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Mark Wingfield: The Continuing Evolution of the Electric Guitar

John Mark McGuire By

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What I am imagining is being able to take the guitar sound and change it so that it takes on some elements or the character of say a saxophone or a trumpet. I don't mean mixing in sampled sounds of these instruments. I mean reshaping the guitar sound... —Mark Wingfield
I was first introduced to the music of Mark Wingfield through listening to his first duo album with the inventive genius of Massachusetts acoustic mastermind, Kevin Kastning. Although in my gut I suspected it, it was almost impossible, still, to believe when it was confirmed that both players had indeed improvised the entire album. While retaining that just-baked freshness, there was still a grace, presence, flow and assurity presenting itself that one might expect from the delivery of music the two had performed together on numerous prior occasions; completely invented in the moment, in the studio, yet sounding like a composed—and brilliantly composed, at that—piece of music.

There was something in the combination of his tones, phrasing and nuance that harkened me back to the playing of modern guitar renaissance impressionist, the great David Torn. But beyond his sonic excellence and technical brilliance, there was a genuine, raw, emotional side to Mark's playing. Perhaps it was this willingness to explore the dynamics of a musical moment and bare one's soul in the midst of it that, ultimately, brought this comparison to mind.

I was overcome with emotion during the course of my very first listen. For my ears, there was something immediately profound—and supreme—about the guitar textures that flowed out of this guy.

In light of this first introduction (to his music), perhaps you can imagine how thrilled I was when MoonJune's Leonardo Pavkovic shared with me, in the fall of last year (2014), that MJR would produce his new solo album!

Even more so, when—while in NYC, during a trip up from Florida to meet the great Indonesian progressive legends, simakDialog—Leonardo snuck in a still-unmastered cut from Mark Wingfield's MoonJune debut, Proof of Light, during a listening session in his office.

Upon hearing just the first few notes, I knew Leonardo had a true unprecendented masterpiece on his hands: one so brilliantly creative and soaringly articulated that it immediately commanded not just your full attention, mentally, but it also grabbed you on an emotional level. There was something very special happening here, and it extended way beyond the ordinary!!

Leonardo hit me with another (track from the album), then another ...

After having consumed two glasses of a mystery-vintage vino, the combination of elations generated from multiple sources proved almost overwhelming. I felt as if my head was about to explode from this mind-altering music!!

...was this really a guitar I was listening to?? How can it be possible for someone to wring that much emotion and radical nuance from the instrument, really?

I was listening to the impossible.

...being articulated in the most sensitive trio setting ever.

Perhaps now you understand why it is, indeed, such a great honor to have been involved in the interview you are about to read.

Although in my gut I suspected this, also, I will go ahead and say it—after reading and rereading Mark's responses to the questions which follow: Mark Wingfield is the most inventive electric guitarist of the last 30 years.

Or maybe ever.

I truly believe he falls into the same category as two of the greatest, most innovative players of my lifetime: Jimi Hendrix, and Allan Holdsworth. As this interview evidences, Mark Wingfield's approach to creating electric guitar tones and textures is no less revolutionary than either of said predecessors. In fact, the manner in which he embraces and integrates technology—in terms of both tones and playing technique—qualifies him for consideration as the most innovative electric guitarist of all time, I believe.

But enough of my controversial meanderings; let's hear from the master, himself.

All About Jazz: Hi, Mark! Thanks for taking to time to provide our readers with some insights into yourself, your incredible music and your phenomenal, just-released debut album for MoonJune Records.

To prepare myself for this interview, I went back and digested some previous interviews that have been conducted with you. I read were you previously stated (in your interview for Anil Prasad's Innerviews) that there is no such thing as an original musical idea—citing "originality," in the musical sense, as being the result of a combination of influences. Given this perspective, can you identify any of the specific influences present on your MoonJune debut, Proof of Light?

Mark Wingfield: Thank you, John and All About Jazz—for the kind words, your time and for providing this forum. It's a pleasure to talk with you.

There are definitely original musical ideas. I was talking about the fact that any original idea played by a musician or written by a composer is made up from combinations of things they have heard at some point in the past. It's often said that every combination of notes has been played before at some point. That is undoubtedly true, but when you add rhythm into the equation the combinations become near limitless. Add in dynamics, tone, inflection and other expressive elements and there really is no limit to the variety of ways any combination of notes could sound.

Take the first four notes of the opening theme of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, most westerners at least know that theme. However these same four notes if played during an improvisation, could take on a completely different musical meaning. This is because, even if somewhere deep in they player's subconscious the notes originally came from hearing the 5th Symphony, years later, in the context of an improvisation, they no longer belong to that, they have become part of their musical language. If a musical idea you're heard has really become part of your personal musical language, on a deep enough level, it will sound like you. If it hasn't, it will sound like a borrowed musical quote. Beethoven himself must have got this combination of notes from something he heard, but he turned them into something new and something powerful enough to still be in many people's mind almost 200 years later.

The important point is that it's the combination of musical influences that creates an original idea. Wayne Shorter described it as "scrambling" your influences. All these different influences come in, they get scrambled up and they come out as your own sound. I think one of the key things that makes someone sound original, is that they have diverse or unusual influences. Influences don't even have to be musical. You could be influenced by the sounds of machinery in a construction site, or by bird song, or the rhythms of human speech. John Coltrane for example based his composition Alabama on the cadences of Martin Luther King's famous speech. Jazz players don't need to have jazz as their only big influence. Coltrane also was very influenced by African and Indian music. Or take Miles Davis who was influenced by classical composers like Ravel and Stockhausen.

With regard to Proof of Light (Mark's debut album for MJR), it's very hard to point out any influence in particular. What I will say is that I listen to a huge variety of different music. I am influenced as much by Indian and African music as I am by western music and as much by classical music as I am by jazz or rock. I do love the music that happened in the 70's and 80's on the ECM label which you mention. I think that was a time when whole new vistas of musical sound were opened up.

Miles Davis' Bitches Brew was one of the most original sounding albums in the history of Jazz and still one of my personal favourites. But equally original albums came out in the decade after that; Ralph Towner's Solstice is an example. That album sounded like something out of a completely new musical world—moving from haunting ghostly shades to intense uplifting energy within the same album. Kenny Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, and Jan Garbarek were others who created completely unique musical landscapes. These are all influences.

AAJ: What about your influences on guitar? Are there any particular players you've been listening to recently?

MW: The main influences on my guitar playing, for quite some while now, have not been guitarists. This was a deliberate decision on my part, to stop listening to guitar players. I made the choice because I was finding it too hard to break away from playing too much like which ever favourite guitarist I had been listening to at the time. I was always sounding to myself like a lesser version of one of my heroes, depending on which one I had been listening to the most.

So from that point on I've listened mainly to other instruments, for example: sax, trumpet, and a lot of vocalists. What I learned from these instruments is just how much they can do with their tone. By comparison, guitar sounded extremely limited, so I spent a long time working on different ways of sounding notes and different ways of moving between notes to create different tones. Most of the tonal changes you'll hear in my playing are based on these techniques, but I do also use electronics to manipulate the tone in real time which is why I have various attachments on my guitar.

AAJ: So, you prefer not listening to guitarists, by and large, these days. I find your perspective quite intriguing, as it is indicative of your determination to pursue your own authentic voice—not just as a guitarist, but as a musician.

That said, I guess if we are going to get to some guitarists who have had an impact on your playing and your mental approach to the instrument we'll have to dig a little deeper! When did you first start playing guitar, how did it come about, and what guitarists were your role models during your formative years as a beginner-to intermediate-level player?

MW: Jimi Hendrix was my first major influence, and interestingly he has remained a major one. I'll caveat what I said about not listening to guitarists. I will listen to the occasional player who is far enough away from the way I play that there is no danger I'll start playing like them. Kevin Kastning is an example; his concept on the guitar is so completely unique that there is no chance I'd ever be able to start playing like him.

Jimi Hendrix is another player who's phrasing is different enough from what I do that I'm not worried about starting to sound like him. For me, Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock is one of the greatest works ever performed on electric guitar; it is utter sonic genius.

Then I heard Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame and that totally blew me away. But not at first; at first, I didn't like it much—but I could hear that what McLaughlin was playing was unbelievable, so I stuck with it. Before long, it became one of my favourite albums and a benchmark for guitar playing which I aspired to as a young player. As a result, I starting practicing 8 hours a day and this went on for about a year. Then I started getting into bands and that cut it down to 6 hours a day for the next year.

Around the same time as Mahavishnu, I got into Yes and Steve Howe's imaginative approach to the guitar. A little later, I started listening to Terje Rypdal and John Abercrombie, and through that discovered all the great ECM artists; that changed everything, yet again, for me. Listening to Terje showed me that it is as much what you do with the notes as it is how many of them you play, which points back again to Hendrix. I listened to Terje and he might just play a few notes, but every note was exactly the right note, each note seemed to say so much. That was a great lesson.

Around the same time I was getting into Terje Rypdal, I heard Bill Bruford's One of a Kind. Allan Holdsworth's playing on that was a complete revelation. That's still some of my favourite of Allan's playing. King Crimson's second incarnation with Adrian Belew and obviously Robert Fripp was another favourite for me at that time. That was an amazing band. Both Fripp and Belew were big influences. Then it was Pat Metheny who, again, at first, I didn't like, because I found it too 'nice' sounding. But before long I realized the great emotional depths this music contained and just how brilliant a player Pat is. He became another all-time favourite, along with Lyle Mays, of course.

It was at this point, though, that I realized I really needed to stop listening to all these guys. I would be out somewhere with no music and I'd start hearing things in my head—things from my imagination; things which I really wanted to play.

But as soon as I got back to my music collection, those ideas were instantly subsumed by which ever brilliant player I decided to listen to. Then I'd pick up the guitar and my head would be full of their playing rather than any of my own ideas. I knew that in order for my own playing to come through, I was going to have to give it space to do so, and filling my ears with Allan, Pat, Bill Frisell, or Jeff Beck was not going to let that happen.

Fortunately, by this time I was also heavily into Coltrane, Miles, Jarrett, Garbarek; and classical music like Ravel, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartok and Elliot Carter; I had more than enough to listen to. Also, I knew that however much I listened to these other instruments, I would never be able to sound anything like them—however hard I tried—so I could take in as much influence as I wanted. I found that it freed up my mind to start imagining more of my own guitar lines, which would still be there even after I'd listened to Lester Bowie, Anthony Braxton or whoever it was—as long as it wasn't a guitarist.

AAJ: You're manipulation of tone is, indeed, one of the most striking elements of your sound and style. Please expound on these "attachments"—what are they, and how did you come about incorporating them?

MW: Well, first of all, there is just so much you can do with tone just by how you play the notes. I have found more than 20 different ways to sound a note on the guitar and I know there are more to be found. The number of ways you can transition from one note to the next is even greater, then add to that all the things you can do to a note while it's sustaining, all without any electronics. Most of my sound and tone comes from these things. I do an awful lot with the "tremolo arm" which which I think should more accurately be called the pitch arm. I often use it to move from one note to the next or even to play several notes by bending and holding the arm in different positions.

I do use the laptop to allow me to do various things. For example: to sustain chords so that I can be freed up to play melodies and solos. Also, I don't like most guitar chord voicings that much, I tend to hear piano or orchestral chord voicings—which are impossible to play on the guitar, unless you're Kevin Kastning. But with the laptop I can sustain single notes so that they overlap and create a chord. This means I can create a chord which would be impossible to otherwise play on a normal guitar, by playing it one note at a time. I can also create those chords as I improvise solo lines by choosing when to feed notes into the laptop as I play. You can hear this on "Voltaic," after the melody at the start of the group improv: I play a set of notes sequentially, which form a chord that sustains throughout the next section.

I also occasionally manipulate sustaining guitar notes with the laptop to create breathy sounds and change the texture of the note in various ways. As it happens, I also do this at the start of the same section in "Voltaic" just after I create the chord. I think there are one or two other occasions where this happens on Proof of Light, but I have used this sort of thing a lot more in my work with Kevin Kastning. However, I think I'm just at the start of working with these sorts of ideas; it's a matter of waiting for the technology to come along to allow me to do what I want to do.

There are some new plugins which I am working with at the moment, which will allow me to do some more interesting things with sustaining guitar notes. If you imagine what a vocalist, sax or trumpet player can do with their notes as they sustain them, it's that level of manipulation I'm after. I have a touch strip attached to my guitar right below where my right hand fingers are. As I move my finger along this touch strip I can control plugin parameters on the laptop. So this allows me to gradually bring in a breathy or raspy sound to the guitar tone as a note sustains.

I rarely use guitar synth for solos, but I do use it sometimes when playing chords along with the normal guitar sound. However again on the track Voltaic, I use a guitar synth to add those huge undulating sounds into my normal guitar sound here and there.

AAJ: With regard to these new plugins and other sound manipulation tools and technologies, have you been involved—either individually, or in partnership with a company—in the R&D (Research & Development) of any of these tools you incorporate?

MW: There is a great company called Sinevibes who have been very helpful. I use some of their wave-shaping plugins, which are the best sounding wave shapers I've found. About a year ago, I had an important recording session coming up and they really helped me out by making some changes to the plugin which I requested and emailing it to me in time for the session. I'm not working in partnership with anyone, but I would be interested in working with a software company who wanted to explore deeper levels of sound manipulation in a musical way.

AAJ: I find your integration of sound processing technology tools to be extremely fascinating (as I'm sure many readers will or already do). Where do you see the future of plugins and the like heading? What sort of new developments do you envision and/or would you like to see come to fruition?

MW: For a long time, plugin engineers have been working very hard to recreate the sounds of the best legendary hardware. Some of the plugins currently being made by Sinevibes, Waves, Slate Digital, Softube and a couple of others, really do sound as good as the original hardware—and in some cases even better. What's interesting is that, in doing this, these engineers have gained skill, not just in programming audio effects, but also in the craft which the hardware engineers honed over the last 50 years. They have learned what it is that makes certain pieces of hardware sound so good and why.

This knowledge is now just starting to be used in more creative ways, going beyond simply recreating existing hardware. This interests me. I can imaging taking the sweetening effect which a particular hardware EQ adds and increasing that. At the moment, some plugins allow you to increase the amount of harmonics and distortion beyond the amount of the original hardware. But I can imagine taking the knowledge of what makes a plugin sound sweeter and using that to create something new. Not just a control that increases harmonic distortion, but one which employs a whole range of techniques working in combination to produce sounds which you could describe as "sweet," "silky," "raspy," "breathy" etc... with perhaps four or five knobs labeled as such.

As for the future, I would like to see plugin engineers go deeper into sound manipulation—allowing for the manipulation of sound on a much more fundamental or deeper level. However, the key thing here is that, for me, it needs to be musical. There are plugins out there which employ single techniques, like frequency shifting, ring modulation, formant shifting etc.; but any single sound manipulation technique, if used on it's own in this way, has a relatively small range of musical sounds. Everything outside this small range sounds like sci-fi or monsters from the deep.

I think software engineers need to think outside of single techniques and more about what are the constituents of musical tones, and how these can be manipulated. Doing this would require a range of techniques working together in possibly quite complex or non-linear ways.

What I am imagining is being able to take the guitar sound and change it so that it takes on some elements or the character of say a saxophone or a trumpet. I don't mean mixing in sampled sounds of these instruments. I mean reshaping the guitar sound, so it still sounds like a guitar, but takes on an aspect of "brassiness" or "rasp" or perhaps the woodiness of an oboe or violin. Then you could have a pedal which moved the sound from a deep sax-like raspiness to an etherial flute-like breathiness. But all the while still sounding like a guitar—a guitar who's sound has taken on aspects of these other sonic elements. In a sense, this is what I'm trying to do already, by using long chains of plugins. I could imagine a single plugin which goes ten times further and can take the sound in many different directions.

AAJ: Thanks for sharing that perspective, Mark. Obviously, your passion extends beyond the bounds of just making music; if you weren't so entrenched in your work as a guitarist and composer, it certainly wouldn't be hard to picture you dawning an engineer's cap and becoming a plugin developer, yourself!

Let's return for focus back to the new album, Proof of Light. Upon reviewing your discography, it's apparent that you have recorded in a variety of group formats—from ensemble work, to unorthodox trios, as well as a series of improvisational duets (with Kevin Kastning)... is there any particular reason why you choose a traditional guitar trio for this outing?

MW: I chose this format for a couple of reasons. First, it's what I was hearing in my head when I was writing the music for the project. Secondly, there is something unique about an improvised trio setting which I wanted to explore. I had done some trio work before with Jane Chapman and Iain Ballamy (on the Three Windows album), but I really wanted to explore what would happen with the dynamic of drums, bass and guitar. There is a space you get with a trio that you don't have with a quartet or larger band, and that allows a different kind of interaction between the musicians.

AAJ: Yes—one of the things that stood out for me about the album was the 'spacious' sound, and your use of occasional pauses and slowly-decaying sustained passages.

Please tell us a little about this trio. Yaron Stavi is an upright player you have enjoyed playing with on several previous outings. Conversely, this is your first recording with drummer Asaf Sirkus. How did this trio come about?

MW: Actually, although most of the work Yaron has done with me is acoustic bass, he does play electric, too. He plays electric on the track Mars Saffron on this album, but it's acoustic on all the other tracks. As you pointed out, I've been working with Yaron for some time; this is the third album we've recored together. Asaf and Yaron have played together a lot in the past in various projects, so I knew they would have a great feel together.

Yaron has such a warm tone and a great ability to make the acoustic bass sing, which is why I gave the melody to him to play either on his own or with me a number of times on this album. He's also a great sight reader, which means I don' t need to worry about writing intricate or fast unison lines for us to play together. I also know that even if I write something which sounds like it can't be played on double bass, he'll probably be able to play it. This allows me to be very free and varied in my approach to writing, which is something I really value with the sort of music I do.

Asaf is someone I had been thinking about playing with for a while. First of all, we have a lot in common, musically; we both have a deep interest in Indian music. Asaf makes a very serious study of Indian classical rhythms, and I have a long standing deep interest in Indian classical music—in particular vocal and violin phrasings. Also, listening to the music Asaf does on his own albums, I can immediately hear an affinity for the kind of music I do. Asaf is a drummer who has created a distinctive style and approach; he is so inventive that I knew it would be great to improvise with him.

AAJ: "Inventive" is an excellent choice of words, there, and I believe the affinity to which you referred is apparent. There is a very intimate feel and, at times, an almost telepathic communication between the three of you; for my ears, this is supreme, sensitive trio work.

How much rehearsal went into this project, prior to laying down the actual tracks? While recording it, did you get a sense that there was something magical transpiring?

MW: There was no rehearsal at all before the recording. In fact, we had only all played together as a trio once before. The three of us got together about a year before for an exploratory improvised session and there was an instant connection there. Based on how good that session felt and sounded, I decided to write the material for an album.

Of course, we all had time to learn the scores before hand, but we didn't rehearse any of it together before the recording session. There was an instant connection and chemistry as soon as we started recording, though. I thought that would be the case because of how our previous improv session felt. But the recording sessions went beyond my expectations. The energy of the sessions was great and, yes, we could all feel magic was happening. We recorded for two days and by the end of each day, rather than feeling tired, we felt energized! So I knew it was going well, even before I'd had the chance to sit down and listen to the takes.

AAJ: Wow!! I have to admit, Mark: that answer just blew me out of the water!

In light of that, and the overall sound and feel of the album, perhaps the ECM comparisons (for Proof of Light) will be inevitable. Almost immediately—within minutes of listening to the first song—I was reminded of my favorite era of music: the output from the late '70's -early '80's ECM Records, when so much experimenting with musical forms and expression was taking place. Were there any deliberate musical goals / directions that were corporately discussed between the three of you? What was your vision for this album—and do you think you achieved it?

MW: There wasn't a lot of discussion or pre planning between the three of us before the session. However, I did give Yaron and Asaf MP3s (audio files) of sketches of the pieces some weeks before the session. I directed the sessions as I had written all the music for the album, and I had an overall vision for how I wanted the music to sound. So I discussed the feel and general approach I wanted for each piece in the studio before we recorded it. Occasionally, we would try a couple of different approaches to a piece to see which felt best. But, in many cases, Asaf and Yaron already knew the basic approach of the piece, based on the sketches. Having said that, I am always open to ideas from the musicians I play with, so there was a continual creative discussion between us on what we all felt worked well in a particular piece.

I like to compose on computer which means that by the time I've written a piece, there is a MIDI version which I can save as an mp3. I find this really useful, as it can give the other musicians some indication about the general direction of a piece. Of course, the real version played by musicians will sound utterly different than the MIDI version, but I'll often use the same synth sounds (as in the MIDI version) and sometimes I'll put down a rough electric guitar track in places (on the sample mp3). This helps me to decide on the final arrangement and, sometimes, other aspects of the piece. It's also really useful for the other musicians, as they can hear something of how the piece sounds prior to the session.

I knew what I wanted the music to evoke when I wrote the pieces. When I compose, I'm usually trying to create an atmosphere or a sense of a time and place. So when I've written a piece, if I listen back to it and it creates that feeling—the place and time, the lives of people I was thinking about or imagining when I composed it—then for me the piece is successful. I think of it, in a way, as a kind of storytelling.

When I go into the studio to record a piece, if I'm working with improvising musicians, then I want them to have as much freedom as possible and to be able to tell their own musical stories. But, at the same time, it's important to me that the overall story, mood and atmosphere of the piece remains. So I am prepared to direct people more if I feel the music is straying away from the mood and atmosphere of a piece. (Otherwise I like musicians to have as much freedom as they want.)

Part of the trick for me is choosing musicians for a project who will intuitively understand and have an artistic affinity for the music I've written for a particular project. I knew that both Asaf and Yaron would immediately understand what these pieces were about on an emotional and intuitive level. They are both extremely sensitive and intuitive improvisers.

AAJ: Indeed they are. One of the things that stood out for me was the supreme sensitivity—the delicacy—by which Yaron and Asaf played on this record. Between the spaciousness, this group sensitivity (an almost reverence for the musical moment at hand) and the free-wheeling, experimental (but, obviously, deeply personal) nature of your playing and tonalities, for me, the earlier ECM parallels were, perhaps, a foregone conclusion.

How long did you guys spend in the studio recording this album, and what effects, if any, did you employ in post-production for the three instruments?

MW: We were in the studio recording for two days. (Although I booked an extra half a day before to get the drum sound.) So when we turned up for the first day of recording, we only needed to get the bass miked up and we were ready to go. My sound doesn't take any time—it comes out of my DAC straight into the studio DAC: no amps, no mics.

As for post-production effects, there really wasn't anything to speak of, just the usual mixing techniques to bring out the best in the sound of each instrument. I mixed these tracks myself. I don't always do that, sometimes it's good to get someone with a fresh perspective to mix your own stuff. But I had a really strong idea about how I wanted this record to sound.

I carefully chose the mics we used to record the drums and bass. I really wanted to hear the detail of Asaf's ride cymbal—the texture of the stick hitting the cymbal; I love that kind of ride sound. But it's not that easy to get that sound, which is why I chose the mics carefully. Also, I wanted to be able to hear his intricate snare work really clearly. It was the same with the bass. It was important to me to get that big warm sound a stand up bass can have, but at the same time be able to hear the detail and articulation: the sound of the strings on the fingerboard. Part of getting these sounds is in the mixing, but a lot of it is the mic choice and positioning.

In general, when recording and mixing, I'm looking for detail and transparency. If I'm working with musicians like Yaron and Asaf, I want to be able to hear every nuance of what they're doing. I choose most of my guitar sounds for exactly the same reason. Occasionally, I'll use a lot of distortion—if the feeling of the track demands it, like on Voltaic—but on everything else I use sounds where every tiny thing I do comes through in as much detail as possible. A lot of my style is based on creating different tones, attacks, subtle pitch changes, and note transitions or slurs. So I need sounds which don't cover all this up with too much distortion. The fact that I have infinite sustain and can create feedback may fool you into thinking I've got a lot of distortion on my sound, but I don't. It's got some crunch, but it's clean enough to reveal any tiny change of tone or dynamics.

AAJ: You did—you definitely fooled me! I thought you were using some type of overdrive tool or device to get that sort of on demand feedback that sometimes comes into play. How do you actually generate that incredible octivating feedback?

MW: I'm using a sustainer made by a company called Sustainiac. This is a device which takes the signal from the bridge pickup and uses it to keep the vibration of the string going via a magnetic field that comes out of a special neck pickup. It works even when the guitar is not plugged in, which is quite strange, to hear an unplugged guitar with infinite sustain! There are knobs and switches that allow you to gradually or quickly move the sustain into harmonics in the same way feedback will decay into harmonics. It's really the same principle as feedback only using a magnetic field instead of the air as a conductor. It sounds like the ultimate device to have on your guitar, but it takes some time to learn how to control so it's not for everyone. But for my style of playing it was exactly what I needed.

AAJ: I know I've raved about the performance-and tonal-angles of the new album, Mark, but (to continue our "singing your glorious praises" theme) the production is also on the same level of excellence! So, am I understanding you correctly—that you didn't color any of the tracks with any effects in post-production?

MW: In order to get this sound I used various mixing techniques. My aim when mixing jazz or related music is to make each instrument sound as real and unprocessed as possible, while at the same time making them sound big, detailed and spacious. However, with a band recording, if you just turn up the faders with no processing, you won't get that result—however carefully you balance and pan things. So I don't hold with the view that using compression or EQ necessarily takes away from the natural or real sound of the instruments. I think if used correctly they can really increase the clarity and depth.

With most recordings, you need to craft the frequencies and sometimes the dynamics so that instruments sit well together and then you need to add reverb. You will almost inevitably have frequency clashes which naturally occur between instruments which occupy the same frequency bands, for example kick drum and bass guitar. If you don't deal with that, you'll get a muddy result where neither instrument is heard as clearly as it could be. This requires some careful EQing.

I carefully chose the mics for this session and carefully positioned them—I think that's also big factor in the sound. Ru Cook was the recording engineer; we spent half a day together, before the session, getting the drum sound. Ru is an extremely skilled recording engineer and is great to work with. The recording and mixing signal chain was also a factor. The mic preamps went directly into the DACs and the music never left the digital domain after that.

The quality of the EQ and compression you use when mixing is an important factor too. Plugins, just like hardware, are not all created equal. I mix entirely "in the box"—meaning that the entire mixing process stays in the computer, no analog hardware was involved.

I did use some harmonic coloration to add sweetness or silkiness to some frequencies on some instruments or mic channels using various plugins. These techniques really do sound nice, but you have to be sparing with them. If you put them on every channel you'll loose space and clarity in the mix.

Software plugins have now entirely overtaken hardware, in my view. These days, if you want to add sweetening harmonics or low end warmth to a signal you don't need hardware anymore. If you want that analog sound, companies like Waves, Slate Digital, Softube and a couple of others are now producing plugins which are indistinguishable from the world class hardware they emulate. In some cases the plugins are even better sounding than the original hardware. The only piece of outboard gear I would use now is a Bricasti M7 reverb. But that's only because there isn't a plugin version. I don't have an M7 in my studio, unfortunately, but I do have the Lexicon PCM plugins which are also world class reverbs.

I think the quality of the reverb is extremely important to the quality of the sound. I don't usually put one overall reverb on everything, I usually use different reverbs on different instruments. Part of how you create space and clarity is how you choose the reverbs, and the quality of the reverb. Reverb can be used to create space and depth in a mix and it can also be used to enhance the sound of an instrument.

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All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

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