Cambridge CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
     These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and occasional workshops. The booked performances and acoustic Open Mike Nights feature music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      Franklin County artists have produced a series of wonderful new CDs. I asked engineer/producer and "really good sound guy" Lyle Glidden of Split Rock Audio Productions to review them. Here is his report on the technology and the sound of John Cassel's 25-year old new release, Jade Lady:
      To truly appreciate the artistic complexity of Jade Lady we must travel back to the early 1980's and a beautiful summer afternoon on the slopes of the Sugarbush Ski Resort. The Vermont Jazz Festival was in progress and the headliner was the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra with opening act The John Cassel Band. I was fortunate to have attended this concert and have vivid memories of this great show.
      Maynard's band were the cream of the crop and tenor sax and flute player Bobby Militello was one of his show stoppers. Maynard also had the best in the area of audio techs and sound mixer Tony Romano was a true artisan in his field. He was using tape echo as an integral part of his sound painting. Tony would "capture" sections of Maynard's and Bobby's solos with a long delay and multiple echos to create haunting and ethereal audio images.
      I was not the only one to be impressed by The Ferguson Band. John Cassel also took the performance to heart and established lasting friendships with Bobby Militello and Tony "Rome." Over the course of the next year Boy and Tony left Maynard's band and relocated to Vermont. It was during this time frame Jade Lady began the birthing process. The Cassel Band along with Militello and Romano established residence at Dick Longfellow's Recording Studio in Northfield, Vermont, and work began on what would end up being a 25 year project. The project moved to Click Studios in Stowe, Vermont with Lane Gibson joining the engineering team.
      Work on the project drew to a halt and the reels of multi-track analog tape stopped turning for nigh on 25 years. Performances by jazz legends Darius Brubeck, and David and Dick Ellis sat "in the can."
      2004 brought about an age of technology that has allowed for a unique opportunity to resurrect the old analog recordings from an obsolete tape medium. With the advent of computer based digital recording John knew he time was right for the completion of Jade Lady. Enter Andre Maquera and West Street Digital.
      The level of the restoration on the 25 year old tapes was at times tedious and time consuming. Andre needed to call techs at BASF tape to learn how to "bake" the reels of tape as the oxide coating had become sticky and would flake off. A Popeil food dehydrator saved the day. The tapes were converted to digital files at Joe Egan's studio in Burlington as he has one of the few remaining 24 track analog recorders in the North Country.
      The next hurdle was to replace the original drum tracks. Over 25 years, drum sounds have radically improved. Andre decided to use the analog sounds as triggers to place digital samples of modern drum recordings in place of the original tracks. Next, click tracks were used to replace guitar parts by Paul Asbel. Slowly but surely the CD heard its current level of sonic excellence.
      Jade Lady has been a complete labor of love and commitment for John.
      The songs are multifaceted and even though there is an essence of jazz the CD can not be placed totally in that genre. The horn arrangements by Bobby Militello and Dave Ellis give the album a Big Band quality.
      The old analog recordings mesh seamlessly with a handful of newer songs. I dare anyone to separate the older recordings from the new totally digital recordings. I am unable to tell the recording quality differences and I know which songs are from one era and the other.
      The only song which is obvious by is lyrics is Just An Analog Guy In A Digital World, full of double entendres in 21st. Century lingo. My personal favorites include Lady For A Rainy Day written for John's wife Becky, Thru These Eyes," "Rain In The Afternoon, and the title track.
      John's piano tracks were all over dubbed in his third floor home studio on his prized restored 1882 Steinway grand. The album has a grace and maturity that is impressive by any standard.
      I complement the artistic team behind the look of Jade Lady. The beautiful cover painting by Fairfield artist Marcia Brewster is wonderful. Text in gold leaf accentuates the painting. The layout and graphic design by Randy Smith is impeccable using elements of Marcia's painting to unify the photography and text.
      Jade Lady is a complete Class Act and one John can be proud of for years to come.
      Anyone who appreciates artists such as Harry Connick, Jr., will find this album a welcome addition to their CD library.
--Lyle Glidden

      Jade Lady will be officially released on March 2 at the Rusty Nail when Bobby Militello, Dave Ellis, Paul Asbel, and more of the "old gang" join Mr. Cassel for a live concert. The CD is available at As the Crow Flies, Rail City Market, and the Music Store in St. Albans, as well as Bear Pond Books, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and online at We will visit with Mr. Cassel in that third floor studio next week.


AAC JURIED EXHIBITION (February 28)--The All Arts Council and the Vermont Maple Festival seek about fifteen artists for a juried exhibition at the 39th Annual Festival, April 22-24, 2005, in St Albans, Vermont. The 2005 show is open to all Franklin County area artists in all media except video and installations. No Entry Fee. Commission on sales. Submit by CD images, slides, or prints. Email the All Arts Council or click here for more info.

48TH ANNUAL NATIONAL JURIED ART EXHIBITION (March 7)--Rocky Mount Arts Center seeks U.S. artists in all media except video and installations. $3,300 in prizes. Email your street address or see Artists Opportunities for a prospectus.

TECHART II (March 10)--The juried exhibition of computer arts at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA, offers cash awards. Click here or e-mail for a prospectus.

INTIMATE FLORAL (March 19)--The Center for Fine Art Photography seeks entries from professional and amateur photographers working in black and white or color, using traditional or digital methods or elements of both processes. Awards include $1,500 Best of Show, a Solo Exhibition, and Guaranteed Purchase Award. Submit by slides or CD images. Click here for more info.

YOUNG VERMONT WRITERS CONFERENCE (April 1)--This spring writing workshop is held specifically for Vermont high school seniors, juniors, and sophomores at the Champlain College campus. It offers a chance to study the craft with some of Vermont's most celebrated authors and teachers. Attendees can participate in over ten hours of intensive workshops in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction; exchange and critique manuscripts; hear readings from faculty members; share work with the YVWC community; and receive a YVWC anthology of student writing. Call Karen Hendy (802.865.6451) or click here for more info.


      Glenn Sage's passion is Edison wax cylinders and other early sound recordings. His site offers an exploration of the early methods, two-minute wax cylinder records, antique phonographs, rare vintage photos, and an opportunity to listen to early recordings taken directly from the original wax cylinders. Each month he features (in MP3 or RealAudio format) a recording from an early wax cylinder. The February COTM is a rare 1910 recording by Bessie Wynn--the comic tease song, I'd Love to, But I Won't.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2005 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.