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Carlos Del Rosario is a singer, producer and engineer who has been recording Lorraine Feather's vocals for over fifteen years. Such stellar engineering captures as Feather's Ages and Tales of the Unusual speak volumes for what he does, in addition to the work he has done with Denise Donatelli, Stephen Bishop, Arturo Sandoval, Yo-Yo Ma, and Judy Wexler.
I mentioned to Del Rosario that on 2012's Tales of the Unusual plus on her new Attachments CD, her voice sounds fuller and clearer, and the overall sound of the individual musicians' performances, separately and collectively, sound bigger, the aural space greatly expanded, and asked him if he was doing something different with the file compression or if there was anything else different in the way he was recording her.
"I've recorded her from her very first solo album using the same microphone, a Neumann tube U-67 and the preamp. I think the difference you're hearing is really Lorraine. The growth she's made in the last few years in her expression is just amazing.
"Geoff [Gillette] is solely responsible for the recording of the band and I'm responsible for recording and editing of all of her vocals. And we mix together. Yes, you're right about the compression. We've been using less and less of it. And we are very conscious of the aural space that you talk about, which gives each instrument the dynamic range without trampling the other musicians, as you say.
I asked him if Feather's lyricswhich are so dynamically maneuverable, from very soft or even whispered, to quick staccato attacks, hairpin turns and octave leapsinvolve anything special while mixing one of her vocals, or if the lyrical content influenced the way he recorded it.
"No, the lyrical content doesn't really influence the way I record her, although at the editing stage I may take a syllable or two and EQ them differently or compress just those syllables alone to make them come out."
Del Rosario has recently done beautiful multi-tracked vocals on a couple of Feather's tunes, like "Hearing Things" on Attachments, even recording Michael Valerio doing some sweet scatting, as mentioned earlier, so I asked him about these new directions.
"Geoff [Gillette] recorded Mike's scatting live as he played the bass. Yes, we are proud of the way it came out. I don't know if I'm supposed to divulge this to anyone yet, but I just recorded a multi-tracked vocal that's a lot more extensive than she's ever done before, on a piece that's written and arranged by Eddie Arkin for the next album. This is something you should look forward to!" [The album, slated to be finished over the course of 2014, is entitled Flirting With Disaster.]
The group of musicians Lorraine has been bringing together for her last three albums have started to sound very coordinated, like a real working band, so I asked him how that has influenced recording her.
"You're right again. When she settled down with these guys, her music became emotionally thicker and juicier. And that's definitely reflected in the whole production. Each one of these guys has such a special connection and understanding with her music, it shows so blatantly in their performances individually and collectively. I don't record them myself, but I have a hell of a lot of fun mixing.
"I've seen her evolve constantly and consistently as a writer and vocalist. When we first met, I was a recording artist for Dave Grusin's GRP label under the name of 'Yutaka.' I contacted her because I wanted her to write some lyrics to my song. We hit it off right away, and from then on she's been coming to my studio for the recording. As a musician, I find her evolving astounding in her ideas, her literary abilities, her vocal performances and of course that Lorraine Featherism that you find in all of her compositions. She's a true one of a kind. I am so fortunate to get to be a part of this team."
Geoff Gillette has been recording music since the mid-1970s, capturing for eternity a Who's Who list that includes B.B. King, Dori Caymmi, Jon Hendricks, Yo-Yo Ma, Sergio Mendes, T-Bone Burnett and Flora Purim. Like Rudy Van Gelder and the other great ones, he is the music world's version of the gentle family doctor who is a master of the recording arts and sciences, empirical and hard-nosed in doing what is needed to breathe life. In person, Gillette is the warmest, kindest sort of gentleman, but as an engineer, he is a nuts-and-bolts technician all the way. Since Edison got his patent, there has never been anything natural about a sound recording, except in the end result. When I compared Gillette's recordings favorably to Van Gelder's, he did just what he should have: he ignored the compliment, and explained how it is that he (and Carlos Del Rosario) recorded Lorraine Feather in such a way that listening to her CD feels like sitting in the room with her and her band:
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.