Chuck Nessa

RVG - RIP

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A life well lived, it seems to me. 

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Sad day : a giant gone: RIP

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Has any non-musician influenced the way we listen to an entire musical genre more.  A true original -- you will be missed, Rudy.

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I wonder what'll happen to his studio...

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I bet it stays running under Maureen.

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It will depend on the title to the property - back in the late '70s Rudy was offered over $2,000,000 for the lot. Rudy built in the country, but big business sprawled in his direction. His wooded lot is now surrounded. Check it out on Google Earth.

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My early years as a serious jazz listener had me imersed in stacks of Blue Note and Prestige LPs recorded by Rudy.

He was highly influential in my jazz education.

 

 

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1149229.jpg

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1 hour ago, Chuck Nessa said:

It will depend on the title to the property - back in the late '70s Rudy was offered over $2,000,000 for the lot. Rudy built in the country, but big business sprawled in his direction. His wooded lot is now surrounded. Check it out on Google Earth.

I know Englewood Cliffs - it's now very ritzy.  If Rudy's family is still living there, that's one thing.  But if they aren't, it makes much more sense to sell the house.  Here's hoping someone good buys the studio and transplants it intact somewhere else.

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10 hours ago, JSngry said:

1149229.jpg

Ike Quebec with a Karmann?

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I think that's Sonny.

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A Charles Stewart photograph used in the inside cover of Sonny Rollins on Impulse!.

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Very sad news, my condolences to his friends and family. Rest in peace.

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20160827_113422.jpg

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Wow -- huge loss. Had been out of town and away from any computers for over a week but saw the news on twitter.

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A loss beyond words.  So much great music passed through his hands - AND EARS!  RVG R.I.P. 

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I found this article in my computer files.  I don't know the publication it came from, or the original publication date:

Along a nondescript commercial section of Route 9 West in Englewood Cliffs is a driveway, discreetly marked by a small street number sign, entering one of the wooded areas leading to the Palisades. At the end of the drive is a windowless, rotunda-like building that could be a house of worship.

For over 40 years it has been a kind of jazz Mecca, the main destination for musicians coming to New Jersey. Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter -- the list is endless -- have all come to this building for one reason, to record. And before it opened in 1959, throughout most of the '50s jazz musicians trekked to Hackensack for the same reason, to record ... with Rudy Van Gelder.

"Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studios" is one of the great imprimaturs of jazz, a seal of quality as important as (or more important than) the Good Housekeeping seal is to blenders or the J.D. Powers seal is to automobiles.

When David Earl, who runs Severn Records in Dallas, Texas, a mostly blues label, decided to record the Texas jazz band Holy Moellers, their choice of studio was self-evident.

"This is the cathedral of modern jazz," said Earl at the Holy Moellers session last year in Englewood Cliffs. "The sound here is just great, and Rudy is a very gracious man."

"It's almost spooky recording here," said Moellers' organist Michael Flanagan, "like going to Disneyland and having all that stuff hit you at just one time. I've seen pictures of everyone from (my hero) Baby Face Willette to Larry Young playing this organ, the exact organ I'm playing now. It's like standing at the Berlin Wall, you feel like you should grab a chunk of it."

Record producers and buyers, jazz fans and musicians have all praised the "Rudy Van Gelder sound." And record producer Bob Porter of Bergenfield, a former WBGO jazz DJ and host of the "Portraits in Blue" show on the metro area's only non-commercial, full-time jazz and blues station, notes another aspect of it: "Radio people always love Rudy's work because it sounds so good on the air."

So what is the "Rudy Van Gelder sound"? There's no such thing, according to Van Gelder.

"I really don't like to think of it as 'my sound,'" he said. "It's really my approach to the musicians I'm recording at a particular session. What I'm doing is trying to let the musicians be heard as they want to be heard. So what it really is, is the musicians' sound."

Van Gelder was asked about the time Miles Davis recorded "If I Were A Bell" in Hackensack with his mid-'50s quintet. The trumpeter pressed the Harmon mute right against the microphone, just as he had been doing in clubs and concerts.

"I didn't tell him to play like that; I wouldn't do that anyway," Van Gelder said. "That's part of how I handle the whole thing: I take for granted that what musicians do is what they want to do. If they make a certain kind of sound, I don't try to change it, I try to deal with it and face any problems that I might have without asking them to change."

Wasn't he tempted to ask Davis to move back a bit?

"No," he said, "I never did that. I assumed that that's what he did because that's the way he feels best. He's trying to make this record as best he possibly can, and this is what it takes to do it. To record that, that was what I considered my job, not to change it."

But, Van Gelder is asked, was there some kind of adjustment to the knobs, or something changed in the way it was recorded?

"What I did I'm absolutely not going to tell you," he answered. "But you've heard the record, don't you like the way it sounds?"

In other words, Van Gelder considers what he does and how he does it a trade secret, and he won't talk about trade secrets, just like he won't let photographers take detailed pictures of his control board or other equipment that he's built in the master recording booth at his studio. He lets his work speak for itself.

"What's different about Rudy," said producer Porter, who's worked with the recording engineer for more than 30 years, "is -- as you know, he was a practicing optometrist (until 1959) -- he brings a scientist's approach to the job rather than a mechanic's approach. He's always been curious about what's new and how to make things better, and he's always stayed at the cutting edge of the very best technology. The sound he puts out today in digital is as great for its time as the sound he put out in the 1950s doing analog mono recordings."

Van Gelder's sound had a reputation among jazz musicians even before he began recording commercially.

"Back around 1950 there was a record circulating among musicians, especially bassists, of a Woody Herman big band tune, 'Bass-ic Lady,' with a bass solo by Red Mitchell," remembered guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli who, like Van Gelder, grew up in Paterson. "It was recorded during a dance-concert at the Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove by Rudy, and the bass sounded so good for a recording that all the bass players would buy it from him."

Pizzarelli participated in Van Gelder's first commercial recording at his Hackensack studio -- actually the living room of his parents' new house, built with an adjacent recording booth and glass window (draped when not in use) -- with the Joe Mooney Trio for Carousel Records in 1952. Al "Jazzbeau" Collins, a DJ on WNEW in New York, liked it so much he not only played it, but played one tune, "Crazy She Calls Me," behind him as he talked, a novel approach then in radio.

About the same time, Van Gelder recorded baritone saxophonist Gil Melle's band for him, and Blue Note Records owner-producer Alfred Lion bought the master and released it on his label. Then Lion wanted to bring Melle into a New York studio and record another session. He brought along the Van Gelder recording and asked the New York engineer to duplicate the recorded sound.

"I can't make them sound like that," the engineer told Lion. "You better go to the guy who made it."

That was the beginning of one of Van Gelder's most famous associations with a jazz label as he went on to record about 90 percent of Blue Note's catalog while it remained an independent label through the '60s.

Today Van Gelder is involved in a massive project for the Japanese division of Toshiba-EMI, which now owns Blue Note. He's digitally remastering all the albums he engineered for Blue Note, and they're being released in Japan as the RVG Editions. Some RVG Editions are also being released here in America, but according to Van Gelder, "they're only a drop in the bucket."

While the Blue Notes from the '50s and '60s may include the most enduring classics of modern jazz, they aren't Van Gelder's greatest pride. He believes his full potential, and that of his large Englewood Cliffs studio, was best employed by producer Creed Taylor, with whom he had an exclusive recording contract for the CTI label during most of the first half of the 1970s. Among the artists he recorded for CTI were Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson.

"Creed really picked up on this place," explained Van Gelder. "He knew what its potential was and what he wanted to do. He was the first one to bring in big bands and orchestras. And that was the time when multi-tracking was coming in."

Multi-tracking allowed engineers to record strings or backing tracks or even jazz solos for the same tune at different times, then layer them to create a rich, full sound. Multi-tracking is how Van Gelder records a lot today, although he is wistfully nostalgic about recording and mixing direct to two-track digital tape masters, something he says is now too demanding.

"Back in the days of the LP, recording sessions were shorter," he said, "but now with all the music a CD can hold, the quantity of music doesn't warrant doing a two-track session. I've got to be perfect all the time, for five or six hours. And so do the musicians. It creates too much tension. I'd rather be able to make sure everything has been recorded correctly and then take time with the mix."

At 76, Van Gelder is still taking enough time, and keeping up enough with recording technology, to continue producing what many fans and musicians have for almost 50 years considered the classic sound of recorded jazz.

"He could always seem to get more levels and more quality audio onto a disc than any other engineer," said Porter. "Rudy knows what the music is supposed to sound like."

Here are a dozen CDs representative of Rudy Van Gelder's work over the years. All the Blue Note releases are tracks on "The RVG Album," a compilation by Van Gelder released only in Japan that he chose as a combination of his favorite music and best engineering work for Blue Note.

"Relaxin'," Miles Davis Quintet (OJC/Prestige) -- 1956, Hackensack. "If I Were A Bell," with Davis' famous Harmon mute sound, is here on this classic mid-'50s quintet album with John Coltrane.

"Blue Train," John Coltrane (Blue Note) -- 1957, Hackensack. A great hard-bop sextet album with trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller and veteran bebop pianist Kenny Drew Sr.

"Moanin'," Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Blue Note) -- 1958, Hackensack. Great edition of the Messengers, with Benny Golson's tenor sax and classic tunes "Blues March" and "Along Came Betty," plus 20-year old firebrand trumpeter Lee Morgan.

"Soul Station," Hank Mobley (Blue Note) -- 1960, Englewood Cliffs. Newark-raised tenor saxophonist Mobley is at his best on this quartet date, proving he deserves to be remembered in the same company as Coltrane and Rollins.

"Heavy Soul," Ike Quebec (Blue Note) -- 1961, Englewood Cliffs. If you want to know why tenor saxophonists love Van Gelder, just listen to Newarker Quebec's big, rich sound here.

"The Sidewinder," Lee Morgan (Blue Note) -- 1963, Englewood Cliffs. The title track was a hit, real jazz boogaloo. The trumpeter is at his peak in a quintet with a young Joe Henderson, tenor sax.

"John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman" (Impulse!) 1963, Englewood Cliffs. Van Gelder has cited this album, a romantic ballad outing pairing the tenor saxophonist with the baritone crooner, as his all-time favorite.

"First Light," Freddie Hubbard (CTI) -- 1971, Englewood Cliffs. The trumpeter is at his most lyrical, with Don Sebesky's string and woodwind arrangements.

"Sunflower," Milt Jackson (CTI) -- 1972, Englewood Cliffs. Jackson's vibes are highlighted by Sebesky's string arrangements, and Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock add fine solos.

"Concierto," Jim Hall (CTI) -- 1975, Englewood Cliffs. Exquisitely nuanced jazz from a sextet led by guitarist Hall and featuring Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Roland Hanna, Ron Carter and Steve Gadd.

"New Directions" (Blue Note) -- 1999, Englewood Cliffs. Van Gelder's favorite recent album; a blast from the past for him, as current young Blue Note artists, including pianist Jason Moran, vibist Stefon Harris and saxophonists Greg Osby and Mark Shim revisit, and reinterpret, classics from the '50s and '60s Blue Note catalog.

"Birth of the Cool (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)," Miles Davis (Capitol) -- 2001. Van Gelder did not record the original sessions, done in New York in 1949-'50, but he has remastered them digitally, and brilliantly, from the original source tapes.

-- George Kanzler 

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On ‎25‎/‎08‎/‎2016 at 5:23 PM, Chuck Nessa said:

Nothing more to add.

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I just visited my optometrist, Wayne Evans. When I saw this thread just now, I got a shock. They look a lot alike!  Wayne's about the age of Rudy in that photo.

You think some things will go on forever.

RIP.

MG

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...RvG and BlueNote, yes, of course.  But I've always preferred the sound of Contemporary Records, especially those recorded by Roy DuNann.  (Okay -- start throwing tomatoes at me now! :P)

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I will deny you that pleasure.

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Just as there are those who would rather drink their fifths that flat them, I would prefer to eat my tomatoes rather than throw them.

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FWIW, the image at the start of this thread was taken by me in 1978 or 79 when I was doing a few sessions there.

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