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The Making of Second Chance


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Irene Kral
Yesterday I posted on the new Irene Kral album, Second Chance (Jazzed Media), recorded in 1975 with Alan Broadbent on piano. Albums pairing Kral and Broadbent are too few in number, and it's gratifying to see another one surface.

What is particularly remarkable about the album, in addition to the musicianship and how these two artists worked together, is the fidelity. It's rare that any live club recording sounds this good. It's even more astonishing that the recording was made 35 years ago in the Dark Ages of tape, hiss and dropoff.

Curious about the Second Chance recording process, I emailed Rod Nicas to find out how he engineered the album back in 1975—and what he did today in the mastering to help make the CD sound so good.

Here's Rod's response:

“Thank you so much for the compliments both here and in your blog. After all the work Jazzed Media's Graham Carter and I put into this CD, it's rewarding to hear the comments coming back essentially echoing all the same feelings about the music we've had the luxury of holding just to ourselves for a long time.

“I was extremely fortunate to have captured Irene's musical beauty in 1975, while she was in remission from her first round of cancer and in very high spirits and vocal purity. By the end of 1976, the cancer was rampant again and, possibly except for the Kral Space recording, you could hear her trying to deal with it the rest of her short life.

“I really didn't do very much special for the original recording, just a live mix to 2-track tape running at 15 ips. I was in some secluded corner of The Times Restaurant monitoring the recording on headphones.

“What is also quite fortunate is that the tape I used to record the set didn't suffer over the years from the sticky-shed phenomenon so common to back-coated tapes in the '70s. The tapes from the session have held up quite well for the past 35 years (actually on the top shelf of my closet). 

“Now, for the digital mastering: It is absolutely amazing how the technology has grown. With my DAW (digital audio workstation), I was able to make some very precise enhancements, including a little tape hiss removal and edits that a razor blade on tape could never have managed.

“I also had the luxury of spending a long time just listening and learning many of the nuances of the music that might have just passed through my more youthful musical mind back then. I really started feeling good about the sound of the master when I found the sweet spot in Irene's voice in her lower midrange, which I bumped up a little with EQ. It really lets the warmth and strength in her voice shine through. [Pictured: Kral in performance]

My other recordings on the Jazzed Media label—Irene Kral's Just for Now and Jackie Cain and Roy Kral's Echoes together with Second Chance represent a kind of closure for me. I've lived so long knowing how great they were and that they now can be heard.

Your readers might also be interested in the Terry Gibbs Dream Band CD (Volume 6), which I helped Terry put together. A 27-year old Irene was in the audience at the Sundown Club in Hollywood in November 1959 when Terry called her up to do three songs, including a version of Moonlight In Vermont. Here, you can hear how much she had matured in two years since her Ferguson recording."

JazzWax tracks: Irene Kral's Second Chance is available at iTunes and here. Kral Space (1977) with Alan Broadbent is available at iTunes and here. Just for Now (1975) is available at iTunes and here. And Terry Gibbs Dream Band Vol. 6 (1959) is available at iTunes and here.

JazzWax clip: Here's Irene Kral singing Thomas Wolf Jr. and Cy Coleman's Here I Go Again, which can be found on her Wonderful Life (Mainstream) album from 1965 with Russ Freeman on piano. (It's available here.) Dig how difficult this melody is to sing...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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