Fictional Collaborations

Going Beyond Natural Sound Part 7

Fictional Collaborations

Gabor Szabo was one of the most recorded Guitarists during the Sixties and early Seventies, and Carlos Santana was his biggest fan. The concept behind Gypsy 68 was a fictional meeting of these two Artists, Szabo and Santana, and tries to convey the way they might have performed together. I used an ovation guitar with a DeArmond pick-up attached for the Szabo sound, and ran it through a Fender amp. Then we overdubbed the Santana sound using a Gibson Les Paul guitar with a stock Marshall four-speaker (Celestion) cabinet. This sound was also pushed by a 100-watt Marshall lead amplifier equipped with a pre-amp. For the final touches, the cabinet was miked with a RE-20 and a C452 with a 10 dB pad.


Trio was a tune that was written for Barney Kessel, a jazz guitarist who was hired for literally thousands of recording date in Hollywood studios. Because this track used a guitar, piano and bass format. Joel DiBartolo’s bass sound formed the foundation for the piece. We ran his guitar through an AXE direct box with a little bit of compression and no equalization. The guitar was miked with a C452 with a 10dB pad and no EQ, and the piano microphones were two C414s.

Song for Carl and George was another recreation of two friends playing together, and communicating with their instruments. We tried to frame the dialog by putting them on opposite sides of the stereo soundfield, because the two artists are supposed to be sitting opposite one another, and communicating via the same piece of music. Carl Kress was one of the pioneers of the chord solo-style of jazz guitar during the time still considered the “swing era,” and was one of the most successful radio guitarists in the Thirties. George M. Smith became the first staff guitarist at Fox and Paramount studios in Hollywood, playing all styles for motion-picture underscoring.


On guitar part #1, Carl Kress, I used a C452 for close miking and an Omni U87 for room ambience. The EQ necessary to catch this sound was =4 dB at 12.8kHz, =2dB at 3.2 kHz and -2dB at 400 Hz, for both microphones. Part two, George M. Smith, incorporated a U87 Omni patter for the room mike with identical EQ, while the close microphone, one of my favorites, was a AKG C12, which we equalized =4 dB at 12.8 kHz and -2 dB at 400 Hz. Both parts were played on an Ovation acoustic guitar.


Jimmy Raney was one of the best jazz guitarists in New York, which city formed the cradle of jazz during the late Forties and early Fifties. Here he met and developed a musical rapport with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, leading to many fine collaborations on record. I chose Hollywood jazz saxophonist, Don Menza, to play on this tune. His style and technique are flawless.


On Jim’s Tune, in tribute to Raney, we were going for a very smooth sax sound, and ended up using a U87 for the solo. Because don was playing so close to the mike, we used a windscreen to reduce some of the air that was pumping out of the instrument. We also used a little compression, and just a taste of EQ.


Tal Farlow received his greatest notoriety with vibist Red Novro’s trio. Within this format – featuring Charles Mingus on bass – Farlow’s guitar functioned as a solo instruments, an ensemble amenity, and a rhythmic bond. On a few of his recordings he played solo, unaccompanied acoustic guitar pieces.


Since I wanted to put the listener “inside’ the instrument, on Tune for Tal, we employed an interesting guitar miking technique that involved a combination of a close-miked SM57 dynamic on the guitar’s low strings, and a C452 condenser with a 10 dB pad on the treble strings. Both mikes were routed onto separate tracks, and during the mix we panned the low strings to the left and the high to the right. On top of this we added a little bit of digital delay to recreate a room sound, and reverb to give it some depth and duration; the result was a huge-sounding guitar.


Laurindo Almeida and Bolo Sete utilized nylon-string classical guitars in a fusion style of jazz with Brazilian flavors, which later became a standard by which the bossa nova style would be known. For the track Batuque, we used a guitar trio: classical guitar, bass and drums. A Ramirez guitar was miked with a C452 mounted about 18 inches away to give the sound time to “develop” before it reached the microphone.


Dreams was a composition I decided to write in modest homage to myself. After playing on more than a thousand recordings, living through the changes in the recording process since 1955, and trying to make a go of it as a studio owner and artist… this one was for me. I chose a combination of classical acoustic guitar with synthesizer orchestra, in an attempt to relive those lush sessions we used to record live in the studios for records, and on soundstages for film and TV music.


On Dreams, instead of using just one mike and letting the sound develop in the room, we wanted to get a slightly different feel. An SM57 was used on the low strings, and a C414 on the high strings. Because we were close-miking the guitar, to overcome the bass proximity effect we rolled off a little bit of the bottom, and added a touch at the top. The second guitar track was recorded in mono with a C452 mounted 18 inches away.


Because of his musical ability and in-depth approach to his instrument, Jim Hall was destined to become a jazz guitar star. His duo recordings with pianist bill Evans made Hall one of the foremost lyrical jazz players. I chose pianist Dave Benoit to work on the project, since on keyboard he relates those same qualities.


For A Tune for Bill and Jim, we used an AKG C452 with a 10 dB pad to cover the guitar. We added a touch of EQ: a little bit of high end (about 12 kHz and 8 kHz), and rolled off the bottom because the guitar produced such a big, fat sound. On piano – a 9-foot Yamaha Conservatory grand – we used a pair of C414s; one on the low and another on the high-end. Piano-mike placement for all of our tunes was done in such a way as to capture sound of the entire soundboard. However, rather than placing the microphones in such a way that they faced down at the board, we tilted the mikes off-axis a little bit to reduce the amount of acoustic phase cancellation that occurs when sound bounces off the soundboard. We also rolled off some of the extreme low frequencies, because there was so much thunderous bottom on this piano.


Acclaimed for his virtuoso technique, Joe Pass is a flawless player; his harmonic concept is impressionistic and his musical lines are long, somewhat similar to Bach’s. An amplified Gibson 175 guitar was used for the track, Joe’s Soul-O. Although a mike had been placed very close to the backline amplifier, and another set up to capture the room sound, the output from both mikes were not combined on the same track. Instead, the two separate tracks enabled us to spread out the recording. We had the room mike panned over on one side, opposite the amplifier sound, to stretch it out a little bit and create a little bit of a delay from side to side.


While miking the amplifier cabinets, we placed the microphone in a variety of experimental positions to play with the overtone structure. We found that if the mike was placed in the center of the speaker, a very bright sound would result, but one that didn’t have a very “full’ sound. By moving its orientation outwards from the center to the side of the speaker cone, we were able to capture a warmer sound. Generally, at a point between the outer rim and the center of the cone, there’s a place where we were able to capture the most overtones, and obtain a more accurate recording of the guitar.


One of the few jazz guitarists to become a household name during the Sixties was Wes Montgomery, who believed that music should be communicated to the audience. One of Montgomery’s most identifiable characteristics was the sound he achieved by using his thumb instead of a plectrum. On the tune, Wes, I used a quartet setting: guitar, piano, bass and drums. To keep the guitar sound separated from the rest of the instrumentation, in the event I needed to touch up a few notes as overdubs, I placed the mesa Boogie amp in the hallway of the studio and miked it with a C452 with a 10 dB pad.


The opening of the album’s front piece is the sound of the Yamaha grand piano played backwards, which was achieved by flipping over the tape the wrong way, and having Dave Benoit play a long, sustaining chord. The attack of the chord, when the tape is replayed the right way, starts where the chord should end. (What Dave heard while overdubbing the backwards piano was the synthesizers, which are already on tape, being played backwards from the end to the front of the song. When they got to the front, he hit his piano note, so that when the tape was flipped over the proper way, you hear the sustain first, the chord would end, and then the synthesizers would start.)


To achieve a Jeff Beck sound, I wanted to experiment with a few mikes. I was happy with the amp sound that I worked out in my personal-use studio, but something was lacking. In the studio, Chris and I compared an RE-20, a C452 with the 10 dB pad, and an SM57. We taped all three microphones, and he called me into the studio to listen. He had slated on tape the different microphones, but did not tell me in which order they were recorded. Sometimes a musician that has had a lot of experience in the studio gets a certain idea in his head about the sound of mikes he is used to working with, and forgets to use his ears as a reflection – the final judge in choosing a sound. In this case, while listening to the playback of each, I heard the sound I wanted without knowing which microphone was used. To my surprise it was the SM57 that I liked, although I thought for sure I would have preferred the C452.