26 comments

  • http://jazzcollector.com/guest-columns/a-blues-walk-a-visit-to-a-shrine/

    …Definitely the most important Jazz engineer of all time. Thanks for all the insights over the years Rudy ! R.I.P.

    (If anyone is interested I also posted a memorial tribute with another photo from my last visit to the studio back in 2010 on Instagram under “d_notes”)

  • The ultimate “X” factor in Jazz.

  • This was the man who understood the sound. This was the man who made our ears happy. This was the man who owe 10,000 hours of pure joy.

  • Agree with all of the above!

  • RVG. If ever the description of Legend applies it does to this man…
    What a life. I have often thought the the ultimate ‘fly on the wall Documentary’ would have been about RVG.
    May you rest in peace sir, your contribution to music was outstanding…THANK YOU

  • Turbocharged Weasel

    Wow… He pretty much was the guy for mixing and recording in the 50’s and 60’s jazz scene, and was still recording through the 70’s and beyond… Jazz wouldn’t be the same without him. I’m glad he lived a nice full life, reaching 91. Reportedly he worked on more than 2,000 records… I’ll be spinning a few of those in the next few days. Nobody deserves more thanks for so well preserving the sound of those amazing sessions in his house and later his studio than him, and he did a damn good job. Rest in peace.

  • RVG in the dead wax always felt like it meant “quality record”.

  • I will listen (again) to a few RVG lp’s today to remind me of his handiwork. I will focus my listening specifically on his “sound” as I consider him turning the knobs, adjusting the mikes, and manipulating that mix; I so appreciate niche geniuses.

  • If there was a jazz hall of fame for non musicians, Rudy would be a first ballot choice! I think Creed Taylor would be as well.

  • Luis Pastor “Val” Valentin. Early on, Creed Taylor produced a number of fine jazz albums. Later when he had his own company, CTI, he mixed in too many pop or jazz-lite albums. I have a few CTI albums but don’t rank them among my favorites.

  • I spoke to him once on the phone when I lived in New Jersey.It was obvious that he didn’t want to be bothered so I left it at that.
    I known many “legends” in my life that were happy being in the background. To them its just another day in the factory,
    not the recording of a blue note classic.At least, those of us who listen, know how great he really was, may he rest in peace.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    In addition to the labels most associated with the work of Rudy Van Gelder, there are the jazz recordings sold by mail by the American Recording Society (ARS) that were licensed from Norman Granz. I spoke with Van Gelder by phone about these. He told me Granz provided the tapes but he never saw Granz. The tapes were brought to him by a representative of ARS. As proof of his involvement in mastering these tapes, “RVG” is incised in the runoffs. “RVG” is his branding of his own work. Reportedly, Van Gelder wouldn’t take a job if he did not have complete control over the recording process, including the making of the LP master. ARS pressings are generally excellent, better in fact, than Granz’s pressings! Collectors should better appreciate how good these ARS recordings are!

  • Anders Wallinder

    Rudy had a unique approach to how it should sound. Close, clear powerful and most of all exciting. He cut his record “hot” and used good german mikes to get that wonderful presence. All of this with a wonderful consistency over the years especially in the 50’s and 60’s. He even managed to get his both studios to sound almost the same in the transition – what an achievement really.

    We owe him a lot!

  • No recording engineer will ever have as amazing a resume-nor cast as lengthy a shadow-as “RVG”. I doubt he could ever appreciate how much joy he brought into the hearts (and ears) of jazz lovers the world over. How could he? Hopefully,a memorial will be planned and details listed here on JC when available. “Ready,Rudy?” RIP,my brother…

  • I like the sound of Roy DuNann’s recordings a lot, but am doubtful that he was as “influential.”

    Outside of the jazz realm, one could argue for the influence of people like Steve Albini (for better or worse), Bob Weston, Jack Endino and Don Zientara on the landscape of recording in the American punk and post-punk era.

  • The stereo is great,but the mono is super fantastic by Roy Du Nann…. played with a mono cartridge,it is realism in Jazz recording that few engineers matched.His successor and co-worker at Contemporary Howard Holzer also achieved a realistic soundstage of the instruments.
    5,6 years ago,while in New York i went to see the Elmo Hope Project band at the Jazz Standard.The band was so good and the music so compelling i found myself drawn back for the two sets on the next night.That night i was seated next to Maureen Sickler.Her husband Don was playing trumpet in the band and maybe leading it.Making small talk before the first set i asked Maureen a few questions about the Van Gelder recording process and if she knew or was aware of the imbalance of the music on many of his recordings that feature two horns.When one listens to many Van Gelder recordings,with say a trumpet and tenor playing the head,as the music continues and the tenor solos the other channel is empty.The piano is recorded in dead center,the bass and drums are filling in on both channels but the channel (speaker) where the trumpet was is empty.Time for the trumpet to solo the tenor channel goes empty.On a two channel audio system with speakers properly setup and balanced for optimum audio presentation many of Rudy’s recordings have this signature imbalance.Maureen did not have a clue what i was getting at,but it is there on record after record. Please leave your comments.Now with Van Gelder gone the fan scrutiny will prevail and long dissertations on the sounds of his many recordings will be spun as tall tales around the Blue Note campfire.

  • Dear Mr. Jazz courier, could you please tell me (us) the B.N. Records of which you speak. I have never heard a channel(speaker) that goes empty on a R. V. G. Record. Thank you

  • I will pick out some specifics this weekend and report back,but this is common on Most of the RVG stereo recordings that feature a quintet performance with two horns.If your speakers are at least six feet apart you will hear how the solo horn channel dominates the soundstage of the recording creating an unusual mis-balance. The “emptiness” in that one channel shifts the balance to the center( where the piano is ) and the channel where the horn is soloing.
    Has to be a stereo recording.The mono recordings should play directly in the center between the two speakers,giving the illusion that no actual sound is coming from the speakers themselves,but living in the center with depth and space between all the instruments.That is when you know your speakers are set up right and doing the music justice.No knock on RVG,just a formula that seems to repeat itself and is exclusive to his BN recordings.
    It was,and is common,for an engineer to mic and record the piano so the image will flow from speaker to speaker,from one side of the keyboard to the other,so that after the horn on that channel finishes it’s solo you would hear part of the piano image on that channel.With RVG recording the piano dead center it causes the focus to lean to the soloists channel.

  • i like steve albini, clifford. do you not?

  • @Gregory the Fish : I do but feel that his stamp became overused and put a similar sheen across dissimilar bands.

  • Jazzcourier, well Rudy monitored quite long in mono and he did as many other engineers hard-panned reed soloists either left or right in the late 50s and 60’s. Piano is mono basically – dead center. “Imbalance”? Well for me it’s mucj like being in a unamplified club where the soloists are panned out on a stage so I have no real problem with that sound – however many connaisseurs prefer it all to be mono ,:9

  • clifford,

    i’ve heard that. i think he’s an asshole but i like what he has done for many bands, many of which feel distinct to me, but that is not an uncommon concern.

  • Ceedee: Loved your post, thanks for sharing! Would love to attend a memorial here in NYC if it comes into existence…

    JazzCourier: Greetings and thank you for your post, it prompted me to do a little research a learn more about Roy DuNann’s discography. Yes, I agree that Roy DuNann had a great talent for recording jazz. It was a talent that many feel surpassed that of Van Gelder. But CMIIW, many of Roy DuNann’s stereo recordings from the ’50s had both horns on one side of the stereo spread and the center empty, right? That means that during piano solos the entire left and center of the stereo image is empty. It does sound like he eventually got a nice, wide stereo piano sound in the early ’60s, and I understand that you enjoy his mono, but I just thought I’d mention that. Do you enjoy Van Gelder’s mono at all?

    For the sake of accuracy, Van Gelder almost always had the bass hard right with the drums prior to May 1959, but after that the bass came center and joined the piano in all his stereo mixes. Please also note that Van Gelder was a staunch and consistent supporter of his mono mixes, and that he had no appreciation for stereo during the bop era. It’s interesting because a lot of people criticize his stereo though it’s certainly not his fault that record labels down through the decades have gotten it wrong, marketing what Van Gelder would call the ‘inferior product’ when compared to the mono. But yes, I agree with you, that Van Gelder’s stereo is in a way less preferable because of that imbalance caused by splitting up the horns. It’s a trade off in a way: with stereo you get more ambience and perhaps detail/clarity, with mono you get a nice, full sound but less detail. IMHO mono was Van Gelder’s bread and butter.

    I feel bad for Maureen. I understand that she was his assistant but I can only imagine you heckling her about nerdy stuff like that and boring her to death. 😉

    PS: I’m a big fan of Elmo Hope, and I have been to the Jazz Standard. 🙂

  • I’m glad the name of Roy DuNann was mentioned. His recordings for Contemporary are stellar and have a very “natural” sounding acoustic. When you consider some of the really iconic ones were recorded in a shipping warehouse its even more significant. They are warmer to my ears than RVG’s, but I think RVG was aiming for more immediacy and trying to get as close to the source of the sound as possible.

  • I personally feel that many of those old Riversides do not sound that great. Musical gold of course but really wish Van Gelder could have recorded them :0

  • mark, i like riverside, but when i am reminded, i do listen directly to double check, and though i don’t really notice when i’m not listening for it, i do feel like riversides shine less brightly than RVG’s usual work. but that could be confirmation bias. who knows?

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