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Rudy's supposed hearing loss


CJ Shearn
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Maybe this should be posted in audio talk, but maybe it'd get more reads here. With what I read on the Blue Train SACD thread in regards to the excessive treble and Rudy's supposed hearing loss, yes I think a lot of the RVG's are bright, but the ones that sound absolutely beautiful like "Indestructible!" the Monks, the Jimmy Smith's, and the "Love Supreme" deluxe edition, I've read that Maureen Sickler is his assistant, do you think maybe the reason for the really great remasters is RVG just being "on" or maybe she is assistant him with what sounds better level wise? I want some opinions so that I can maybe understand some of the reasonings behind this.

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I've recorded in Rudy's studio with Rudy and Maureen. Maureen is an ASSISTANT, pure and simple. As far as I could see first hand, she had absolutely no input other than that of facilitating the process. Rudy is in COMPLETE control. An artist at work.

Rudy is a master, I've heard rumors of such hearing loss speculation myself. My gut feeling is this... Rudy does A LOT of audio work. Like any musician or athlete...somedays he really nails it, other days he gets close, and a few he screws up.

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true. It's just amazing to me how some of the RVG's have this analog warmth and some are overly bright (but still better than McMasters to my ears) you've recorded in RVG's studio? wow, you can send me a PM if you'd like the details. I've always wondered who ya are too, you can PM that as well, b/c it'd be real cool if I was talking to a name cat, especially since I wanna enter the industry as a writer/critic someday.

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true. It's just amazing to me how some of the RVG's have this analog warmth and some are overly bright (but still better than McMasters to my ears) you've recorded in RVG's studio? wow, you can send me a PM if you'd like the details. I've always wondered who ya are too, you can PM that as well, b/c it'd be real cool if I was talking to a name cat, especially since I wanna enter the industry as a writer/critic someday.

Sorry to disappoint CJ. Not a "name" cat by any stretch of the imagination. I had a one-off opportunity to record at Rudy's Englewood Cliffs studio a couple of years ago. Like you and everyone else, I'm a big fan of Rudy's and it was a sheer pleasure to just be in that studio...much less record there...much less with Rudy engineering.

However, I did feel like I got a pretty good peek into a typical session with Rudy. I doubt much has changed since he began recording (the studio's basically unchanged except for some of the control room equipment). He's a detail-oriented individual who's a legend in his own field for good reason. Needless to say he was the most professional, attentive and musician-friendly engineer I've worked with. It was a thrill beyond thrill to even meet him.

As a side note, The Newark Star Ledger (I think that's right) was there doing a story on Rudy while I was there. They interviewed me and even included a nice picture of me and Rudy together for the story. However, I never saw it. Just heard that it had come out from a friend who lives in Newark. I'd sure like to get a copy of that!

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That's very interesting, Chuck. I never knew that.

If I were Rudy, and a high frequency hearing loss were pointed out to me, I would always use an assistant to check out my work before issuing it. Maybe slide a copy over to Michael C. and ask him if the treble could be reduced. Actually, I think I'd just retire, and let younger ears do the work. How about that dude who did the "BN Works" CDs? There must surely be someone who can consistently turn out a good CD. Surely remastering of two-track recordings can't be all that difficult.

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All I can say is I hope Rudy doesn't quit before he does a couple more projects for me. If he's totally deaf, I'm sure they will sound better than the alternatives including the TOCJ guy.

Some just aren't fans of Rudy's remastering. Sure, some aren't homeruns, a FEW duds (A Fickle Sonance). But the majority are beautiful, some superb. The notion that Rudy's hearing has suffered high end loss seems pretty crazy.

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All I can say is I hope Rudy doesn't quit before he does a couple more projects for me. If he's totally deaf, I'm sure they will sound better than the alternatives including the TOCJ guy.

Some just aren't fans of Rudy's remastering. Sure, some aren't homeruns, a FEW duds (A Fickle Sonance). But the majority are beautiful, some superb. The notion that Rudy's hearing has suffered high end loss seems pretty crazy.

Well, for what it's worth, one of Rudy's Dutch relatives told me about his (alleged) hearing loss. If it's true, I haven't the slightest idea if it has any impact on his work.

All I know is that I don't like his Blue Note remasters (it seems I disagree with Chuck here); like I said on other occasions they give me a severe headache, and that's not what I would call "enjoying music". Oh, and by the way, my hearing's fine: I recently had it checked by a specialist, and it's still in excellent condition despite my age (I'm 56) :)

Edited by J.A.W.
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I don't have strong opinions pro or con on Mr.Van Gelder's work, I do most of my lsitening in a low fi environment (a moving car). However, it's a simple fact of life that one can expect aging to have consequences. Anyone who thinks their hearing at 75 is as good as it was at 15 or 20 is kidding themselves. I am not saying RVG isn't capable of continuing to work in his chosen field, I am sure he is. But everybody's physical capabilities decline with age.

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I have the SACD of "A love supreme", remastered by RVG. While it generally sounds very good (probably the same remastering as on the latest Deluxe 2CD release), the drums have been unnecessarily brightened up, while saxophone, bass and piano have the same tonal balance (rather dark) than on the previous CD releases. This also makes the tape hiss much more apparent on the drums channel.

So it really seems as if Rudy had to do something to make the cymbals more audible to him. But it does not sound like the optimum balance to my ears, on my system.

Edited by Claude
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I find discussions like this one particuarly interesting from a psychological perspective. It appears that some people's underlying logic is this: if somebody is doing something I disagree with, there must be somethng fundamentally wrong with them. In this instance, Rudy is remastering music in a way that I think is wrong, therefore he might suffer from a debilitating hearing loss. The problem with this logic is that the majority of listeners prefer his latest remasters. Is their hearing also impaired, or do they want exaggerated highs and up-front percussion? I admit this description of RVG's recent work is the result of my subjective experience. Am I the only one who thinks that a lot of the popular music today shares some of these same sonic qualities? Perhaps this is the way Rudy and Blue Note want the music to sound like at this point in time. Maybe the latest reissues are directed toward the current market. I think this hypothesis is as plausible as the theory that Rudy is compromised by hearing loss.

Edited by jazzshrink
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In this instance, Rudy is remastering music in a way that I think is wrong, therefore he might suffer from a debilitating hearing loss. The problem with this logic is that the majority of listeners prefer his latest remasters. Is their hearing also impaired, or do they want exaggerated highs and up-front percussion?

That depends what the RVGs are compared to. Of course, most people prefer the RVGs to the Blue Note reissues from the late 80's, which are mostly bad transfers. But that does not necessarily mean that they like RVG's approach.

I have not seen many people posting on the BNBB or elsewere who preferred RVGs to TOCJs. Yes, most Blue Note fans buy the RVGs, because they are easily available and cheap. That does not say anything about their preference as far as the sound is concerned.

I like many RVGs, especially the pre-1955 reissues, but when I compare the others to the sound of Columbia, Impulse! or Verve reissues, I'm dissappointed by the way in which Rudy manipulates (reinvents?) the sound of these tapes.

But maybe the RVGs sound right and my 1000 other jazz CDs all sound wrong ...

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I find discussions like this one particuarly interesting from a psychological perspective. It appears that some people's underlying logic is this: if somebody is doing something I disagree with, there must be somethng fundamentally wrong with them. In this instance, Rudy is remastering music in a way that I think is wrong, therefore he might suffer from a debilitating hearing loss. The problem with this logic is that the majority of listeners prefer his latest remasters. Is their hearing also impaired, or do they want exaggerated highs and up-front percussion? I admit this description of RVG's recent work is the result of my subjective experience. Am I the only one who thinks that a lot of the popular music today shares some of these same sonic qualities? Perhaps this is the way Rudy and Blue Note want the music to sound like at this point in time. Maybe the latest reissues are directed toward the current market. I think this hypothesis is as plausible as the theory that Rudy is compromised by hearing loss.

That's funny, this was my reaction: I don't like many (OK, most) of RVG's remasters - I'm told his hearing is deteriorating badly - I wondered if his alleged hearing loss could have something to do with the sonic qualities of his remasters - if so, that could explain the (at least to my ears) exaggerated highs. I never thought his remastering to be fundamentally wrong, though (I know, you never said I did :) ); it's just not my cup of tea.

As for your second point, I think you're right, much popular music does have the same sonic qualities (to my horror, but that's my problem), such as many recent Sony jazz reissues, and, since they're probably aimed at the current market, it seems much more likely to me too that that's exactly how Blue Note want their reissues to sound (or they would undoubtedly have told Rudy otherwise). I've discussed this "privately" with a few other board members, and they agreed that this might be the case.

Edited by J.A.W.
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interesting point Hans. I think according to what you and others say regarding TOCJ's, and the sound of them, (I don't have much experience with TOCJ's cuz I cannot afford imports often) the few imports I do have, have a warmer sound that is more pleasing, and not as treble heavy, more of a midrange. At the BNBB I remember Lon elaborating on the pressing differences in US/Japan plants as a possible reason for this. Whereas a lot of the US issues, though they sound better than previous incarnations have unnecessary treble boost and a bass response that's too heavy. Rudy is still a masterful engineer, but I would lean towards the camp of him having high frequency hearing loss, with just a little bit of the tastes in US music production, bright, compressed sound, factored in.

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Interesting thread. Confusing, but interesting.

Every time I read a thread like this it makes me glad I stuck with vinyl.

I only listen to CD dubs(from vinyl) in my car, so I have no first hand opinion of RVG's being bright, etc..

I always wonder about the tapes they have to work with.

I listen to a lot of original BN's, and the highs seldom sound accurate. They often sound very smeared and hashy. In this respect RVG placed a very, very distant second to Roy DuNann of Contenporary Records as a recording engineer in my book. Also, the guys(Mickey Crawford and others) at RCA(Rollin's LP's) also did great work if you are going after a balanced, accurate sound. When I listen to these and then a nice BN, soundwise the BN are lacking.

That said, the BN music towers over the others. That's why I have 10 BN's for every one of the others.

Bernie Grundman(Classic Records) is doing an excellent job on the BN titles. The highs are exceptional. Delicate and airy, but it's vinyl so it doesn't help you guys. I'm listening to Hank Mobley(BN 1568) now and it's beautiful. Great reed and brass sound fron the two tenors. He really did a good job.

IMO BN highs(on original vinyl) always seem a bit hot. Like right on the edge of being too aggresive. The more my playback equipment has improved(table, arm cartridge, etc..), the less of an issue this has become. I imagine the same can be said for CDP's and speakers.

I have a feeling the BN tapes are tricky to get right....little room for error on the HF's.

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Thanks for weighing in Wolff. My limited exposure to BN vinyl mirrors your experience. Hot, bold, nearing the saturation/distortion level, not the prettiest on cheap playback systems. And the RVG cds sound very different on different playback systems I have: very nice on my best system, okay on my livingroom system, barely adequate on my computers.

Overall, because they sound very nice to me on my main system, and better than McMasters and actually more lifelike than TOCJs, I'm a fan of the series. The domestic ones in general sound different than the Japanese and the most recent ones can sound better than earlier ones. I really like the four of the latest batch that I have, the Dexter and the Coltrane being the best I have ever heard the material.

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Interesting observations from Wolff. I have weighted in often enough on various posts about Roy DuNann's superiority

as the best sound engineer in the jazz business in the '50s and '60s not to applaud wholeheartedly. DuNann was THE

engineer that produced the most lifelike and natural sounds.

Regarding the sound on Blue Note vinyls, I think that the mono copies produced the best overall sound. The highs are

more accurate on the mono copies than on the stereo ones. The Lee Morgan trumpet and Philly Joe Jones' drums on the

'Blue Train' mono original are way better over the sound produced in the various other versions of this album I have heard.

Same goes for Elvin Jones' drumming behind Sonny Rollins in the mono copy of 'A Night at the Village Vanguard'. There is

some saturation on the RVG reissue, not on the mono copy.

As for Van Gelder's ears, I really hope that age has not diminished his hearing capacities. The recent recordings I've heard

from him sound superb.

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Same goes for Elvin Jones' drumming behind Sonny Rollins in the mono copy of 'A Night at the Village Vanguard'.

Yes, I have a stereo copy and hear it. Never sought the mono because of it.

It may not be Rudy's hearing. It may be his mastering equipment. For an interesting read see: classicrecords.com.

They describe in detail how the BN titles(25 now) were remastered. Again this is vinyl, but except for the cutter it could apply to digital. Judging from what I hear, they got it pretty close to right.

Steve Hoffman could probably tell us exactly what is going on with these BN remasters being bright. He has a bulletin board, but I can't find it at the moment. I have quite a few of his jazz remasters(Prestige, etc.) that are great. He works for Acoustic Sounds doing reissues of some great jazz titles from Fantasy catalog and maybe others. He or Grundman are the ones I would send the BN master tapes to if I owned them :rolleyes: and wanted it done right.

Edited by wolff
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I don't have a lot of RVG remasterings, but of the ones I have, a few sound bright and others sound fine. I don't know if Mr. Van Gelder has suffered hearing loss, and it would seem that neither does anyone else here. It's all speculation. If he has, his age would seem to be a reason. Perhaps the question we should be asking is what excuse do other, younger engineers have for the poorly done recordings and remasterings that anyone with ears is familiar with?

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