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

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

  1. Claude

    Claude Senior Member

    The "Sidewinder" tapes sound very poor, that RVG CD is not representative of the series.

    As a whole find both McMaster's and Rudy Van Gelder's CD mastering job for Blue Note to be merely acceptable. The japanese TOCJ remasters, the reissues remastered by Malcolm Addey and the few Blie Note sessions reissued on MFSL CDs sound much more natural.
  2. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    I think the main problem with RVG-mastered music being done for CD today is that engineers either don't realize some kind of adjustment has to be made, or ironically, don't want to tamper with the original master tape sound, forgetting that today's speakers and other audio equipment will nakedly reproduce the bright tendencies and another anomalies that were more masked on vintage equipment. I agree the Contemporary catalog was recorded better, but also agree the quality of that catalog is fine, but overall, lacks the magic of Blue Note, which didn't become a legendary label just on the strength of its artists, but the way the label encouraged adventurousness, something that carried on even further with Impulse!

    If we extend the RVG recording situation to pop and rock recordings, certain anomalies might also explain why some masterings of vintage material sound warmer and more natural to our ears than others. The source tape plays a part, but the engineer may hear something grating and compensate slightly to mask the problem.

    lemonjello likes this.
  3. jdw

    jdw Forum Resident

    Van Gelder recorded in his parent's living room in Hackensack, NJ, up until July 1959 and then moved to his current Englewood Cliffs, NJ, studio. Wolff undoubtedly knows this, but others will not. So you can't really compare a 1957 Prestige session with a 1961 Impulse recording - the rooms (and I suspect much of the equipment) are totally different.

    I agree with Wolff that my favourite Van Gelder recordings were done for Impulse (at the Englewood Cliffs studio) - much warmer and with a more natural reverb. I've always suspected that he was influenced by the Columbia 30th Street recorded sound when he designed the Englewood Cliffs room. Perhaps he was also influenced by the other big NYC spaces like Webster Hall...

    I would love to hear Steve's thoughts on the differences between the two RVG rooms (Hackensack and Englewood Cliffs) and the degree to which RVG's recording eccentricities (limiter splatter, etc.) continued or evolved after he moved studios.
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    It got much worse after he moved.
  5. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Does anyone have the address to Rudy's old Hackensack studio in his parent's house? I live right by Hackensack and I'm curious what's there.
  6. wolff

    wolff Member Thread Starter


    The Impulses(and other labels) and Blue Notes recorded during the same period sound very different from each other. They would have been recorded in same room with the same equipment, but the techniques used must have been different. Or, it could have been the mastering as opposed to the recording techniques. I'm just guessing, of course, I really have no idea. :)
  7. LeeS

    LeeS Martini Time

    Thanks Steve. That helps explain things. I think some still believe DuNann's mic placement was better overall but I guess that is a subjective thing.

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

    I recall Michael Fremer saying that the old house (he used to live right down the block) was torn down a few years back. :shake:
  9. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Oh well. I'm curious what's there now though. Thanks John.
  10. Parkertown

    Parkertown GYRO-TOUCH TUNING

    Really, this series of RVGs is all over the place. Some sound marvelous, others sound like AM radio.

    Some great ones: (IMHO)

    Bossa Nova Soul Samba-Ike Quebec JRVG
    Genius Of Modern Music, Vols. 1&2-Thelonious Monk-RVG
    One Step Beyond-Jackie McLean-JRVG
    At The Golden Circle, Vols. 1&2-Ornette Coleman Trio-RVG

    Some kinda stinky ones:

    A Fickle Sonance-Jackie McLean-RVG
    Search For The New Land-Lee Morgan-JRVG-this one's been narrowed; I can't say about the more recent domestic RVG version, haven't heard it. (it's a different mastering)

    A tendency toward being bright, but not always. That Ike Quebec one above is one the smoothest, warmest cds I've ever heard.
  11. DanG

    DanG On Green Dolphin Street

    :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
    Strat-Mangler and McLover like this.
  12. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    Would this (and/or mastering engineers' ignoring it) explain why the first released MCA/Impulse (pre-GRP) CDs of Sonny Rollins on Impulse and John Coltrane/Ballads are dentist-drill bright (RVG engineered both)? I mean, they're freaking painful to listen to, where most other early MCA CDs I have are at the very least muddy and warm....
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    No. Bright the tapes are not. That is a remastering decision.
  14. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    OK. Thanks. :thumbsup:
  15. bresna

    bresna Forum Resident

    York, Maine
    Steve - It has been said that Rudy Van Gelder's recording techniques changed a bit from label to label. I read once that he did what the producer's asked him to do and that was why they sounded slightly different.

    Now that you've had a chance to work with RVG's Blue Note masters, are you finding any differences?

  16. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I remember reading that Rudy said that he would experiment with diffferernt microphones on Prestige dates because Bob Weinstock didn't give a s**t, where Alfred Lion obviously did. So he'd sometimes try out new stuff on those (and possibly other co's?) sessions.
  17. bresna

    bresna Forum Resident

    York, Maine
    I never heard that one. I always thought RVG's equipment went relatively unchanged from session to session. I thought the differences were mainly with mic placement and mix.

  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    None at all.
  19. reeler

    reeler Forum Resident

    Yes I remember reading that he did alter his approach for each label, maybe more so for the Blue notes. I too don't like the "Blue Note Sound" generally. His Prestige monos are the best sounding things he did if you ask me, some of the Savoys are good too. The Blue note sound is mostly bright and squashed. Steve mentioned this in an old absolute sound review where he talks about Bill stoddard/bell sound being natural and uncompressed (Bill Evans/Adderly know what I mean) versus how Rudy would have done it "compression, echo, let me count the ways".
  20. bresna

    bresna Forum Resident

    York, Maine
    So for the new Blue Note Lps and SACDs, you found it necessary to keep using your "Van Gelder Anti-matter Generator"? Have you tweaked it since the old DCC days or is it the same?
  21. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Detroit, Michigan
    I scored 4 "old" Blue Note cds at record show recently:

    Andrew Hill: Black Fire (Yes! I really wanted to get this album too)

    Lou Donaldson: Mr. Shing-A-Ling and Good Gracious (funky Blue Notes)

    Ornette Coleman: 'Something' New York - I had no prior experience with Ornette, so this one is going to take some time to sort out. It was also not recorded by RVG, so Blue Note must have bought it from another label.
  22. reeler

    reeler Forum Resident

    Here's what Rudy himself said:

    AAJ: In a previous interview with me, you discussed how you tried to give each label its own identity soundwise. Without getting too specific or technical, explain how you approached that and how you approached the development of Blue Note's sound.

    RVG: I would like to modify something of what you said, you say it's "my sound", really what it is is my feeling and my approach to the musicians I'm recording at a particular session. I really don't like to think of it as being "my sound." What I'm doing really is trying to let the musicians be heard the way they want to be heard. What it really is is the musicians' sound.

    Alfred [Lion] would be very meticulous, well-rehearsed, and he would come in and see that everything was going well and he knew what he was going to get before he came into the studio. There were other labels at that time where the producers were much looser and they would just come in and see how things went. And the musicians and the music would very much reflect that. There were two ways of looking at it and that's reflected in the way these records sound. The difference is in the producer. [Alfred] had a feeling for the music and when it was working and when it wasn't working. He was very good at that. He knew when things were working. Now that's not to say that the other producers did not know. It's just that he was the epitome of that kind of producer. He understood what was happening and actually working with him all those years allowed me to understand what is happening and that's one of the things I'm always grateful to him for.
    Dan Steele likes this.
  23. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    From an interview with Rudy by James Rozzi, from the November 1995 issue of AUDIO :

  24. Joe Harley

    Joe Harley Senior Member

    And Rudy says pretty much the exact same thing in his interview with Michael Cuscuna on the DVD that comes in the Master Takes Blue Note CD package that is (I think) currently available.

    When he had some new microphone or piece of gear he wanted to experiment with, he did it on a Prestige session, not Blue Note. He was well aware that Alfred wanted everything to go according to plan.
    McLover likes this.
  25. triple

    triple Forum Resident

    Zagreb, Croatia
    I also know what you mean. :sigh:


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