Blue Note and Recording Master Re-Present RVGs Heritage

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If you're a jazz fan - not even a serious jazz fan but just casual, just about any type of fan of jazz at all - there's a good chance that you own some of Rudy Van Gelder's best work.

Working with such legendary entrepreneurs / producers as Alfred Lion (Blue Note), Creed Taylor (Verve, A&M, CTI) and Bob Weinstock (Prestige), Rudy Van Gelder served as recording engineer for some of the greatest jazz records ever made. His work is as respected as that of any instrumentalist, composer, singer, arranger or producer in jazz.

Think of great jazz records as building the foundation for modern jazz brick by brick: Rudy Van Gelder is the mortar that binds most great jazz records together.

Decades of such scientific advances as 24-bit digital technology now give Van Gelder the chance to revisit and create many of these recordings again. Blue Note has launched an entire "Rudy Van Gelder (RVG) series of titles, reissued after contemporary remastering by this master engineer.

Perfect Takes, a "best of the best of Blue Note compilation selected by RVG, includes on its companion DVD an interview with Van Gelder conducted by Michael Cuscuna, who helped co-found the respected reissue label Mosaic Records, helped construct the Impulse! Records reissue series for GRP Records, and who worked for Blue Note from the mid-1970s into the early '80s and continues to oversee Blue Note's acclaimed, ongoing reissue series.

Van Gelder reflects upon many things in carefully considered responses during this interview, including how it all began.

"What happened was, I started recording my friends: A trumpet player, a clarinetist, a pianist, and doing sessions in my parents' house, he recalls. "That soon grew, and after a while I started to hear from people in the neighborhood, could I record them? After a while the phone started to ring, and that grew, that area (recording for other people), and that's how it started.

"There was a period when I was recording for both Alfred Lion of Blue Note and Bob Weinstock of Prestige, he later reflects. "The differences in working with the two of them were, for me, quite large.

"For example, if I had a new microphone I wanted to try out: Alfred was the sort of person who was very much organized; he knew what he wanted, he knew what the finished product would be while he was doing the session. It was pretty intense working for him because he knew what he wanted and I had to deliver what he wanted, and that's what I was doing. On the other hand, the Prestige sessions were a lot looser, from the musicians' point they were a little freer, there weren't a lot of preparations, they sort of decided things as they went along. So I would always experiment with the technical stuff for Prestige, make sure I understood it, make sure I knew what it did, make sure I knew how it worked, and then I would use that for Blue Note.

When Cuscuna raises to Van Gelder this opportunity "to remaster, given today's technology, his original recordings (a project that Cuscuna at first believed RVG would not accept), Van Gelder allows, "When you first called me, I thought, 'Wow. That's the best job I ever had.' The idea of listening to the old tapes that I made, and the chance to transfer them - since the advent of the CD, people have been doing that. This is my opportunity to present my version of how those things should sound. What a great job this is!

"The remastering series has enabled me to get closer to the music of many musicians who played here and in Hackensack, much closer than I ever could before. People like Hank Mobley, people like Lee Morgan, who I never...I wish I could record him again, I could do a much better job. People like that. I got much closer to their music than I ever did just by talking to them at the session. I had a different responsibility at that time. I was in another world. I was not listening to the music...I was trying to make these individual people be heard in the way that they wanted to be heard. That's what I was doing on the date.

"Now all that is over with, here's the way the music sounded, and it's like a first time experience for me, he concludes. "And not just on one album - on a whole bunch of albums! It was great fun!

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
A Night in Tunisia
(Blue Note 1960 - RVG Edition)

Art Blakey, drums; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merritt, bass.

Except for the classic Dizzy Gillespie title track, this set from one of the great jazz finishing schools was composed entirely by young lions Morgan and Shorter, one of the best frontlines in the history of bebop quintets, and Timmons. Reissue annotator Bob Blumenthal suggests that its title track is "one of the greatest versions of 'A Night in Tunisia' ever recorded.


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