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Columbia's 30th Street Studio Revisited & Kind of Blue
Old 12th July 2009
  #1
Talking Columbia's 30th Street Studio Revisited & Kind of Blue

Been thinking alot about Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" recording and Columbia's 30th street studio. There was an exhibit last year on July 18th 2008 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery:

Columbia's 30th Street Studio Revisited - Gothamist: New York City News, Food, Arts & Events

In Session At The Columbia Records 30th Street Studio

Teo Macero interview

I've read a couple of articles on the famed studio and was wondering if anyone had any insight into how the recording of "Kind of Blue" itself was done. There are couple of shots of everyone in the studio, but nothing concrete. It would be great to get Mark Wilder to chime in on this(Teo Macero passed away last year), but i don't know if he is a member here.
Old 12th July 2009
  #2
Wow!!! When you click through the photos at the Morrison Hotel Gallery its like snapshots in a forgotten time:


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One thing you do notice is that they used lots of Neumanns especially M49's. There is a great shot of the tube console used at Columbia 30th when you click on the Thelonius Monk 1963. I gather where Shadow Hills got their look from for their gear.
Old 12th July 2009
  #3
Some more pictures of sessions at Columbia:

Photos From Some Vintage Sessions...

Quote:

"The mixing console, 4th floor, as all the consoles, was custom made by the R&D engineers on the 7th floor. We (the recording engineers), got to get together with Eric Porterfield, the chief R&D engineer (genius) and his great team of technicians and collaborated on the new console designs for the 1970 CBS N.Y studios' revamping. They wanted to insure that the functionality of their construction efforts would have no shortcomings. That is part of what made them a world class facility".

And:

"Dave Sarser of Studio 3 (see "Studio 3" below...) took me here at the Church in 1962 to observe my first 3 track recording session. Paul Robeson, the classic movie actor and recording artist, sang while a thirty piece orchestra and thirty piece choir accompanied him, all live! It was a patriotic cantata to the Constitution of the United States. The Preamble, The Constitution, and the Bill Of Rights, and so on, were put to music and performed here that day. I was inspired by the fact that, aside from the artistry, how clean the audio system was. All that sound, and yet, when no one was performing, and I put my ear directly up to one of the Altec 604E speakers to check for system noise, there was only the tiniest hint of hiss from the tubes. I was amazed! How could all those mics and amplifiers go through all those wires, hundreds of feet, back and forth through all those patch bays and volume controls and equalizers and still total next to zero noise! The CBS technical staff were truly the masters of audio wiring.
Thank you Eric Portafield...chief of CBS Studio's R&D'".


Man makes you feel you wish you were alive and working back then knowing that you could have a meeting with the head tech and he could build anything you needed. It makes you appreciate why the guys who master over at Sterling are so fortunate having Chris Muth on staff as the head tech.

Lastly why it was shut down:

"The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble was the last session I did there in 1971. The 30th Street Church fell prey to a newly arrived neighbor's noise complaints. They had purchased the adjacent town house. Imagine being in the middle of a great moment in a recording session at Columbia Records in one of the finest sounding studios in the world, and spinning around on your chair to a dozen police officers who explain that the session has to stop because the new neighbors complained about the noise
Not wanting to be a nuisance, CBS decided to shut it down not long after.

I miss it".

Anyone that's ever had a studio in NYC can understand this unfortunately. But really what a shame...what a shame.
Old 12th July 2009
  #4
The Ampex 300 that might have been used on Kind of Blue

Here is the brochure for the Ampex 300 3 track machine:


Ampex 300

(To bad Teo Macero is gone cause it be great to pick his brain to see how things were tracked when he did "Kind of Blue" with Miles).
Old 12th July 2009
  #5
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

"Kind of blue" is a fantastic album in every way. Musically and soundwise amazing.

Cool stuff, thanks for the links.
Old 12th July 2009
  #6
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Lee Cardan's Avatar
 

beautiful, thanks for posting this!

Miles has been in a league of his own to me for most of my life (no one compares to how much I feel for his music)

esp Kind of Blue (blue in green is my favorite) and Filles de Kilimanjaro
Old 12th July 2009
  #7
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Silvertone's Avatar
Teo lived in the next town up from me Glens Falls, NY. His sister is still alive and lives there. His Dad had a night club called Macero's and it was still standing up to about 5 years ago.

My in-laws tell me how they saw all the greats play there because Teo would book them in the club anytime they were on the road headed to Canada to play... pretty cool. They saw Dizzy one night around Christmas with only 6 people in the place... they said he played his heart out for those 6 people!
Old 12th July 2009
  #8
Deleted User
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Thanks for posting, great read and pics !
Old 12th July 2009
  #9
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
I'm enough of a geezer to have been in 30th St. (visiting, not working). Having been an old church, the floor boards were nailed directly into the joists, making it behave like a giant guitar top. Snap your fingers in there and this amazing bloom would rise up from your feet. Very special. Media A was the same way.
Old 12th July 2009
  #10
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vernier's Avatar
Historic footage inside Columbia . . .



Several parts of this documentary show inside Columbia ...hear the ambience, see the mics, and the control room in action.
Old 13th July 2009
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post


Several parts of this documentary show inside Columbia ...hear the ambience, see the mics, and the control room in action.
Wow amazing!!!!thumbsup

The fact that its in Black & white makes it even more nostalgic.

Ok...now begs the question, what happened to the tube console that was in Columbia 30st Studios? Was it demolished along with the studio? Did CBS/Sony store in some place and forgot? It be interesting if it is still in use somewhere.
Old 13th July 2009
  #12
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this is the best thread ever on gearslutz. looking at those photos and videos almost makes me cry, thinking of all the records I've listened to that were recorded there and all the history in that room, just down the street from me now. Today an apartment building stands there. I'd have liked to find that complaining neighbor and forcibly moved him to Guam.
Thanks for sharing all of this- just amazing.
Old 13th July 2009
  #13
this book Studio Stories has a chapter on the 30th Street Studio and most all of the other great studios in NYC through the late '70's

Fantastic book with great photos and maps.

So many great studios
Old 13th July 2009
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoenyc View Post
this book Studio Stories has a chapter on the 30th Street Studio and most all of the other great studios in NYC through the late '70's

Fantastic book with great photos and maps.

So many great studios
Thanks i am definitely gonna order it.

I wanted to buy 2-3 prints from the Sony collection for the studio but they are so expensive(The Glen Gould one with the 4 Steinways is awesome but its $3,650 with frame..ouch!!!).

The Aretha Franklin solo one i would love to put in the isolation booth just to intimidate the singers.
Old 13th July 2009
  #15
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Dr Benway's Avatar
 

Thanks for posting this!!! Amazing reading.. Amazing watching. Incredible to think 'Kind of Blue' turned 50 this year!!! Still speaks volumes to me.
Old 13th July 2009
  #16
Gear Nut
 

Hey chaps,

If you would like to see lots of footage of this studio in action (in full colour), you have to get a DVD documentry of the original Broadway cast of COMPANY (the Sondheim musical that is) recording the original album.

It's a doco made by the great D.A. Pennebaker in 1970 (must be just before they changed their board - it's definately the black tube one). Whether your into the music or not, it has some amazing footage of the engineer working the board and of this marvelous studio itself.

Maybe youtube has some sections...
Old 13th July 2009
  #17
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Lee Cardan's Avatar
 

just thought I'd share 'blue in green' with you fellas
Like I said, miles number one track for me. Some of the sweetest times I can remember in my life, this has always been there brings tears to me eyes everytime I revisit this

YouTube - Blue in Green by. Miles Davis
Old 13th July 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post


Several parts of this documentary show inside Columbia ...hear the ambience, see the mics, and the control room in action.
Gotta love those engineers that take themselves as artists! At 6'40", when they start to listen to take one, the guy tells Gould his tempos are not right!!

I wonder if Matisse's impressario told him that his colors are off?
Old 13th July 2009
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamwerks View Post
Gotta love those engineers that take themselves as artists! At 6'40", when they start to listen to take one, the guy tells Gould his tempos are not right!!
In the special re-release of the Goldberg Variations (A State of Wonder), Glenn Gould himself, in an extensive audio interview on the 3rd disk, criticizes himself quite harshly about his own tempo in particular. The older Gould thought the younger Gould quite deficient in terms of tempo (and expression) throughout!
Old 17th July 2009
  #20
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khai's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
Ok...now begs the question, what happened to the tube console that was in Columbia 30st Studios?
I asked the same question a year ago and got no response. I'm always amazed by how clean this console sounded as a late 50's desk.

YouTube - MILES DAVIS -"Will O' The Wisp" (1960)
Old 17th July 2009
  #21
Trp
Gear Addict
 

I believe to have read that Kind of Blue was recorded with seven M49s.

I have seen pictures of one on the piano (near the edge of the lid). So I guess it would be one each on the three horns, one on the piano, one on bass, one as mono drum OH and one in the room maybe?

BTW there is an extensive book on Kind of Blue by Ashley Kahn.
Old 17th July 2009
  #22
Trp
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamwerks View Post
Gotta love those engineers that take themselves as artists! At 6'40", when they start to listen to take one, the guy tells Gould his tempos are not right!!

I wonder if Matisse's impressario told him that his colors are off?
It´s not the engineer but the recording director (Tonmeister) so he is the musical producer for the record company. Not uncommon at all.
Old 17th July 2009
  #23
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
...Man makes you feel you wish you were alive and working back then knowing that you could have a meeting with the head tech and he could build anything you needed...
That's just normal for a studio doing major label work prior to the mid 1970s.

I laugh myself silly when I read people extolling the virtues of "vintage" gear because very little of what they hear on old records was ever done with stock equipment. Store bought consoles like Neve and API were a step down to us. Little did we know it would get even worse a decade later!
Old 17th July 2009
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trp View Post

BTW there is an extensive book on Kind of Blue by Ashley Kahn.
Awesome book and i just purchased it.thumbsup

One of the amazing things you notice in the pictures i've seen of the Columbia studio is that the inside is not that pretty(un painted walls and sheet rock everywhere). The engineers pretty much stipulated to the maintanance crews and CBS itself to leave it alone in its rough state as not to change the sound one bit. It became famous for its reverb sound.

They demanded that not even the dust on the floor should be moved.!!!
Old 18th July 2009
  #25
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u b k's Avatar
 

Studio stories is an awesome read!

My lady & I also got a little choked up watching Gould play; his reverie as he conducts himself in order to keep time when there's all that space in between the chords... lovely.

The movie reflects a time when there was still a sense of wonder at things we've become so accustomed to now. What a privilege we all share, working with music as we do.


Gregory Scott - ubk
.
Old 18th July 2009
  #26
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bcgood's Avatar
 

What an amazing studio, engineers, musicians etc. My how far we've fallen...
Old 18th July 2009
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

WOW! Oddly enough I just recently heard Bitch`s Brew and bought the 4 cd box set. I am amazed at the music on those discs and just loved the tones and sounds. Then, I found this thread just a few days later. Fate? ha But, either way, I am glad that I found both at the same time.
Old 18th July 2009
  #28
Gear Head
 

Thanks for posting this!! I especially love the shot of Brubeck & Band in the control room... Love to get a copy of the schematic drawings on the wall behind them...

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Old 18th July 2009
  #29
Lives for gear
30th St was one of those amazing rooms where as soon as you walked in, you KNEW things just sounded good in there.

Live, but not overwhelming. Just open sounding.

You could hear it even in your footsteps or voice in the room.

But it also had surprisingly little isolation from the outside world.
Just as though they had moved into a church or hall and left it as was. (which is no doubt WHY it sounded so good)

The control room was just a room. A Box. If there was any thought given to acoustics in there, you couldn't tell!


I also worked with Teo Macero a few times, and he was, shall we say?, odd?
He worked at a kind of frantic, adrenaline pace that seemed almost chaotic or haphazard.
I can't IMAGINE that he worked with Miles like that!

But Teo was very conscious of, or focused on, getting the balance right on the spot.
He'd actually stand out in the room with headphones on and would ask for the balance to be adjusted based on what was in his phones.
Almost as though he was still thinking about the record like a 2 track or 4 track. He (quite rightly) wanted to hear the record NOW, not just get a lot of disparate elements recorded to separate tracks and not KNOW it was right.
Old 18th July 2009
  #30
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jamwerks's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trp View Post
It´s not the engineer but the recording director (Tonmeister) so he is the musical producer for the record company. Not uncommon at all.
We're a bit off topic (sorry). But we're talking about Glenn Gould here, not a high school pianist. And we're talking about Bach, there are no tempo indications. On that recording, Gould (and just about anyone who plays it) plays lots of rubato. And the Tonmeister talks about measure one, but what about the rest of the piece? ("Let do measure 1 to a click and then you can start grooving" )

To me, he just knew he was on T.V. so he wanted to go down in history as telling God how he should creat. You can tell that he knew Gould, and that he wouldn't talk back. Most artists of his caliber would have told the guy to go f*** himself, rightfully so!

Now back on topic..........
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