Dismiss Notice
We are making some updates and reconfigurations to our server. Apologies for any downtime or slow forum loading now or within the next week or so. Thanks!

Bernie Grundman thoughts on mastering BLUE NOTE Rudy Van Gelder master tapes

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by wolff, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    I've been looking for comments he's made regarding what it's been like remastering the Blue Note titles. Has he talked to the original engineer? He seems to be doing a good job as far as I'm concerned, but would like more info.
  2. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    Some info : http://www.soundstage.com/vinyl/vinyl111998.htm

    IMHO, the DAD's, now almost gone completely, were the best that Bernie did with Blue Note titles. The vinyl is usually cut hot at the high end, and in some cases, he's ruined the sound, IMHO although some do alright.

    I couldn't find any chats Bernie had with Rudy.....

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

    Funny, but I've found the sonics of any of the Classic Blue Note reissues I've bought to be very well done. To each his own I guess.

    I am glad to see Michael Hobson doing them, and he deserves all the praise in the world for the series. $30 a pop is far easier on the wallet than the stratospheric prices the originals sell for. (But if I ever find that elusive stash of mint originals in someones basement I may be singing a completely different tune....)
  4. AudioGirl

    AudioGirl Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    I doubt Mr. Bernie is adding any treble to RVG's already bright mixes; that would be downright painful.
  5. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    Yeah. Because both RVG and Bernie ride on the "Bright Side".

    High hats would be air compressors.
  6. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for link.
    IMO, so are many originals/2nd/3rd pressings, etc.. This is one of the things I am curious about (along with a few other characteristics common to BN's). I'm a member of the camp that is not too impressed with the original engineers work/sound(not in every case) and would love Mr. Grundman's opinion on what he's had to work with over the last few years.

    I really like the Classic reissues. I have about 250 BN titles(from original to RVG CD's) and find the Classic's are very good. Maybe not special, but that could be because of the tapes, couldn't it?

    BTW, the high end on Classic's "Swingin' Affair" is great(IMO) and wish they were all like it.
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    When I work with a Rudy Van Gelder master I have to spend a lot of time coaxing the breath of life out of there. It's lost in a maze of echo plate and high-end limiter distortion that drives me bonkers.

    If a mastering engineer just ignores that stuff the end result is less than wonderful in my opinion.
    Ódoligie and McLover like this.
  8. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    I take it you feel the tapes have their flaws and Mr. Grundman could have done something about it??

    What effect does this( echo plate and high-end limiter distortion)
    have on the sound for us engineering dumb-asses? Thanks!!
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Well, it's like a constant high-pitched grating sound. Ever stick your head around the back of your TV? That 15k carrier sound can drive one to drink. Something in RVG's system was dumping a lot of high-frequency overload distortion on everything, especially when the cymbals were hit. Kevin Gray and I figured that it was RVG's limiter that was causing the overload since it was better when the drums were not being aggressively played.

    Do you have an LP that was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder? Turn up the volume and lightly run your finger over the vinyl, so you slow it down a bit (making the ultra high end distortion come down to a more audible range). Hear it now? YEOW!!!!!!!!

    Kevin and I worked up a "system" for combating this in my mastering, naming it my "Van Gelder Anti-matter Generator" (a play on Van De Graff Generator) and if you hear any DCC Gold Rudy Van Gelder CD ( Coltrane LUSH LIFE, Rollins SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS, Miles Davis COOKIN', RELAXIN', STEAMIN', POOPIN', etc.) that I've remastered, you'll notice the absence of any high end oscillation distortion. Just one of those little nifty bits of musical history that a mastering engineer MUST deal with for the sake of your ears.
    Ódoligie, MungoMusic, Ere and 10 others like this.
  10. Damián

    Damián Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain now
    :laugh: :laugh:
  11. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter


    And, my ears do thank you(Ray Charles/Betty Carter comes to mind)!!
  12. Parkertown

    Parkertown GYRO-TOUCH TUNING

    That's what I've been talking about in previous posts about my problems with titles like Blue Train. A shame really, cause now I found it extremely to not focus on that when listening...

  13. Parkertown

    Parkertown GYRO-TOUCH TUNING

    And yep, it definitely oscillates. Ewww.
  14. RetroSmith

    RetroSmith Forum Hall Of Fame<br>(Formerly Mikey5967)

    East Coast
    Fascinating Steve...thanks for explaining that.

    I have some Cameo Parkway Lps that seem to have 60 cycle hum on them. Maybe from the cheapo cutting lathe at Rec-O-Art?
  15. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    If it's any consolation, my cat loves jazz.

    But he'll leave the room when it's an RVG remastered Blue Note CD. He'll literally get up and go under the bed upstairs.

    No foolin'.
    conjotter likes this.
  16. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I bought one of those RVG series CD's (The Sidewinder). I didn't buy anymore after that... :shake:
  17. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    Well, that explains the fatigue I can experience. I usually notice this after playing a bunch of BN's then switching to a another album that is recorded differently.

    The 'sound' of original BN's and all manner of reissues has never stopped me from getting the titles I want. The great music overshadows the sound(if poor) 9 times out of 10. I actually like the sound on many of them, but in absolute terms I know many are flawed.
  18. LeeS

    LeeS Martini Time

    You know what's better than Rudy's work?

    Roy DuNann of the old Fantasy jazz recordings. He was a much better engineer IMHO. Get the new Fantasys he did and you will agree with me.

    Blue Note is a cool label but RVG was far from perfect.
    Tommyboy likes this.
  19. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    Agreed. I have many original Contemporay's. Nice clean, quiet sound with great tone, excellent detail and fairly nice high end. Wish that most of the tittles were half as good as BN's or more to my tastes. Purely on a sonic/recording/mastering level I think they are much better than BN's, but overall musically, they are not. IMHO of course.
  20. trumpetplayer

    trumpetplayer Forum Resident

    Same here, I rather hear my old blue note cd's than a RVG.
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Remember folks,

    Rudy Van Gelder recorded stuff to sound good THEN, not now. THEN is what counted! People had cheap phonographs or Hi-Fi's, nothing like what we have now.

    Rudy did all his "tricking" right on the master tape so he didn't have to redub and lose a generation.. In other words, he didn't record something and re-dub it adding compression, echo, EQ, etc., he did it all live in real time while the music was being recorded.

    Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer at Contemporary recorded everything flat and dry and the "tricks" were added during LP disk mastering.

    So, a Contemporary master tape today sounds amazing while a Prestige or Blue Note master tape needs a little "reverse trickery" to get it to sound better.

    At the time though, the RVG recording technique made those Prestige and Blue Note LP's sing!
  22. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter

    Thanks, that makes sense. Time and budget constraints, too???

    From RVG interview or rumors(I forget which) his recording technique was different for Blue Note than other labels, following the wishes of Lion. I do hear a difference between original Prestiges/New Jazz, Blue Notes, Savoys, Impulses,etc.. Sometimes it's a huge difference from the BN's. You say you noticed this(maze of echo plate and high-end limiter distortion ) on the Prestiges or RVG tapes you've worked on. It's probably there, just not as noticable. I especially prefer the sound of most Impulses. Much warmer with a more accurate tone(one of my biggest complaints about some BN's).

    Thanks much, Steve. I really appreciate the time you take to share your thoughts.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    You're very welcome!
  24. Tom Daly

    Tom Daly Forum Resident

    For me, it's the content of the Blue Note albums rather than the sound, and yes, I prefer many of the late 50s to early 60s Blue Note albums in mono rather than stereo, particularly where the rhythm section is mixed toward the far right. Many classic jazz albums weren't recorded for stereo, but were multi-tracked. When stereo appeared to be catching on, label people thought "We have multis in the vault, so we can issue stereo albums from those." Thing is, they just couldn't create pleasing stereo mixes from those tapes because they weren't made with a stereo sound stage in mind. Verve put out a '56 recording of Have Trumpet, Will Excite by Dizzy Gillespie... awful. Contemporary issued Shelly Manne's My Fair Lady in stereo, too, again disappointing compared to the same album mixed to mono. Then, there's the poor stereo mixes of Kenton in Hi-Fi, where Don Bagley's bass is completely off-mike, and The Atomic Basie with the rhythm section on one channel and the rest of the orchestra on the other. Michael Cuscuna was absolutely correct making the decision to use the mono masters for both of these album reissues on CD. Miles Davis' great Kind of Blue album on Columbia, despite the speed gaffe on Side 1, was beautifully recorded for stereo in 1958, as was Brubeck's Time Out in 1959. Has anyone else ever noticed the bogus edit at 1:51 in "Take Five?" The 45 version (a completely different recording, made at 30 ips instead of the 15 ips used for the LP recording) contains no such edit and only runs 2:59, but I prefer it over the LP version because of the edit. It just sounds plain dumb.
    Capitol recorded some nice stereo albums in the late 50s, but they had state-of-the-art studios with 3-track machines. To this day, some of the best-sounding stereo albums ever made were recorded at Hollywood and Vine. Mercury also released some gorgeous stereo albums during the late 50s, most of them recorded at Fine Recording Studios in NYC. At Fine, they ran separate tape machines for the stereo and mono mixes, and the sound was mixed "live" during the sessions, so both the mono and stereo masters were first-generation. The point I make here is that it's too bad Blue Note had RVG do everything. If they used another engineer once in awhile, the occasional Blue Note album might have had superior sound.
    Parkertown likes this.
  25. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    Since we're discussing RVG's studio and engineering, I notice that he also recorded the A&M/CTi (3000-series) albums in the late 60s. I don't know what it is, but to me those all sound muddy and the high end is rather...ummm...strange. By muddy, I'm saying that there is a hump in the mid-bass which makes it overly warm. I once transfered both Jobim LPs to a CD, running it through an EQ first, cutting some of that midbass (I'm thinking a dB or two from the neighborhood of 150 to 300 Hz, which IMHO made it sound a lot better.) The strange highs are very hard to describe--it's almost like on some recordings, they're not very extended in range. Back to a Jobim album, the strings on it do not sound natural at all, although the percussion and brass parts sound OK, if a bit dull (certainly far from "bright"!).

    Not only that, on a couple of recordings, you can hear a limiter kick in (or maybe it's just overloaded tape or electronics...?), which sort of splatters the rest of the sound (like the louder drum section of "Tema Jazz" on Jobim's Tide album).

    One of my favorite A&M/CTi recordings is We And The Sea by Tamba 4. I have a feeling three of the tracks were recorded in Brazil at another label, as they sound to me like they are mono Tamba Trio recordings with an overdubbed quitar. What's interesting here is that on these three tracks ("O Morro", "Consolation", "Chant Of Ossanha"), the sound is pretty much in mono, sounds much clearer than any RVG recorded tracks, but the guitar has the same muddy A&M/CTi sound to it. (The liner notes claim it was all recorded at RVG studios.) The other four tracks? They are typical A&M/CTi, if not a bit muddier than most of the others on the label. The most recent CD reissue is better, but I own this in two CD versions, LP, and the reel (sold recently) which sounded the worst.

    Quite frankly, the sound of these has never impressed me. The better vinyl pressings (the 80's Audio Master Plus reissues) are just a little cleaner, and some of the CDs sound a little better as well. They sound nothing like other A&Ms to my ears. To me, it sounds like these were doctored to sound good on a late 60's stereo console system.

Share This Page