Analog 24 Track Legacy with
Rudy Van Gelder
New Jersey native Rudy Van Gelder has been the sound engineer for more jazz recordings than any other person. Rudy started recording his friends’ music in his parents' living room in Hackensack, New Jersey, as a hobby. He wanted to re-create the audio experience of live music. Eventually his growing reputation created such a demand that he quit his day job as an optometrist and began to record music full time. “When I first started, I was interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment I had,” Van Gelder explains. “I never was really happy with what I heard. When I started making records, there was no quality recording equipment available to me. I had to build my own mixer. The only people who had quality equipment were the big companies.”
In 1953 Alfred Lion, the head of Blue Note records, heard a recording that Van Gelder had engineered. Lion told his Blue Note staff to duplicate the quality of that record. The engineer listened to it and told Lion, "Look, I can't make it sound like that. You better go to the guy who did it." From that point on, the name Rudy Van Gelder became synonymous with quality recorded music as found on such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Verve, and CTI as well as virtually the entire Blue Note output.
Rudy explains how his name came to be identified
with the Blue Note sound: “ Most of it was [Lion’s] concept of how he wanted his own records
to sound and how he approached that. The
task which he gave me was to make sure that I could get for him what he wanted
out of the musicians. Every session he
made I recorded for him, so that label got a distinctive sound that way. There
was a certain consistency and the people who bought those records would look
forward to what was coming next because they knew the record would have a good
In 1959 Van Gelder took the recording business out of his parents’ living room [literally] in Hackensack and opened a new, state-of the-art studio at 445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. His new facility included living quarters totally separate from his main studio. He gave up optometry in order to make records full time. Van Gelder was secretive in guarding his equipment and methods. Usually a gentle man, Rudy could become agitated when people became careless with food or drink, particularly if anything was placed on the studio piano or organ.
During his years in the business Van Gelder witnessed several key recording breakthroughs: long-play records replacing the 78 rpm record; stereo sound replacing mono; and digital recording largely replacing analog. Though not a young man, Van Gelder has been an enthusiastic supporter of digital audio and an avid user of new technology. “I believe today's equipment is fantastic,” he says. “I wouldn't want to face a session without the editing capabilities of digital.” Van Gelder is less enthusiastic about the products available for home use. “Quality in the home playback phase is questionable: home theater with dinky so-called satellite speakers and subwoofers, ads saying you can get surround sound in your laptop computer, MP3s, lossy compression, music through your cell phone, streaming music on the Internet — come on!”
In addition to the extensive Blue Note roster of stars, Van Gelder has worked with Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Pharaoh Sanders, Oliver Nelson, and McCoy Tyner, just to name a few. He sums up his approach in a few simple words: “Quality is what drives the work I do.” During the era of the twelve-inch vinyl lp records, at least a few collectors carefully studied the smooth, shiny space between the end of the recorded track and the round paper label. If one found either the letters “RVG” or the name “Van Gelder,” etched or stamped into the vinyl, one could assume a quality sonic experience was in store.
Who’s Who – An historical perspective of jazz in Columbus
Continued from previous page
The city is certainly making an effort to support the
art form through programs or groups such as the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, through the Jazz Arts Group and their youth related school jazz programs that helps fill the pipeline of new students learning the jazz music genre and art form. Here are those that have flourished, survived and/or, are up in coming:
Tomorrow and Conclusion
The stark reality is that in my opinion, without the continued education of the public that listens to and enjoys jazz, the number of enthusiasts, fans, musicians and venues may continue to dwindle. The art form of jazz will not die but, when one considers that jazz has splintered into over 30 various sub-genres, whether as a result of the individual musician’s playing style, and/or the music industry’s intentional or unintentional effort to separate, define or redefine the various nuances, rhythms and styles of the music, keeping the public interest and enthusiasm becomes an even more difficult task.
Today, there are fewer venues hosting live jazz music as a staple. In Columbus today, there is no commercial jazz radio station. When you factor in the decline of the number of radio stations that carry jazz as a format, thus reducing the number of places where people can listen to jazz via the radio medium and, you also factor in the loss of venues that specifically offer jazz as its regular and primary format that features jazz in a true jazz club venue environment, you can quickly see and understand the decline in the number of places that give home to jazz musicians to practice and hone their craft, and/or win over new supporters and fans. It also doesn’t help that music education in our schools has been reduced or discontinued.
For readers that are not aware, there is a community radio station that stood up, changed its format entirely dedicated to jazz music, branded itself as such, and now carries the torch as the only jazz radio station in Columbus. That radio station is Jazz 102.1 FM, WCRX-LP. They’re currently on the air 12 hours a day from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily but deserve to be heard. More information about the station is available at www.myjazz102.com. Help support their effort to keep jazz music on the radio and feature your local Columbus jazz musicians.
We need more venues and radio stations to carry this wonderful music if the art form is to flourish and survive. Do your part. Support local jazz music, the musicians, the venues and the radio stations, and jazz will live on as more than a memory. - ENDArticle by: Sax Johnson
The Gospel According To
Billie, Charles, Max, Sonny, and Gil
Sometimes music does more than just entertain us. Music speaks to the human heart in ways that comfort us when we are afflicted or in ways that afflict us when we are too comfortable. Thus, music--like religion—is capable of healing broken hearts as well as challenging broken society.
In our own national history, jazz music, in particular, has been more than just a background soundtrack for the American civil rights movement; it has been a means by which the gospel of human equality is declared and by which the evils of racism are condemned. If you are not familiar with the musical examples cited in this article, please make these historic examples a part of your music listening homework.
Holiday, Strange Fruit: In April 1939 Billie Holiday made her first
studio recordings for the Commodore label.
Although she did not write it, “Strange Fruit,” a song from her first
Commodore session, became so identified with Holiday to the extent that few
other singers dared to record it until Cassandra Wilson did so in 1995. When singing
trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the
Mingus, Original Faubus Fables: In
Candid records, the small label that released the controversial version of Mingus’ “Original Faubus Fables,” also in 1960 recorded Max Roach’s album “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite.” Singer Abbey Lincoln conveyed the messages contained in such songs as “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace,” “Freedom Day,” and “Tears For Johannesburg.” Roach’s Freedom Now Suite invites comparison with a Sonny Rollins title composed two years earlier: “Freedom Suite.” Rollins’ extended composition included no lyrics; but a brief statement printed on the back of the record cover let listeners know that Sonny stood alongside Holiday, Mingus, Roach, and the many other musicians who supported equal rights for all.
[April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011]
Some people call jazz “America’s classical music.” That term implies that jazz has strong ties
with a number of causes, eras, or movements in our nation’s history. It is not throwaway music, but, rather,
something that has an enduring impact.
When hearts are gripped by a passionate cause, quite often that cause will
find musical expression.
The Irish Contribution To Jazz
Marion, Ohio, and West Coast Jazz
The arrival of March means that we’ll soon turn our clocks ahead one hour; we’ll soon welcome the official beginning of spring; for basketball fans it means March Madness, and we’ll soon celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In connection with St. Patrick and all things Irish, I share some little-known Irish-flavored history concerning central Ohio’s role in the story of jazz.
In 1927 Gerry
Mulligan, the famous baritone sax player, composer, and band leader, was born,
the fourth of four sons. George, Gerry’s
father, was Irish; his wife was one-half Irish.
Mr. Mulligan was a railroad employee for many years, so his family moved
often during Gerry’s childhood.
less than a year old when my family
The Mulligan family saga also included
stops in New Jersey, Chicago, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Gerry played
clarinet in the Catholic school orchestra. He once tried his hand at arranging the Richard Rodgers song "Lover", but his arrangement
was seized by a nun who disliked the song’s title. Gerry moved to California in 1952 where he
assembled a piano-less quartet that played with particular restraint and
subtlety. He once called it “pipe and
Other jazz musicians with an Irish background that have made valuable contributions to the musical art form we call jazz include, but not limited to: Bing Crosby, Bunny Berigan, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and Irish born jazz guitarist Louis Stewart.
It has been said that the Irish's contribution to jazz can also be found in the name itself, as it has been argued that the word jazz originated from the Irish. You be the judge. Read the article "How the Irish Invented Jazz" by Daniel Cassidy on the subject here:
Just like the music itself, the word jazz has been equally as controversial but, I must say that no matter how it arrived, we love our jazz music in all of its flavors, tones and textures.
Consider, therefore, some ways in
which to celebrate St. Patrick’s day:
Tuesday, March 17.