The old-world beauty of the Vault at Victor Records – the official archivists of the artifacts and master recordings of the Victor Talking Machine Co. and Victor Music Group labels – is a sight and sound to behold in Berlin, Camden County.
Opened in 2015 as a specialty performance venue for discerning craftspeople, the Vault's living museum caters to the deepest of music-industry nerds as it focuses on the development of sound recording and its early electric techniques and the history of the recording industry at large as it touches on the earliest days of EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, JVC, Radio Corporation of America, HMV (His Master's Voice), and RCA before each label was inexorably linked to another in ugly corporate fusion.
More than 10,000 acetates, shellacs, and masters are there — Sinatra, Leadbelly, Ellington, Armstrong, Crosby, Caruso; speeches of presidents including Herbert Hoover – with Victrolas to play them, and a soundstage equal in studio quality to the most pristine recordings in this collection. Those who play there are dedicated to every element of craft, the soul within the machine.
"It'll be my first time there, and I plan on getting there early to get the tour and listen to some of the rare music on hand," said Jack Petruzzelli, a musical craftsman if ever there was, who'll play the Vault on Saturday with Jim Boggia at the urging of Victor booker Ellen Joy Voell. "She knows me through the Fab Faux and as a supporting musician. When she saw I had my own CD, she asked me to play a show."
That's where the element of craft comes into play, as Petruzzelli, a native of East Brunswick, N.J., with a studio in the Poconos (where he recorded his just-released debut solo album, Lake Songs) is renowned for diversity, largesse, soul, and stylistic éclat that's made him a go-to session player and bandmate of Rufus Wainwright, Ian Hunter, Patti Smith, and Joan Osborne, the latter of whom he started with in 1988, and he still serves as her musical director, co-songwriter, and producer.
"Joan gravitated toward me because at the time, she was starting to write her own music and we were hanging around [New York] clubs like the Wetlands, Delta 88, and others around Bleecker Street," Petruzzelli said. "I think she liked that I could play traditional R&B, but also different styles that would work with her direction."
Playing with such great songwriters and reliving Beatles music has long forced Petruzzelli to ask himself why even bother writing and releasing a record. "Plus, the business is oversaturated. Few people have the attention span to listen to more than 10 minutes of music before checking their phone. So besides comparing my song to the greats and realizing music's state of affairs, I wasn't in any hurry. That being said, I love making music in the studio and writing or cowriting. I thought it was time."
Lake Songs features spaciously produced, soulful Petruzzelli solo compositions, along with those cowritten with pals Adam Bernstein, Eric DellaPenna, and Osborne — the latter on the coolly contagious "Madison" – and the entire album conveys a musical background soaked in everything from the Beatles to Nick Drake, Brian Wilson, and the blues.
"I always like it when somebody else's albums take you in many different directions," Petruzzelli said. "I figured, 'Why not do that with my own album?' "
Jack Petruzzelli and Jim Boggia Saturday, June 24, VIP doors: 6:30 p.m., show, 8 p.m.