Monday, November 11, 2019

Trio Elsie Bianchi (10") At The Atlantis Basel - No. 213

Trio Elsie Bianchi (10") At The Atlantis Basel

First, a few words about the Atlantis in Basel. This is a bar and music club dating back to the 50's and it was the place to go if you were young and interested in all sorts of music. As far as I know, the place started out with Jazz and Blues performances and even some folk music. During the sixties Beat was the name of the game (but never dropping Jazz) and in the seventies and eighties all sorts of Rock, New Wave and whatnot was played there. Live music, that's what I'm talking about.

There was a time when you could walk into the place and be sure that the stage was taken by some band. Every single day! A lot of those performers were local bands but you got international artists as well. And the latter were not in short supply either. Dr. Feelgood, The Blues Band, Eddie And The Hotrods, Louisiana Red, The Lords, Wilko Johnson and many others. These weren't exactly backbenchers, not stadium rockers, granted, but the cream of the crop nevertheless (if you're into this kind of music. Jazz became less and less of an option there, but the Blues and Rock flag was being held high. This was a place were you could meet your friends and talk all day until around 7pm when the guy came around and asked you wether you wanted to stay for the gig (and pay for the ticket) or leave the place in an hour or so. Normally you asked "who's on?" and if you've heard of the artist before, you probably decided you wanted to stay and listen. Especially since these type of gigs were not overly expensive.

Years ago (not sure, either the end of the eighties or sometime in the nineties), the place tried to reinvent itself out of necessity. I believe it was a combination of financial difficulties, mismanagement, high costs for live performances (the club had a capacity of maybe (I'm guessing) 300 people only (and even this might be at the high end) and changes in the public consumption habits. The Atlantis was sold and became a hipster place (with only a handful of gigs a month - and the kind that won't disturb anyone holding a flute) were CEOs and their wives/husbands/girlfriend/boyfriends sipped Champagne and talked bullshit (revenue, taxes, profit margins ...). Having been there and spent a lot of time in the place, you felt like a stranger (which you essentially were).

And, lo and behold, this didn't work and only recently they started to promote more gigs, some of them back to the roots and toning down the appearance of the hipster institution it had become. Too late and too little, the mismanagement after the sale had continued, albeit on another level, and I doubt (no, know) that the place will never approach something like its former grandeur. But then, times have changed and maybe it's for the better. Trivia: The logo of the Atlantis shows an alligator and around the end of the fifties and into the sixties, they did have a live one in one of their windows to the street (with a small pool of water ( maybe 20 cms deep and 2 meters to 70 cms). Of course, this wouldn't be allowed nowadays, as this certainly was animal cruelty, but back in the day, this wasn't even thought of.  The club even extended with an Atlantis West branch in New York(!). I believe the New York branch didn't last ten years.

And it so happened that the Atlantis did release some records of the artists having been recorded in a live session at their place. Other Atlantis recordings are available on the artist's own label and there are quite a few diamonds to be found. This one here, I found recently at a record fair:

A 10" of the Eslie Bianchi Trio (here named as Trio Elsie Bianch) an extremely rare piece recorded at the Atlantis in Basel. Elsie Bianchi is highly thought of today (I don't know about her status back then), but there's not a lot of music to be bought on LP/10"/7"/CD. In fact, this very 10" has been reissued only recently and won't break the bank if you decide to get yourself a copy. An original however will not be bought with chump change, in fact you'll probably have to swallow a couple of times, think about how you're going to live on water and dry bread for the next couple of months and then ... you'll decide to buy it (maybe only because you do have a sort of history with the Atlantis).

Strange enough, the 10" is not only sought after by locals, but seems to be on wantlists worldwide. I'm not really sure what it was meant for. You can find statements on the internet (yeah, well, yawn ...) that the total release was just anything between 50 to 200 copies (which I don't believe for a second) and was only intended for the club's promotion (which I don't believe either). Not one of those people claiming the aforementioned can come up with any hard facts. What I can believe however is, that Elsie Bianchi probably wasn't a star selling thousands of records. Not back in 1962 when this was recorded and released. Anyway, I've learned to disregard the sales drivel and look the other way.

The item is a solid VG+/VG+ and despite being not exactly my kind of Jazz (I'm in for the more modern stuff - Free Jazz and beyond), the scarcity of the record, the provenance of the recording and the artist and the fact that I've seen this item being talked about in every rag that had a far fetched interest in Jazz, prompted me to go to the next ATM and get me some cash. This is one of the cases, where ownership of an original makes very much sense (at least to me).

As mentioned above, the 10" reissue (which is also in my collection) is the cheaper option and there's a newly issued LP of the Trio Elsie Bianchi at the Atlantis. I believe these are the same tracks as on this 10" (I haven't gotten my copy of the LP yet). The original 10" might not be a piece of history to you, but it is to me and in cases like this, the question of money takes second place.


Roland (the Devon joke has run its course in the meantime)

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