Arif Mardin was born on March 15, 1932 in Istanbul, Turkey into a family of privilege that included statesmen, diplomats, leaders and business owners of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. He grew up listening to Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller, met jazz critic Cuneyt Sermet, who turned him onto this music and eventually became his mentor. After graduating from Istanbul University in Economics and Commerce, he studied at the London School of Economics. Though never intending to pursue a career in music, influenced by his sister’s music records and jazz, he became an accomplished orchestrator and arranger.
In 1956 fate took him down a different path when he met Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones at a Ankara concert. He sent three demo compositions to his radio friend Tahir Sur who subsequently took these compositions to Jones and Mardin became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Two years later with fiancé Latife, he relocated to Boston. After graduating in 1961, he taught at Berklee for one year and then moved to New York City to try his luck.
His career began at Atlantic Records in 1963 as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegün. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming studio manager, label house producer and arranger. In 1969, Arif became the Vice President and later served as Senior Vice President until 2001. He worked closely on many projects with co-founders Ertegün and Jerry Wexler, as well as noted recording engineer Tom Dowd. The three of them, Dowd, Mardin, and Wexler, became legendary and were responsible for establishing the Atlantic Sound.
He recorded two solo albums in the Seventies, Glass Onion and Journey, the latter wearing the hats of composer, arranger, electric pianist and percussionist. Mardin performed with Randy and Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell, Gary Burton, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham and many others. He composed, arranged, conducted and produced The Prophet in 1974, an interpretation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet voiced by Richard Harris.
Arif produced George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Vince Mendoza, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but not limited to jazz he also produced, among others, Margie Joseph, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Raul Midón, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Queen, Jeffrey Osborne, and numerous others. In 1975 he discovered Barry Gibb’s distinctive falsetto that became the Bee Gees trademark.
Over a 40 year career Mardin produced forty gold and platinum albums, 11 Grammy Awards, was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, and was a trustee of Berklee and awarded an honorary doctorate
Pianist, percussionist, producer, arranger, studio manager and vice president Arif Mardin passed away at his home in New York City on June 25, 2006 following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Rudolph “Rudy” Van Gelder was born on November 2, 1924 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His interest in microphones and electronics can be traced to a youthful enthusiasm for amateur radio. Named for his uncle who had been the drummer in Ted Lewis’s band in the mid-1930s, he took trumpet lessons and trained as an optometrist at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, in Philadelphia, thinking he could not earn a living as a recording engineer.
From 1943, after graduating, Van Gelder had an optometry practice in Teaneck, New Jersey, and moonlighted recording local musicians in the evenings who wanted 78-rpm recordings of their work. From 1946, Van Gelder recorded in his parents’ house in Hackensack, New Jersey, in which a control room was built adjacent to the living room, which served as the musicians’ performing area. The dry acoustics of this working space were partly responsible for Van Gelder’s inimitable recording aesthetic.
Interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment he acquired everything that could play back audio: speakers, turntables and amplifiers. One of Rudy’s friends, baritone saxophonist Gil Mellé, introduced him to Alfred Lion, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years he was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York City, such as Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige Records. To accommodate each label – Blue Note, Prestige, Savoy, Impulse, Verve he assigned them to different days as Lion was more stringent with the sound of original music, Weinstock had essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history.He also engineered and mastered for the classical label Vox Records in the Fifties.
Van Gelder worked during the day as an optometrist until the summer of 1959, when he moved his operations to a larger studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and became a full-time recording engineer. The new studio’s design was inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright had high ceilings and fine acoustics with “no food or drink and do not touch microphones” policy as he himself always wore gloves when handling equipment.
By 1967 the labels were beginning to utilize other engineers more regularly but Rudy remained active engineering nearly all of Creed Taylor’s CTI Records releases, a series of proto-smooth jazz albums that were financially successful, but not always well received by critics. He was not without his detractors. Despite his prominence in the industry, like Lion who didn’t care for the overuse of reverb, and Charles Mingus refused to work with him because he change the sound of his bass. He remastered the analog Blue Note recordings into 24-bit digital recordings in its RVG Edition series and also remasters of some of the Prestige albums, and was happy to see the LP go by the wayside because it was hard for him to get the sound the way he thought it should be.
He received awards and honors being named a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), received the society’s most prestigious award, the AES Gold Medal, named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, received the Grammy Trustees Award, and Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder titled Hackensack.
Producer and recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who specialized in jazz and regarded as the most important recording engineer of jazz by some observers, passed away at home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 25, 2016. Among the several thousand jazz sessions he recorded are the acknowledged classics John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’s Walkin’, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Sonny Rollins’s Saxophone Colossus and Horace Silver’s Song for My Father.
Delfeayo Marsalis was born July 28, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana into the musical family in which father and three brothers are musicians. Lying under the piano as a child while his father played, he eventually tried the bass and the drums but by the sixth grade gravitated to the trombone. His early influences were J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn and Tommy Dorsey.
He went on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school and was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute. He graduated from Berklee School of Music and the University of Louisville with degrees in performance and audio production.
While a gifted trombonist, Delfeayo has recorded only five albums as a leader and is more prolific and better known for his work as a producer of over 100 acoustic jazz recordings. Since the age of 17 he has produced such artists as Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Roberts, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family members – Ellis, Branford and Wynton.
Along with Tonight Show engineer Patrick Smith, he coined “to obtain more wood sound from the bass recorded without usage of the dreaded bass direct”, a phrase that became the single sentence to define the recorded quality of many acoustic jazz recordings since the late ’80s.
Forming Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, the organization has trained over 300 youth and staged 8 original musicals, all of which are based upon the mission of “community unity.” Marsalis has toured with internationally renowned bandleaders Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Abdullah Ibrahim. In addition he has performed and toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, was a part of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and is an integral part of Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration DVD.
Delfeayo Marsalis, along with his father and brothers, are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.
Alfred Lion was born in Berlin, Germany on April 21, 1908. His fascination and lifelong pursuit of jazz began at age 16 when he witnessed a jazz concert with Sam Wooding’s Orchestra. In 1929 he migrated to the U.S., went back to Germany, and returned to New York in ’38 where he attended a Carnegie Hall concert that inspired him to start his record label, Blue Note in 1939.
The label debuted with Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis but their first hit was Sidney Bechet’s “Summertime”. By this time childhood friend Francis Wolff joined and sustained the label while Lion served in the Army. He recorded many of the biggest names in jazz throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s including but not limited to Grant Green, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Tina Brooks, John Patton, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Lou Donaldson, Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, Ike Quebec, and the list goes on and on.
Lion had recruited Ike Quebec as the label’s A&R man and at his insistence Lion began to explore more modern developments in jazz bringing in Thelonious Monk as the first modern jazz musician. What became known as the “hard bop” style would predominate in Blue Note’s output during the 1950s and 1960’s. Musicians like Art Blakey and Horace Silver, among others epitomized this style. Duke Pearson took over A&R duties after Quebec’s death in 1963 ensuring the label’s roster remained fresh as a whole. Three significant elements made Blue Note releases stand out: the work of recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, the photographs of Francis Wolff and the cover designs principally by Reid Miles.
Suffering from heart problems for some years, Lion sold the Blue Note label and catalogue to Liberty Records and retired to Mexico in 1967. Towards the end of his life, the record producer respected by musicians for his straight dealing and for ‘hanging out’ in the jazz scene, gained the recognition he had often been denied. Alfred Lion passed away on February 2, 1987 in San Diego, California.
Lester Koenig founded the jazz label, Contemporary Records, in Los Angeles in 1951. It was known for seminal recordings embodying the West Coast sound, but also released recordings by jazz artists known throughout the world. Under his leadership, Contemporary recorded such artists as Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, the Curtis Counce Group featuring Harold Land, Jack Sheldon, Carl Perkins and Frank Butler; also Ben Webster, Miles Davis, Benny Carter, Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phineas Newborn, Woody Shaw, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessell and Leroy Vinnegar.
Les maintained extremely high audio standards. In 1956 he hired Roy DuNann from Capitol Records, who, out of the label’s shipping room turned studio, turned out some of the best sounding records of the 50s and 60s using German and Austrian condenser microphones that produced very high output of these microphones, especially close-in on jazz musicians’ dynamic playing. DuNann would achieve his signature sound for the label, a crisp, clear and balanced without distortion or unpleasant “peak presence” by keeping his microphone setups very simple, generally one per musician, and he avoided the use of pre-amplifiers.
In the mid 1960s the company fell into relative limbo, but limited new recordings were made in the late 1970s including a series of albums by Art Pepper recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York. After Koenig’s death in 1977, his son, John ran the label for seven years and continued the legacy producing albums by George Cables, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Chico Hamilton to name a few.
Fantasy Records purchased the Contemporary label and catalogue in 1984 but not before ushering in a number of major figures in the music business such as Nesuhi Ertegun, who went on to exec at Atlantic Records, and writers Nat Hentoff and Leonard Feather among others.
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