The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood
01. Martha's Madman
02. Early Bird Cafe
03. One Man Woman
05. Dippin' Snuff
06. Time's Caught Up With You
07. Thursday Thing
08. What I Gave Away
09. Comin' Down
10. Captain Bobby Stout
Bass – Clyde Graves
Drums – George Marsh
Guitar, Banjo – Jerry Hahn
Organ, Piano, Harmonica – Mike Finnigan
Vocals – Jerry Hahn, Mike Finnigan
It would have been easy to see the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood performing that year, though I never did. Its lone record was a sunny mixture of straight-up jazz with a blues spine, a music that wants the latter-day word “fusion,” though that word does so little good. Above all, it was a reminder of the eclecticism of the time. Audiences that would soon diverge found themselves packed in a hall together all night long, like one October weekend at Fillmore West when the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood shared the bill with Van Morrison and Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.
I heard “Martha’s Madman” in my head, and I did what I usually do. I went to the iTunes Music Store. Nothing. Same at Amazon. So I walked down to the barn, where all my old albums are stored, and dug out my vinyl copy of “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood,” which is now sitting on my desk. I no longer have the equipment to play it. Nearly every album in those boxes in the barn was converted to CD long ago — some of them several times over. But not “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.”
We live, of course, in an age of accelerating digital replication. Before long, it seems, every recording of every kind in existence, along with all the outtakes, will have been turned into a CD or a DVD or a digital file for download over the Internet. But some things get left behind.
Digital conversion seems almost effortless, a virtual transcription of the world as we know it. But there is a financial friction to it nonetheless. These days it’s no longer necessary to produce an actual physical CD to sell in record stores. Downloadable files will do — no packaging required — but even making these has its costs.
What it takes to push a work from analog to digital is a marketing opportunity. The death, for instance, of Johnny Cash and a movie based on his life was a wonderful chance, as one industry spokesperson put it, to revisit his inventory, which, as it happens, is partly on Columbia, a company now owned by Sony BMG.
There will probably never be a movie based on the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, no commercial incentive to remaster and rerelease this album. The story of the band is a good one but all too familiar — the inevitable clash between the artistic and business sides of the recording industry. The band fell apart disputing the honesty of its manager.
What’s left is an orphaned vinyl LP. The inner sleeve, a space for record company promotion, says, “If It’s in Recorded Form, You Know It’ll Be Available on Records.” Well, I wish it were available on CD.
I talked to Jerry Hahn the other day. He teaches jazz guitar in Wichita, his hometown. He’ll be 66 in September, with grandkids. He sounds good. “You should have heard us,” he said. He also said that the master tapes of “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood” are stored somewhere in New York State. The man who produced the record has retired to Hawaii, where he and his wife own several restaurants. I haven’t been able to track down the manager. I’d like to hear his side of the story.
And as for hearing “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood,” one fan has posted the whole album in MP3 form — ripped from the vinyl — on the Web. I downloaded it the other day. It’s a digitally compressed version of an analog recording that was, according to Hahn, too compressed to begin with.
Even through the mist you can still hear the brightness of the music. But someone needs to find those master tapes, breathe some air into them, and do this minor masterpiece (and all the outtakes) justice at last. I’d buy a copy, especially if I thought that some of the purchase price might make its way to the artists.
By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: August 19, 2006
The New York Times