I had a marathon mixing session yesterday with the very kind Katsuhiko Naito, an engineer operating independently out of one of Avatar Studios’ spaces. I had engaged him based solely on recommendations from colleagues. The day before the session, while looking through some CD artwork for ideas on album design, I noticed he was credited on Joe Lovano’s “Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard”. I knew then that the recording was going to be in good hands!
Working and talking with Katsu was very enlightening - particularly valuable were his observations on recording with separate headphone mixes for each musician. While that gives flexibility to each player, there is also the risk that the dynamics of the music might be inaccurately reflected in the moment. That could lead to a situation where say the rhythm section responds to what they hear in the headphone mix as a fortissimo line from a soloist, but it is merely a phrase played at mezzo-forte, leading to a potential disconnect in the ensemble’s dynamic levels. This is definitely something to keep in mind for future projects!
Lucas Pino - tenor and soprano saxophones, flute (www.lucaspino.com)
Michael Valeanu - guitars (www.michaelvaleanu.com)
Jake Goldbas - drums and percussion (http://www.myspace.com/jakegoldbas)
I am really fortunate to have these individuals in the band. Their dedication, knowledge, and razor-sharp instincts were instrumental in giving shape to the music. When preparing for a recording, it’s easy to get bogged down by details that are of little consequence, but through their examples, Jake, Lucas and Michael showed me what to really focus on throughout this process - expressiveness, groove, unity in the ensemble, a composition’s general arc. Please check out their music!
Everything came together rather serendipitously in February 2011. My original tune book had been growing slowly but surely over the last few years and I had a gig coming up at Fat Cat in New York City that month. I called some of my favorite musicians as a sort of pickup band, but what I found was a group of people that fit hand in glove, artistically and personally. Yes, they were great musicians who could navigate challenging chord changes and meters, but what impressed me most was their collective ability to bring the music to that higher place where all the technical details cease to matter, where pictures are painted, stories are told and the visceral overrides the cerebral. When we were on the gig, I knew this was the sound I was looking for. I had to bring the band into the studio.
Producing an album isn’t a walk in the park. The bandleader has to write and arrange the music, schedule rehearsals, lock everyone down to record for a whole day, find a suitable studio, work on the cover art with a designer….
What makes all this worth the trouble? Being able to make music with like-minded colleagues. The experience of pure, unfettered self-expression - frightening and exhilarating at the same time. We’re hitting the studio in a few days, and I’ll be posting updates with audio clips, videos and photos on this little digital scrapbook. It’s going to be a very exciting time!