Going Beyond Natural Sound
Using some of Los Angeles’ top-flight studio jazz musicians, the author recently produced an album entitled The Evolution of Jazz Guitar to serve as a companion piece to his latest book, Jazz Guitar. Recorded at Monterey Recording Studios in Glendale, and mixed at Sound City in Van Nuys, California, The Evolution of Jazz Guitar presents 14 self-penned tunes written in the style of leading jazz guitarists whose careers spanned almost half a century. Working with recording engineer Chris Minto, the author attempted to recreate the sounds of the Twenties through the Sixties, but with an Eighties twist using modern mixing techniques. The album can be considered somewhat unique in that it merges the time-honored jazz recording tradition of pure, natural room sound with Eighties recording technology, to create a new blend that is of its period, as well as more “natural than natural”. This series of articles describes some of the recording and production techniques used on the album project.
During preparation of this album project I attempted to combine the best of multitrack recording techniques with the best of the Jazz, live-sound concept. I wanted to achieve a stereo image of the various composite musical elements that would blend in the final mix – piano, drums, bass, horns and guitars – as well as capturing a true representation of the room in which they were recorded. Furthermore, the recording environment had to be complementary to the natural sound of the acoustic instruments when it was recreated in the final mix.
Our goal was to recreate, on a single album, the styles and sounds of all the major jazz guitarists that have emerged during the last 50 years. But recording techniques have changed dramatically over the last five decades. In the old days of recording, one mike was used in the studio and there were no re-takes. The sound of the artist was the best that could be captured with a limited frequency-range mike. Since I was going for an Eighties’ equivalent of that original sound character and performance, the first decision was to find a good sounding room and interface it with modern-day technology.