Archive of the MixSounds Category
The course I teach at the Kintock Halfway House in Newark isn’t really about music. The guys I work with fit the profile outsiders would expect to find, for the most part; young men from financially stressed backgrounds form the general population. Most of them have little academic training and almost no exposure to cultures that live outside the mean streets they call home.
Current statistics say that the recidivism rate in NJ is about 74%. That means, I tell the class on day one, that we’ll be offering most of you graduate courses upon your return to the joint. Hoping to reduce that rate by just a trace amount I try and extend an inmate’s capacity to relate to people and cultures that seem foreign by asking him to consider the possibility that artists from radically different backgrounds might- at times- express common themes. Stravinsky and Shakur- what does their art reveal about the ways they differ as individuals, and could it also show us that their needs, fears, and sense of joy intersect at a deep, core level? If they can draw a line between Beethoven and Beyonce, might they one day be able to bond with someone sitting across the desk from them who has a good job to offer?
So we start out with the main man himself. A distant figure, for sure, until I tell them about the brutal treatment Beethoven was subjected to by his father. We talk about the Heilegenstadt Testament, the suicide note that Beethoven left for his brothers in 1802, when, overcome with grief at his growing deafness, he contemplated suicide. He was drinking too much at that point- but he was drunk much of the time, for most of his adult life. Somehow he pulled himself back from the brink of despair and wrote the Eroica Symphony. We play the first movement, and the guys take it in. Then we listen to bits of the Pastoral Symphony; the room feels quieter, and when it’s over the men explain to me how Beethoven’s courage led him to a place of greater peace.
THE SHIT IS REAL
This is a story of the South Bronx
where at the age of 14 I was already knockin’ off punks
My moms was on welfare
I knew I had a father, but yo
the nigga was never there
So what the fuck was I to do?
Fat Joe didn’t have it any easier, and he lays it all on the line in this autobiographical rap. What would Joe and Ludwig talk about if they sat down and had a beer together?
Our Broadway unit traverses a fifty plus year span. We listen to “Oklahoma!” “Guys and Dolls,” “West Side Story-” the usual stuff, and end up listening to excerpts from two contemporary shows, “The Light From The Piazza,” and “Grey Gardens.”
Ado Annie, what a wonderful character! The second female lead in “Oklahoma!,” Annie is the bad girl with a heart of gold. Check out these lyrics, from the great song “I Cain’t Say No!” that Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers wrote for her:
I’m jist a girl who cain’t say no,
I’m in a turrible fix
I always say “come on, let’s go”
Jist when I orta say nix!
When a person tries to kiss a girl,
I know she orta give his face a smack.
But as soon as someone kisses me,
I somehow, sorta, wanta kiss him back!
I’m jist a fool when lights are low
I cain’t be prissy and quaint
I ain’t the type that can faint
How c’n I be whut I ain’t?
I cain’t say no!
I’m jist a girl who cain’t say no,
Kissin’s my favourite food
With or without the mistletoe
I’m in a holiday mood.
Although i can feel the undertone
I never make a complaint
‘Til its to late for restraint
Then when i wanna i caint
I caint say no!
“S&M,” a brassy Rhianna statement of sexual liberation, may not reveal the level of craft that Hammerstein was able to conjure, but does the character she’s created have something in common with Ado Annie?
Love is great, love is fine
Out the box, outta line
The affliction of the feeling leaves me wanting more
‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But chains and whips excite me.
“Yeah,” said one of the guys at our last session. “They’re both freaks.”
Ah, the joy of seeing a student make a connection.
Being related (by marriage) to one of the richest men in America is an interesting (not uncomplicated) experience. I remember when Zygi, a lifelong football fanatic, called about six years ago to inform me that he and his brother had purchased the Minnesota Vikings. Hmm, there goes 600 million dollars.
Family events are most often lavish affairs with hangers on galore, but there are benefits- the music in particular. Last week Zygi and Audrey threw an engagement party for our niece Elana and her fiancé Brett at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The flamboyant party planner they use arranged to have all of the seating, which sits on risers, disappear; he turned the venue into a three-tiered living room, with plush velour couches on every level. We walked in, I said goodbye to my wife Jerri, grabbed a martini, and sat about 15 feet from the stage while a procession of spectacular musicians displayed their wares. Wynton hit the floor at about 10 p.m. and he was just as good- but no better- than the bad to the bone talent assembled around him.
Last year my sis-in-law threw a smaller party for Zyg’s 60th birthday at some beaucoup de cool restaurant in the village. Word had it that an event for Obama was the only other time the place had been shut down to the public. The food and wine were good, but I walked in with a bigger buzz, having had a great recording session that day at BiCoastal Studios, Hal Winer’s place in Ossining, NY. I was floored by what I heard.
A brief preamble: back in the day I concertized on the classical guitar, so I have an understanding and appreciation for finger pick guitar stylings. There on the stage were two players; one keeping time in a supporting role, and the second- Adam Rafferty- holding court. Man, this guy is good!
Adam manages his concert career and distributes his instructional DVDs and CDs- including the latest, “I Remember Michael,” a tribute to the king of pop which just landed on Jazziz magazine’s top ten list of 2011 releases- using the tools of the new order. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, look for Adam on YouTube, and most definitely migrate over to his website www.adamrafferty.com to check him out.
We spoke the other day.
Gary Eskow: What influence did Chet have on your development as a finger style guitar player?
Adam Rafferty: “Chet Atkins? Funny, he wasn’t a major influence on me growing up.
I’m coming to him these days by way of my friend Tommy Emmanuel, the great Australian guitarist. I’ve become awestruck by guys like Chet and Les Paul, seeing how much they contributed, how good they were onstage, and how they turned people on to the guitar.”
GE: Where did you grow up, and what was your early musical training?
AR: “I grew up on the upper west side of New York city- W. 111th Street, to be exact. My dad played the guitar and sang a bit. At the age of five or six I began taking lessons from Woody Mann, a player who still tours and gigs.
“Woody was into the finger style blues tradition. He showed me licks by Rev. Gary Davis and some of the other old masters. Woody was a cool teacher to have, a gut level guy who had also studied with Lennie Tristano and knew harmony and theory. I liked playing the blues, it’s part of my roots, but I quickly moved over to the jazz side of the room.
“When I was 15 I started taking classical guitar lessons with Dennis Cinelli, a student of Fred Hand’s [my old teacher!]. Eventually I went to SUNY Purchase. I graduated on the six year plan. I ended up really enjoying my time at Purchase but the first year was miserable; the classical guitar department was an extremely competitive environment with a lot of dogmatic teachers. At this time, around 1988, studio engineering classes were beginning to flourish. I enjoyed those courses tremendously.
“I was trying to expand throughout my college years. I even fronted a hip hop group as a rapper. When I met Mike Longo, who had been Dizzy Gillespie’s piano player, the school let me study with him outside, play gigs, and eventually graduate as a jazz major, although technically Purchase didn’t have a jazz department at that time.”
GE: You graduated… and then?
AR: “Everyone who graduates from college thinks that a scroll from the sky will unfold and reveal the path you’re supposed to follow. I did, at least, but it didn’t work out that way. I scuffled around, playing gigs for organ/singer/entertainer guys up in Harlem, working clubs three or four nights a week. It got to be a weird, late night scene with lots of alcohol and drugs at these clubs. I bounced around, did various odd jobs, taught guitar, and learned how to build websites for people.
“I spent some time playing straight ahead jazz while trying to find tour dates. I played in Austria, in Germany, but it was extremely difficult. I wasn’t an avant garde player like Mike Stern or John Scofield. My style, grounded in the Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, George Benson tradition, was not considered fresh by a lot of people. I kept at it for about 15 years, had some great times, but found it very difficult to sustain a career.”
“Eventually I realized that it wasn’t working for me. I took about a year off, reassesed what I was doing, and discovered Tommy Emmanuel. The togetherness of his presentation is so world class and appealing, and the material so direct, that I realized this was a model I could use to develop my own entertainment style.
“Life got immediately better once I started playing solo guitar. Out of a survival need I had to change, to make my music appealing to more people. This personal change coincided with the onset of the YouTube explosion. A couple of my videos- “Superstition” and “Billie Jean”- caught fire when I put them up in 2007. They each have had over a million hits on YouTube. Of course it’s all relative; some people have a million subscribers, but that number of hits is not insignificant. Those two songs helped my career enormously. Lots of players have copied my arrangements and put their own perfomances up on the web.
“People started e-mailing me asking if I’d post guitar tablature arrangements of the songs, and that led to the DVD instructional aspect of my business. I made a DVD of Stevie Wonder material, one on the Jackson 5, and I’m now assembling a second Stevie Wonder DVD. This work constitutes more than half of my income.”
GE: Your website is packed with content. You mentioned that you built sites for other people in the past. Do you take care of yours?
AR: “Yes. It’s critical to update a site regularly. Google just announced that they’re going to revise their engine, making it faster. That will up the ante even more, because Google will hit the latest entries first.
“YouTube is the funnel, the place where people find me, so I post material there on a regular basis. I use my schlocky flip cam for those videos, but I do record the audio seperately.
“The video quality of the instructional DVD’s is very important. I met a couple of guys on Long Island several years ago who have multimedia, design and advertising firm. They do a great job.”
GE: Where do you track your records?
AR: “I’ve made four solo CDs, two of which I recorded here at my place. I thought I could just throw up a couple of mics in front of a guitar. How terrible could it be? My micing technique has gotten better over the last five years, but for “I Remember Michael” I wanted to go into a professional studio.
“I went out the twinz records studio in River Edge, New Jersey. Manfred Knoop, the engineer, did a wonderful job. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after this record was made.”
GE: Did you hire a promotional company to help you market “I Remember Michael?”
AR: “I called several PR companies, and I did end up paying for radio promotion for a period of eight weeks. That was a fabulous experience. The traditional print and media PR people charge a lot of money, though, and they can’t guarantee that you’ll get anything out of their efforts. I spoke to Tommy Emmanuel’s manager and the advice I got was to save 10 grand and market the material myself, which is what I’m doing.”
GE: So the lesson is, don’t way for the scroll to unfurl?
AR: “Yeah, I think so! For me, taking the time to think things through led me to the realization that what was most important was to use music as a tool to make connections with people in a very concrete way. That changed my style, my career choices, and it’s put me in a great place.”
and I can prove it! I’ve been a Finale user for years now, and just loaded up my review copy of Finale 2012. Over the years I’ve done some detailed score work using this program- here’s a recent example:
But for some inexplicable reason, I never did the fundamental investigative work that would have let me take advantage of the Metatools function that has been part of Finale for quite some time. Looking over what’s new in 2012 (a few things that help the workflow pop out immediately) I opened up the online instructional video dedicated to the Metatool function. It’s so easy to select multiple notes, for example, and apply staccato markings to the whole bunch with one keystroke! How could I have avoided this feature up to this point?
There, I told you I could prove I was dumber than you!
Back in the early days of MIDI, continuous controllers were used, well to do just what the name implies- give the user the ability to control a function smoothly over all of the 127 values the spec provides. That’s great when you invoke a Hammond organ plug-in that has a Leslie effect built into it. If the mod wheel is the default controller you can open up the effect and release your inner Felix Cavalieri at will.
Beefier computers have allowed sample library manufacturers to add more articulations than they probably ever dreamed they’d be able to include back in the day. As a result, every available controller has been pressed into duty to help switch between samples, including the mod wheel.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, there really is none, except that if you consult your DAW’s list editor on a frequent basis you’ll find a string of values cluttering up the screen each time you use the mod wheel to shift, say, between a staccato and detache violin articulation in a Vienna Symphonic Library preset. If you decide that you’d like to select a different articulation after the fact you’ll have to scroll through this list to find the last value. What a drag!
Which brings me to Greg “Mondo” Ondo, Steinberg’s long time guru in chief. Can you believe that Greg tells me I’m the first one to lay that nickname on him? Me neither- it’s so obvious! Every time I encounter a Cubase issue that seems intractable I call Greg. Of course, I’m hoping he’ll be able to help me. Secretly, though, I’m looking forward to the day when I stump him!
I thought I might have him with the problem outlined above, but alas, Greg found a way to use the Logical Editor in Cubase to create a preset that forces the editor to retain only the last value of a recording you used the mod wheel on.
For all you Cubase users (I’m using Cubase 5 but this should work in all versions of Cubase that support the Logical Editor function) here’s how the Logical Editor preset that you’re going to create should look like this:
Name this puppy and save it as a preset. Now, open up a lane in your DAW, set it to read CC1 values, and overdub a pass with the Mod Wheel. Call up your preset and poof- the last value is the only CC1 data that’s retained! What magic!
The “magic” is actually quite simple. When recording you’re moving the mod wheel rapidly until you reach your destination value, at which point you park. This preset tells the Logical Editor to get rid of all CC1 data that lasts less than a sixteenth note.
Very effective… thanks Greg!
What’s your favorite Albert King track? “Laundromat Blues” certainly is a worthy contender for best of the bunch. Albert’s version of “Born Under a Bad Sign,” (“if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”) has to make it onto the short list. The title cut from an album he recorded for Stax in 1967, “Born Under a Bad Sign” (written by Booker T. Jones and William Bell) is probably the song that AK is most remembered for.
For me, though, nothing beats “Crosscut Saw,” King’s version of a simple 12 bar structure that floated along the Delta until 1941, when Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan first recorded it. “Crosscut Saw” is the second cut on the “Born Under a Bad Sign” album, an LP that’s undoubtedly Albert King’s masterpiece.
“I’m a crosscut saw, baby just drag me across your lawn.
I’ll cut your wood so easy fer ya, you can’t help but say hot dog.”
With the MG’s as supporting cast (check out the upright piano part hocketing with the horns to create nothing but a simple pattern of harmonic stabs) “Crosscut Saw” sits on top of a light swing pattern played on snare and toms by producer/drummer Al Jackson Jr.. The arrangement leaves plenty of room for Albert to answer his vocal lines with those trademark stinging guitar lines that others have copped verbatim but never with the master’s authority or originality. As every fan knows, Albert was a lefty who played a right handed Gibson Flying V upside down. This unusual technique (copied by another left hander a few years later), along with a strong right hand and an even more powerful imagination, resulted in King’s signature sound.
Listen to the colors, the different shadings that Albert puts on a single note when he repeats it several times in a row. Each articulation has its own weight and curve! King’s virtuosity is on display in “Crosscut Saw” and throughout the album, which includes his outstanding take on the A.C. Williams classic “Oh, Pretty Woman.” “Oh Pretty Woman” received another good read by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers on their “Crusade” album, the cover of which, taped to the wall of my studio, I’m gazing up at right now.
About ten years after “Born Under a Bad Sign” was released I went to see Albert King play at the Lone Star Cafe, a cherished, long gone venue on 12th street in the Village. My high school buddy Brian Williams and I arrived early so that we could get seats close to the stage. By the time our hero entered the spotlight I was, truth be told, fairly looped. I kept calling out “Crosscut Saw,” but my pleas were ignored.
Then, just before he closed his set, Albert stepped up to the microphone and said, “A little while ago the young man asked to hear ‘Crosscut Saw.’” What?! Hey, he’s talking about me! Man, what a great night!
A decade ago Mark Ethier and Jeremy Todd were a pair of smart kids who shared an aptitude for science and a passion for music. The Massachusetts natives met when both were students at MIT, and it didn’t take long for them to hatch a plan to combine their skill sets and create a company within the music industry specializing in signal processing and effects. Today, iZotope, Inc. (http://www.izotope.com) is recognized as a major player. Their latest release, Ozone 5, will be on display this weekend at the AES show. I spoke with co-founder and CEO Mark Ethier a few days ago.
Gary Eskow: “Mark, your website says that iZotope is a “research-driven audio technology company. What does that mean?”
Mark Ethier: “That statement speaks to our founding. Our company’s first address was my dorm room at MIT. Scientific research is in our blood; we’re always looking for new and better ways to use science to do improve things. We have people at iZotope working on forward looking projects, even when there’s no guarantee that the investment of time will result in products.
“Our noise reduction line is a good example. We thought about what it would take to create an algorithm that would allow for the automatic recognition of noise within a signal. What are the common characteristics of noise? How do they differ from the sound of the human voice, for example? Our hardware device, ANR-B, came out of this kind of inquiry.”
GE: “Would that be analogous to developing an algorithm that could identify the meter maids within a flow of traffic and apply a process- removing their pens, say- to these ticket writers only?”
ME: “Not a bad parallel, actually! We were able to build a noise profile, based in part on the fact that noise doesn’t generate harmonics, and then extract the noise from a complex signal.
“But that research didn’t work itself into a product until 2004, when we built a prototype of the ANR-B and demoed it at a trade show here in Boston. An engineer from WGBH came by, and we gave him a demo. He was working on a show called “The World,” that had people calling in live from all around the world. ANR-B gave engineers the ability to instantly remove noise from these calls. Within a few years that product had become a staple on the Oscars, the GRAMMYs, and other major live productions. The laboratory is where things percolate up, but we then have to look at the real world and ask ourselves how we can best apply an idea to circumstances as they exist.
“Stutter Edit, the product we worked on with BT, is another example. What would it take, we asked ourselves, to create a playable audio effect that syncs to a time line- not just a delay, but something that includes low and high pass sweeps? Stutter Edit came out of that thought process. It’s an effect that starts rhythmically and speeds up to the point where it sounds pitched- the effect that BT created as an artistic vehicle is now available to everyone.”
GE: “Many companies have loudness maximizers. What distinguishes your products from those of your competitors?”
ME: “Subtlety of sound, in my opinion. The fundamental question is, how much change can you bring to a sound in this area without introducing distortion? Ozone 5 has a new loudness maximizer that works in real time. It’s constantly analyzing several distinct ways that the audio signal can be modified, measuring the amount of distortion each process would add, and selecting the most preferable option.
“Mastering is the combination of art and science. You are ‘correcting’ a mix, but it has to be done in a musical way. Ozone 5 is big leap in the area of real time analysis. The feedback it provides can, we believe, help the mastering engineer make the wisest choices in terms of limiting, noise reduction, and finding the path to creating the most musical masters possible.”
GE: “What’s the practical value of Sonifi?”
ME: “This iPhone app is an experiment in new media. Over the last 50 years music listening has changed from mono to stereo. Notwithstanding the experiments in quad and surround, stereo masters are still the dominant release platform.
“Sonifi offers the user the ability to restructure the form of a piece of a stereo music, to give him or her another way to experience music. Why should the composer be the authoritarian figure who dictates how the listener should experience a piece of music?”
GE: “Wait, so maybe Beethoven got the second movement of his 7th Symphony wrong?”
ME: “I’m not saying that! We’re working with a prominent musician right now, though, on the release of his next single. This person thinks it would be interesting for the listener to have a unique experience each time he or she listens to a song.”
GE: “As computers get faster and even more powerful, will they allow you to develop products that you can’t currently bring to market?”
ME: “Yes, in the area of real time processing, for instance. So much is about listening! You want to be able to close your eyes, move a control, and listen. We’re trying to find ways to give people more and more direct feedback. Ozone 5 has a new visual interface. Faster computers will allow us to deliver products that offer more and more real time feedback.”
Some things are just good, right? You may not like everything David Benoit has released- me neither, frankly. But “Rue de la Soleil,” from his 1997 CD, “American Landscape,” commands repeated listening.
Ab major, the muted key. David sets this gentle, evocative, touching melody in Ab, then colors it with a snare gently kissed with brushes, and those beautiful finger cymbals. The nylon guitar solo wisely refrains from stepping too far from the gorgeous theme. And the upright bass…
I’ve been to Paris a couple of times, walked down this street, to the best of my recollection. But I can’t say if the wistful image David Benoit paints is redolent… it’s just, well, comforting.
Ed Goldfarb is the shizizzle. Ok, let’s agree that the term, while widely accepted, has to date failed to garner universal acceptance and requires clarification. Ed is gifted as a player (keys, primarily), writer (in many idioms, specializing in a variety of pop influenced styles), arranger, and producer. He’s a kick ass engineer as well; I’ve used him on a number of projects. It’s unusual to find a guy who works primarily in popular forms who has the breadth of knowledge that Ed does. We’ve had lengthy conversations about Stravinsky, early Webern, and the clarity of Mendelssohn’s orchestrations- as well as Albert King and The Allman Brothers.
Over the last several years, while working on a number of other projects, Ed has been writing and recording songs with Jon Seltzer. “All I Want Is To Make You Happy,” the initial CD release from their group, The Sad Truth, can be heard and downloaded at their site, www.thesadtruthmusic.com. Ed, who lives in the Bay area with his wife and daughter, spoke to me recently by phone about the project.
Gary Eskow: “What was the genesis for this record?
Ed Goldfarb: “I had some songs that I’d written for myself, but no idea what to do with them. I started auditioning singers, mostly folks I’d been making records with over the years. Around the same time, maybe nine years ago, I was the Musical Director for “Beach Blanket Babylon,” the longest running theatrical review in the world. Jon was a waiter looking to break into show business. I gave him a song to work on, “War Babies,” and he killed it. He showed me a couple of songs of his that sounded really good and we took it from there.
GE: “How did you go about putting the group together to record this album?”
EG: “Obviously you want the best players on any record you make, particularly when you put in as much time as we did on this one. Lyle Workman, Bruce Kaplan, Barry Finnerty, these players have legendary resumes. Jon also played some guitar, and so did the late Paul A. Fox.”
GE: “Paul’s picture is on the inside of the CD and a Magritte painting (“Le mal du pays (Homesickness”) that features a man with wings is featured prominently on the packaging. Can you tell us something about your relationship with Paul?”
EG: “Paul was my first call guitar player, and he was excited about collaborating with me on this project, so he waived any fees. He auditioned for lead singer, but joked that since he was only half Jewish he lacked the personality to cut through! He played all the guitars on the opening track, “Couldn’t Be Clearer” and rhythm guitar on “War Babies” and “Lay Your Burden Down.”
Sadly, Paul got into a car crash and was gone at the age of 45.”
GE: “Where did you record the album?”
EG: “We tracked most of the material here in my house, including drums. We have a peaked ceiling in our master room that makes a nice recording space. I’ve got a ProTools rig. No board, I just use the mouse.”
GE: “You told me that you used a trick on some of the acoustic rhythm guitar tracks. Can you explain it?”
EG: “I thought it up, but the idea was based on something I read in an interview with someone (I can’t remember who) who had worked with Jeff Lynn on one of the Wilburys records. All five of the players would play at the same time, with everyone using a high quality microphone except for one guy. They’d put an SM 57 on him. Lynn apparently felt that the combination of detailed mics and one (maybe it was even a couple) recorded with a less detailed microphone sounded cool.
“I modified that idea and had several rhythm guitars tracked properly, and then an overdub, which we put in the center of the stereo field, recorded a few cents out of tune. It was hard for the player to record while out of tune, but the effect is really cool, purer than using any time based effect, since you’re not messing with the fabric of the sound at all, just adding some beating. You can hear this effect on “She Breaks My Heart” and “Lay Your Burden Down.”
GE: “My wife was a big Todd Rundgren fan and she says she hears his influence on this record. Is she right?”
EG: “Absolutely! Congratulations to her for picking up on that. This record is, in a sense, a tribute to the great pop records of the 70’s and 80’s.”
GE: “Jeff Saltzman mixed this record. Have you worked with him before?”
EG: “For years. Jeff’s my oldest friend- we met in Saturday school when we were nine years old. Jeff used ProTools LE, and it doesn’t matter what platform he’s on. He’s brilliant. He use a bunch of cool plug-ins and hardware, including Anamod Audio’s
AM670 Stereo Limiter, their recreation of the Fairchild 660. He leans quite heavily on the Waves API plug-in as well.”
GE: “The record was mastered at Sterling Sound, wasn’t it?”
EG: “Yes, Dave McNair did a great job for us.”
GE: “How are you distributing this CD?”
GE: “On a name your own price basis off of our website. At this point it’s all about expanding the base of people who are aware of what we’re doing. The response has been great so far, and we’re extremely encouraged by the feedback we’re getting. We’ve also been experimenting with targeted advertising on Facebook, making our presence know to folks whose musical preferences mirror our own. Through these efforts we’ve gained lots of new fans all over the world.”
Stars. Sure, we need ‘em! But our industry is founded upon great players. Their contribution to performances- live and in the studio- fuels the business and inspires the front man (or lady).
Baron Raymonde is one of those musicians. He grew up in Scarsdale, NY, headed south on Route 62 and obtained both Bachelor and Masters Degrees in jazz performance from the University of North Texas before migrating back to Manhattan in the late 1980’s. I first met Baron in the mid 90’s when I had a music production company and was struggling to make a living in the jingle business. Eventually, we made a five song demo, “Before The Memory Fades,” that we released online. Before sinking it received over 100,000 hits.
Baron currently lives in Nutley, New Jersey. I caught up with him last week.
Gary Eskow: “Baron, what have you been up to lately?”
Baron Raymonde: “I’ve been subbing recently in Levon Helms’ band up at his place in Woodstock. Most people know that he built a studio on his property, the Midnight Ramble. It’s a great space that also serves as a concert facility, seating several hundred people.”
GE: “How did you get that gig?”
BR: “Erik Lawrence, one of the band members recommended me. There are some great players in the group; Dave Bromberg (guitar), Brian Mitchell (keyboards), and Howard Johnson (baritone sax/tuba) among them. Larry Campbell is the Music Director.”
GE: “How deep is Levon’s groove?”
BF: “He has an unbelievable pocket, and he glows when he plays. He’s also a real gentleman, a very gracious person. The group performs some of The Band’s material, plus Levon’s own stuff. He won an American Grammy in 2009, I believe, plus another one, on his own.”
GE: “When did your first big opportunity in the industry come?”
BF: “I moved back north to Manhattan in 1984 and started playing with J.T. Bowen, Clarence Clemons’ lead singer. We got a gig at the Sands in Atlantic City, but Matt “Guitar” Murphy called me and I went on tour with him instead. That was a defining moment for me.”
GE: “What are some of the highlights of your career?”
BF: “Well, first of all I’d say that just being able to spend 25 years living the life of a touring musician has been amazing. Nothing beats doing what you love to do, even with all of the ups and downs of the business.
“In 2001 I was with Rod Stewart on his “Human” tour. We performed in 42 cities in North America and Canada, and I played six instruments- all reeds, plus flute and clarinet.
“I didn’t think I was going to get that gig because I’d heard that Rod was looking for a female player. But he heard me play at a benefit and told me that he wanted me to join him for that tour. I didn’t believe him- but the next day I was on the Rosie O’Donnell show playing a solo on “Tonight’s The Night.”
“We performed in a huge arena in Tampa, and that night I played a long solo on “Downtown Train.” When I finished Rod acknowledged me and the crowd started chanting my name… that was thrilling!
“Just recently I played a show at Lincoln Center with Ronnie Spector and Leslie Gore. It was great to hang out with them. Ronnie was very nice and approachable. Gene Cornish, the original guitar player with the Young Rascals, was on that date.
“As far as recordings, I’d have to say that the work I did on India Arie’s 2002 album, “Voyage To India,” which won the R&B album of the year award in 2003, remains a highlight for me. We recorded at Electric Lady, and I played saxes and flute. The album was released on Motown Records, which was also exciting.”
GE: “You went back and got a teaching degree several years ago, didn’t you?”
BR: “Yes. Work was slow, though I had some interesting gigs at the time; I was subbing on the show “Love, Janis,” and playing with GE Smith. GE’ band played the televised Mark Twain award event which honored Whoopi Goldgerg.
“But as I said, work was slow, so I started subbing in the public school system. In 1994 I got my teaching certificate at William Paterson University. These days I teach fourth to sixth graders, five days a week. I really enjoy it! It’s a way for me to give something back, and the job doesn’t interfere with my performance schedule, although things can get a bit hectic at times!”
GE: “Anything interesting coming up?”
BR: “On November 26th I’ll be playing with Alan Chez’ band- he’s the trumpet player in David Letterman’s band- at Dominion, in New York City. The group is called The Brothers of Funk Big Band.”
Baron urges everyone who wants to keep up with his schedule to visit his website, www.saxbaron.com.
When I heard the requiem sounding for Bennett Studios I thought of Hal Winer- particularly since my friend Ron Levy was suddenly in the market for a recording space that had a beautiful piano and wonderful acoustics. I gave Hal a call to see how things have been going in the year or so since I last worked at Bicoastal Music, the studio he built in his hometown of Ossining, New York.
Winer graduated from the University of Hartford with a liberal arts degree in 1982 and headed out to LA to try and bust into the record business as an engineer. Rather than go through the typical apprentice route, however, Winer veered off into another aspect of show business, building sets for film and television productions. This work helped him later on. “The skills I learned on the set helped me build this studio,” says Winer.
In 1992 Winer moved back home and went into the family business. “I sold buttons to garment manufacturers and started my home studio at the same time.” Early equipment included a Foxtex eight track recorder (supplanted in a few years by several Tascam DA-88 recorders), and a Mackie 3208 console. “Actually, I had a SEC 1882 before the Mackie. I got into the Spectral Synthesis work station and purchased a Mackie Digital 8 Buss console, which I used in my home studio until 2002.”
He was doing pretty well at that time, so Winer reached out to a number of the premier studio designers in the country via e-mail. “I picked up all the magazines- Mix was at the top of the pile, of course!- and wrote to the top guys saying that I needed help putting my room together. They all ignored me- except for Russ Berger. Russ hooked me up. I leveraged my house, got a bit of financial backing, and cashed in my IRA. I bought an SSL C200, and suddenly I had a studio.”
The C200 was new at the time, so SSL opened up the company black book and introduced Hal to a number of free-lance engineers, many of whom formed the core of his client base. “I also developed my own independent client list, and over the next couple of years my clients kept growing with me.”
Winer can’t remember if he cried, or the exact day the record industry died, but things changed. “Right now 90% of my business is my own production work. I met Cliff Carter when I opened the studio in 2002 and hired him as as a session player for singer songwriters. Several years ago we started producing together. Cliff functions as music director, arranger, and co-producer. I engineer and co-produce. We take singer songwriters with no band and put them in a place they couldn’t be otherwise.”
How do these clients measure success, if a gold record is no longer a reasonable goal? “Success has nothing to do with the sale of their record; we don’t believe that’s what makes a career. We give them a calling card that they can use to market themselves. They walk out of here with a professional recording that has world class musicians playing on it and they know they’re getting a product that they would have had to use a label for in the past. It’s all about the song, the sonics, and the musicianship. We make it as affordable as we can, but the cost is obviously higher than what someone would pay if they followed the old Elvis model and walked into a studio off the street and booked a few hours to cut their tracks live.”
If he had to round it off, what percentage of Bicoastal Music clients end up happy with the experience they’ve had at the studio? “All of them-one hundred per cent- are happy. They all give us a variation on the same theme- ‘I never thought I could have record like this.’ They know that a professional career is hard to develop and sustain, and that using social media to develop a fan base is critical. We give them the product; it’s up to them to market it.
“I also open up the studio to some high level engineers who use the room to record chamber music. That gives me a chance to take a break, and I get to listen to music that’s new and different and watch talented engineers work.”
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