In Reply to: severe on the van gelding sound posted by hifitommy on November 12, 2002 at 23:21:19:
The problem with Van Gelder, I think, is that he enjoys a reputation that is often not supported by the results and I tend to agree with Severius for the most part. In particular Van Gelder almost never captures the full range of the piano, producing instead a compressed, at times almost pinched sound, even taking into consideration the fact that most of the players he recorded tended to be in the minimal left hand Bud Powell influenced vein. I agree less with his assessment of the reproduction of the string bass, although that seems to vary from date to date; some of the Paul Chambers releases, e.g., "Bass On Top", are very good, but then the bassist was after all the leader. Van Gelder also tended to overemphasize and highlight the horns, sometimes to the point of stridency. As to the hard right-left problem, he was hardly the only guilty party in the early days of stereo recording (The Contemporary label, most of whose recordings sound far superior to me, was similar in this respect.), but he may have hung on to this ping-pong effect longer than others. Reproduction of drums is another weakness, especially the lower end of the frequency spectrum, however, I suppose we should remember that bop percussionists generally made minimal use of the bass drum. For the most part I think Jim Anderson, the engineer who currently does a lot of Blue Note sessions, is, and in fact has been for years, far better in all respects.
One curious thing about Van Gelder's work: For most of the same period that he was the "house" engineer for Blue Note, he served in a similar capacity for the Prestige label and I've always thought that his work for the latter was on the whole not as good as that for Blue Note. Some of the difference may simply have been that the producers for the two labels had different ideas. And then there is his work for Impulse, which I think in large part better than either of the other two; again this could be the involvement of different producers.
By the way your comment about Van Gelder's "foresight" is probably misplaced. As the recording engineer he would not have been the individual who arranged the dates; this would have been the decision of the producers/owners of the labels. On the other hand he apparently provided a venue conducive to enducing good work from musicians, whose respect he generally had in spite of a somewhat testy personality.
One last thought: We should bear in mind that not every session recorded by Blue Note is important or worthy, either in recording or performance quality, and there is probably a reason why the results of some dates have sat unreleased for lengthy periods. (See, for example, my earlier post "Redd Alert!!!".)
although i do like to know that sort of info. is there any authoritative writing on rvg? and did he have any say-so on whom he recorded? in my reply to severius (not intended to be hostile by any stretch) i asked if these opinions were based on LP sound or cd. so far he hasnt answered, but what is your answer.
judging by your tt, vinyl isnt the primary source in your abode. what im getting at is-could this
sound you and sev have been referring to been a result of the cd mastering process or rudy's intent, or even the LP mastering engineers heavy hand? im not making excuses for rvg, just trying to ferret out where things went awry.
ultimately i dont believe the music was undermined, else why are original BNs so sought after by the japanese collectors. as i understand it, the japanese have nearly depleted the BNs and are now going for the pablos, a fine group of recordings if there ever was one.
it would be an unusual label that produced all gold although some think BN had done so. even these days, i think artists consider it an honor to be released on blue note.
well, that should be enough fuel for the fire for a few minutes. ;^)
My observations were meant to be a general view of RVG's work. Obviously, there are any number of exceptions to the statements I made.
My sources are:
vinyl BN's (a few early pressings, and more later pressings in my collection)
McMaster late 80s/early 90s cds
Connoisseurs: cd and analog vinyl reissues
Other analog vinyl reissues (Lee Morgan's "Candy" by Classic is the latest one, and a very nice sounding one at that, with nice, fat bass and Sonny Clark's piano quite clear).
Yes, as the sound on some of the remasters would indicate, better sound may be possible to get out of the original masters. But, that was another point in my article. While others get a better, deeper bass sound and clearer piano, Van Gelder himself continues to make his remasters commit the very same mistakes he made originally.
i guess this is a case where the original recordist should have been kept out of the loop. i guess i was too busy enjoying the music to dissect it. maybe it is the concept that sins of omission are less than sins of commission.
My comments are based upon listening to both more recent CD reissues and in many cases the original LPs, sometimes in stereo but mostly mono, which I'm old enough to have purchased when originally released in the 1950's & '60's. The latter by the way always sounded terrific to me on the equipment I had at the time, either a small Magnavox console or one of those all-in-one-box with detachable speakers items from the same manufacturer. But now that I have an (ridiculously) expensive system capable of far more accurate reproduction, the weaknesses in at least some of RVG's results are apparent. It is also obvious that, in spite of his reputation, there have been other engineers whose work was at least equal to, if not superior, e.g., Paul Goodman (RCA), Roy DuNann (Contemporary), Tom Dowd (Atlantic), Val Valentin (Norman Granz' various labels) and Dick Bock (Pacific Jazz). More recently he has been surpassed easily by the likes of Jim Anderson, David Baker, Malcolm Addey, Joe Ferla, and Phil Edwards.
All that having been said, I would not want to leave the impression that I don't listen to and thoroughly enjoy many of the Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, Muse, et al, releases on which RVG was the engineer. And I also want to say again that no engineer has/had complete control over the sonic results: The producers/label owners (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff at the original Blue Note; Bob Weinstock at Prestige) would have had input as would the musicians.
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