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The Recording of A Great Big Band!
Old 9th August 2020
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Skip Burrows's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The Recording of A Great Big Band!

The Recording of the Jim Waller Big Band
By
Skip Burrows


Hello everyone,

I hope all are doing well during this crazy time. Those who know me here are aware that I don’t like starting posts unless I have something interesting to share. A little over a year ago, I did some design work for a professor at a college in San Antonio Texas, named Jim Waller. We became very good friends and he asked me if I would help produce a first class BIG BAND/JAZZ record. Knowing the studio and the arranger well, I of course said yes. The facility is top notch with an SSL console, great mics and pres and a fantastic Yamaha C7 grand piano.

The Story starts here with Jim spending many months if not years working slowly on some of these arrangements. Then the absolute unthinkable happens when his beautiful wife Suzell suddenly falls ill and passes away! Jim was heartbroken as we all were, shocked at her passing. To pay tribute to his amazing wife, Jim embarked on the incredible journey that I was fortunate enough and honored to be asked to travel on.

One of the most important aspects of tackling a project of this magnitude is to have the right rhythm section or drummer. Jim informed me that Mr. Will Kennedy; drummer for the famed Jazz group "The Yellow Jackets", would be the available for the session. I got very excited and a little nervous. In my humble opinion, Mr. Kennedy is perhaps one of the best drummers walking the planet. In addition, he is such a leader and overall master musician as well as a beautiful soul. Now I just didn't want to screw up!

The facility as I mentioned is top notch. A Control Room with an Analog MCI JH 24 2 inch tape machine with a C.L.A.S.P.(Closed Loop Analog Signal Processing) system along with Protools HDX was at my disposal. I spent a fair bit of time with Jim on how to even approach the process of capturing these amazing arrangements. I grew up listening to and working with Big Band music as my Dad met my mother playing in a Big Band, so you might say it’s literally in my blood. We decided to capture the entire performance live with the exception of lead vocal on a few tunes. That Vocalist was the incredible Jacqueline Sotelo. Holy cow, she should be a superstar! What a Voice!

We set up the facility with the wind and brass instruments all in the main sound proper with a set of GOBO's separating the saxes from the trombones and trumpets. Will Kennedy's drums were in an Iso booth and the guitar player was in another Iso booth and the piano was to the right of the console in another Iso booth. All had good sight lines to Jim who was conducting. I tested every single mic and signal path several times before a single musician showed up. Jim and I had decided that we would treat this almost like a live record capturing complete takes and simply edit together the best takes. No individual punch fests, no "fixing bad playing" just creating an environment to let great players do their thing! So if we knew we had a flub or a wrong note, we would have the entire band play from 2 bars before and 2 bars after the flub and simply did an edit. This was really a refreshing way to capture a band playing together. Let me tell you these arrangements really challenged these killer players. During one of the rehearsals the band was extremely humbled and knew they all had to "step it up a notch" if they wanted to do the material justice. In the end, they did "step it up" and we got through several days of recording the entire band.

Its a bit difficult for younger producers and engineers to understand what its like to track live something like an entire big band. This process is total sensory overload. Every aspect of your brain is going a million miles an hour and your holding on by the seat of your pants hoping not to make a mistake! I'm following the charts, keeping track of the tape machine, looking at all the levels, marking notes on the score, and creating comments on the session as well as paying close attention to the actual performances and tuning. I didn’t have an assistant; I was also dealing with Protools bugs and issues, headphone and cue challenges, all in seconds of each other. Each night when we left the studio, I could barely walk to my bed before falling over. This process is total exhilaration and exhaustion all at the same time while doing your best not to miss any small detail.

The equipment list was very nice indeed. API pres for drums, compression by summit and Avalon, Eq's by SSL, API and Drawmer. Royer ribbon mics were used for ALL brass instruments and saxes got mostly Neumann and AKG condensers. I did have an AKG C24 as the main room mic that was fabulous. It really captured in a beautiful way what the band sounded like. All in all, as a team we got though the tracking process and now the Mix loomed like a Great White Shark circling below.

Like the Idiot I am, I started the Mix session with the 800-pound gorilla "Rhapsody In Blue” This not only has a full big band, it has a full orchestra featuring a string section, French horns and timpani. I actually had way more song that I had console for. As my Dad used to say, "How do you tile the Taj Mahal?".. "One tile at a time son" This was my philosophy for mixing such a diverse arrangement. Jim's vision and arrangement not only challenged the players, but I was sweating like a Pig in a summer barn! I worked a section at a time building layer after layer, tweaking moves and EQ and balances along with panning until goose-bumps were appearing after each playback. I mixed everything to a 1/2-inch analog deck running at 30 inches per second and printed a safety for each song. We wanted to make this project reminiscent of a time when records were cut live and mixed a certain way. Old school analog front end and mixed to analog tape! So very glad we did.

It now came time for Mastering. All along we wanted to cut DIRECTLY to Vinyl from the 1/2-inch mix tape. There are only a handful of Mastering engineer’s that can properly do that without going into digital first. Scott Hull of Master Disc in New York was the man for this. He did such a wonderful job on the last 5 % that gives the project such a finished and professional touch. Scott also did great work with the ITUNES masters. He's really fantastic. The Vinyl sounds insane! Well-mastered Vinyl has such depth and detail without any harshness or fatigue factor.

I have included a few pictures of the session along with a few videos for you to take a look at. I also have provided a link for the project on ITUNES so you can actually hear this killer work. Sorry for the long post but its not often in a career these days that you get to do something like this. If any of you on this professional forum are voting members for the Grammy's, it would be amazing if you could give Jim and this special project a nomination for such incredible work. He definitely deserves it. All the people involved were so talented words completely fail me. Thanks so much for letting me share this experience with you.

Cheers,
Skip Burrows

ITUNES LINK https://music.apple.com/us/album/buc...s=1&app=itunes



Attached Thumbnails
The Recording of A Great Big Band!-conducting.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-guitar-amp.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-piano.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-iso-drums.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-c-24.jpg  

The Recording of A Great Big Band!-setup1.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-skip-will.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-hard-working-folk.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-saxes-2.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-jim-skip.jpeg  

The Recording of A Great Big Band!-gobo-saxes.jpeg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-jim-waller-will-kennedy.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-trumpets.jpg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-gobo.jpeg   The Recording of A Great Big Band!-will-kennedy-andy-langham-jim-kalson.jpg  

The Recording of A Great Big Band!-pat.jpg  

Last edited by Skip Burrows; 11th August 2020 at 11:49 PM..
Old 10th August 2020
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Tommy-boy's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Interesting read. Thanks for sharing!
Old 10th August 2020
  #3
Lives for gear
 
bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skip Burrows ➡️
The Recording of the Jim Waller Big Band
By
Skip Burrows


Hello everyone,

I hope all are doing well during this crazy time. Those who know me here are aware that I don’t like starting posts unless I have something interesting to share. A little over a year ago, I did some design work for a professor at a college in San Antonio Texas, named Jim Waller. We became very good friends and he asked me if I would help produce a first class BIG BAND/JAZZ record. Knowing the studio and the arranger well, I of course said yes. The facility is top notch with an SSL console, great mics and pres and a fantastic Yamaha C7 grand piano.

The Story starts here with Jim spending many months if not years working slowly on some of these arrangements. Then the absolute unthinkable happens when his beautiful wife Suzell suddenly falls ill and passes away! Jim was heartbroken as we all were, shocked at her passing. To pay tribute to his amazing wife, Jim embarked on the incredible journey that I was fortunate enough and honored to be asked to travel on.

One of the most important aspects of tackling a project of this magnitude is to have the right rhythm section or drummer. Jim informed me that Mr. Will Kennedy; drummer for the famed Jazz group "The Yellow Jackets", would be the available for the session. I got very excited and a little nervous. In my humble opinion, Mr. Kennedy is perhaps one of the best drummers walking the planet. In addition, he is such a leader and overall master musician as well as a beautiful soul. Now I just didn't want to screw up!

The facility as I mentioned is top notch. A Control Room with an Analog MCI JH 24 2 inch tape machine with a C.L.A.S.P.(Closed Loop Analog Signal Processing) system along with Protools HDX was at my disposal. I spent a fair bit of time with Jim on how to even approach the process of capturing these amazing arrangements. I grew up listening to and working with Big Band music as my Dad met my mother playing in a Big Band, so you might say it’s literally in my blood. We decided to capture the entire performance live with the exception of lead vocal on a few tunes. That Vocalist was the incredible Jacqueline Sotelo. Holy cow, she should be a superstar! What a Voice!

We set up the facility with the wind and brass instruments all in the main sound proper with a set of GOBO's separating the saxes from the trombones and trumpets. Will Kennedy's drums were in an Iso booth and the guitar player was in another Iso booth and the piano was to the right of the console in another Iso booth. All had good sight lines to Jim who was conducting. I tested every single mic and signal path several times before a single musician showed up. Jim and I had decided that we would treat this almost like a live record capturing complete takes and simply edit together the best takes. No individual punch fests, no "fixing bad playing" just creating an environment to let great players do their thing! So if we knew we had a flub or a wrong note, we would have the entire band play from 2 bars before and 2 bars after the flub and simply did an edit. This was really a refreshing way to capture a band playing together. Let me tell you these arrangements really challenged these killer players. During one of the rehearsals the band was extremely humbled and knew they all had to "step it up a notch" if they wanted to do the material justice. In the end, they did "step it up" and we got through several days of recording the entire band.

Its a bit difficult for younger producers and engineers to understand what its like to track live something like an entire big bad. This process is total sensory overload. Every aspect of your brain is going a million miles an hour and your holding on by the seat of your pants hoping not to make a mistake! I'm following the charts, keeping track of the tape machine, looking at all the levels, marking notes on the score, and creating comments on the session as well as paying close attention to the actual performances and tuning. I didn’t have an assistant; I was also dealing with Protools bugs and issues, headphone and cue challenges, all in seconds of each other. Each night when we left the studio, I could barely walk to my bed before falling over. This process is total exhilaration and exhaustion all at the same time while doing your best not to miss any small detail.

The equipment list was very nice indeed. API pres for drums, compression by summit and Avalon, Eq's by SSL, API and Drawmer. Royer ribbon mics were used for ALL brass instruments and saxes got mostly Neumann and AKG condensers. I did have an AKG C24 as the main room mic that was fabulous. It really captured in a beautiful way what the band sounded like. All in all, as a team we got though the tracking process and now the Mix loomed like a Great White Shark circling below.

Like the Idiot I am, I started the Mix session with the 800-pound gorilla "Rhapsody In Blue” This not only has a full big band, it has a full orchestra featuring a string section, French horns and timpani. I actually had way more song that I had console for. As my Dad used to say, "How do you tile the Taj Mahal?".. "One tile at a time son" This was my philosophy for mixing such a diverse arrangement. Jim's vision and arrangement not only challenged the players, but I was sweating like a Pig in a summer barn! I worked a section at a time building layer after layer, tweaking moves and EQ and balances along with panning until goose-bumps were appearing after each playback. I mixed everything to a 1/2-inch analog deck running at 30 inches per second and printed a safety for each song. We wanted to make this project reminiscent of a time when records were cut live and mixed a certain way. Old school analog front end and mixed to analog tape! So very glad we did.

It now came time for Mastering. All along we wanted to cut DIRECTLY to Vinyl from the 1/2-inch mix tape. There are only a handful of Mastering engineer’s that can properly do that without going into digital first. Scott Hull of Master Disc in New York was the man for this. He did such a wonderful job on the last 5 % that gives the project such a finished and professional touch. Scott also did great work with the ITUNES masters. He's really fantastic. The Vinyl sounds insane! Well-mastered Vinyl has such depth and detail without any harshness or fatigue factor.

I have included a few pictures of the session along with a few videos for you to take a look at. I also have provided a link for the project on ITUNES so you can actually hear this killer work. Sorry for the long post but its not often in a career these days that you get to do something like this. If any of you on this professional forum are voting members for the Grammy's, it would be amazing if you could give Jim and this special project a nomination for such incredible work. He definitely deserves it. All the people involved were so talented words completely fail me. Thanks so much for letting me share this experience with you.

Cheers,
Skip Burrows

ITUNES LINK https://music.apple.com/us/album/buc...s=1&app=itunes



What a sh^t gig!

Thank you so much for posting this... real players, charts, gear, engineers and even a real ME

Xoxo
Old 10th August 2020
  #4
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Super cool, Skip! I can understand the nerves and excitement of a gig like that.

I have to ask, how are you NOT color coding PT with a session like that?
Old 10th August 2020
  #5
Lives for gear
Very Fun!


Ray H.
Old 10th August 2020 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Skip Burrows's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound ➡️
Super cool, Skip! I can understand the nerves and excitement of a gig like that.

I have to ask, how are you NOT color coding PT with a session like that?
I’m fairly color blind...
Old 10th August 2020
  #7
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks Skip. I vividly remember the first time I dropped the downbeat standing in front of a great big band. Exciting, memorable, mind blowing..... Words can't describe, and I definitely get that feel from your post. Thanks again for sharing! bp
Old 11th August 2020 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Skip Burrows's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill ➡️
Thanks Skip. I vividly remember the first time I dropped the downbeat standing in front of a great big band. Exciting, memorable, mind blowing..... Words can't describe, and I definitely get that feel from your post. Thanks again for sharing! bp
Thanks mate,
I’ve done a lot of big bands in the past. But nothing with this level of arrangements and players. Really neat stuff. When I sit and crank up Rhapsody in Blue I still get a kick of the last build.
What a neat arrangement...
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