Recording - October 2017 - 64

s of all
One of the greatest recording engineer
niques.
time was notorious for hiding his tech
sleuthing...
After his passing, it's time to do some

R

udy Van Gelder was an optometry student in
the early 1940s when he visited the studio of
WCAU in Philadelphia, back in the days when
radio stations broadcast and recorded live music.
He immediately knew this was what he wanted to do.

He set up a small studio in his parents' house, recording
friends, and those friends brought in more friends, until he
found himself doing a variety of professional dates in a
house in New Jersey. When his parents built a new house
in 1946, he asked his father to have a control room built
adjacent to the living room.
One day, Alfred Lion of Blue Note records heard one of
the recordings Van Gelder had made, issued it on a 10" LP,
and when he wanted to make a second recording with the
same group, brought them back to Van Gelder. That began
a longstanding relationship; a huge number of early jazz
recordings were made by the two.
Apparently it was lucrative-lucrative enough that in
1959 Van Gelder shut down his optometry practice and
built a brand new studio in Englewood Cliffs. A modern
Wright-style building, it had high ceilings and was very
spacious, yet retained a few very specific attributes of his
parents' house that he wanted to bring along.
With the new studio, Van Gelder began picking up
more recording dates from Creed Taylor of the Prestige
label, as well as some other labels. In 1967, Alfred Lion
retired and Creed Taylor started his own label, CTI, but

64

RECORDING October 2017

there was a transition period here where Van Gelder was
working for other customers and also working for Lion.
Now, Alfred Lion came in knowing exactly the sort of
sound that he wanted, and what he wanted was a very
close-in, very intimate kind of sound that was also very
loud. Creed Taylor gave Van Gelder a lot more leeway
into making the sort of sound that Van Gelder preferred,
which was not as tight a sound. Van Gelder describes the
sessions as being much freer, allowing him to experiment
a lot more. In many cases he'd try things out on Prestige
sessions, and when he got happy with them, he would
carry the new techniques over into the Blue Note sessions.
As times moved on, he moved with them, and when
multitrack recording and production methods came in he
eagerly embraced them, but without giving up his original
notions about what a recording sound should be like.
Van Gelder worked for more than half a century, over a
huge span of musical styles and recording techniques. He
made classical recordings for Vox, he made plenty of modern
multitrack recordings later in life. He enjoyed the freedom of
modern recording techniques; by the turn of the century he'd
more or less abandoned most of the early methods he'd used.
Still, when people talk about the "Van Gelder sound," most
of the time they are talking about the early-on sound of Blue
Note records (which should probably be called the "Van



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - October 2017

Contents
Recording - October 2017 - Intro
Recording - October 2017 - Cover1
Recording - October 2017 - Cover2
Recording - October 2017 - 1
Recording - October 2017 - 2
Recording - October 2017 - 3
Recording - October 2017 - 4
Recording - October 2017 - 5
Recording - October 2017 - Contents
Recording - October 2017 - 7
Recording - October 2017 - 8
Recording - October 2017 - 9
Recording - October 2017 - 10
Recording - October 2017 - 11
Recording - October 2017 - 12
Recording - October 2017 - 13
Recording - October 2017 - 14
Recording - October 2017 - 15
Recording - October 2017 - 16
Recording - October 2017 - 17
Recording - October 2017 - 18
Recording - October 2017 - 19
Recording - October 2017 - 20
Recording - October 2017 - 21
Recording - October 2017 - 22
Recording - October 2017 - 23
Recording - October 2017 - 24
Recording - October 2017 - 25
Recording - October 2017 - 26
Recording - October 2017 - 27
Recording - October 2017 - 28
Recording - October 2017 - 29
Recording - October 2017 - 30
Recording - October 2017 - 31
Recording - October 2017 - 32
Recording - October 2017 - 33
Recording - October 2017 - 34
Recording - October 2017 - 35
Recording - October 2017 - 36
Recording - October 2017 - 37
Recording - October 2017 - 38
Recording - October 2017 - 39
Recording - October 2017 - 40
Recording - October 2017 - 41
Recording - October 2017 - 42
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Recording - October 2017 - 80
Recording - October 2017 - Cover3
Recording - October 2017 - Cover4
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