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General Category => Hackensack History => Topic started by: Editor on March 20, 2005, 10:23:03 PM

Title: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on March 20, 2005, 10:23:03 PM
My brother told me that many important Jazz and Blues musicians recorded in Hackensack. Rudy Van Gelder's Blue Note Records was in Hackensack somewhere.  Does anyone know where? 

Who recorded here?  I know there is a Jimi Hendrix Album called "Hackensack Blues".  Is that a Van Gelder project? 

More about Van Gelder and Blue Note here (http://www.bluenote.com/artistpage.asp?ArtistID=3696&tab=1). 

Cook says the Blue Note sound was due in large part to engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who set up a studio in his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J. "There's just something about Blue Note's mixes, the way Van Gelder manage to balance loud instruments and soft instruments in such a way that for the first time, in many cases, you're hearing the bass on jazz records and you're hearing the different levels of drum work between the drums and the cymbals. For their time, they are remarkable sonic documents."

Thanks for any follow up. 

Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on March 21, 2005, 08:27:05 PM
Wow: The soundtrack of Hackensack (http://www.bergen.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2Mzk4Nzc0)
Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on March 29, 2005, 10:55:52 PM
I'm not sure if these are "Blue Note", but I know they were recorded in Hackensack.


Other Hendrix albums were recorded at "Georges Club 20", where a municipal parking lot now stands on the corner of Bridge and Moore Streets.

Thelonious Monk's "Hackensack"


Dozens of other Jazz artists also recorded here.
Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Hackensack Jazz on March 30, 2005, 12:06:03 PM
Very cool topic. This individual tried proposing a MONUMENT FOR THE SITE in 1988 even got the owner of the property to dig a monument in his from yard. Finally hooked up with WBGO (have you joined WBGO yet by becoming a member?) But when the project was discussed with the County Throne... you know that paper... (well it might be cool, maybe if it were, uh... not so IN CONTROL - they refused to cooperate wanting of course the credit for themselves for additional influence. I stopped to contact Rudy because as things stand Jazz need not sell out to abuse of power.  Enough Negativity. If any effort for a monument for the studio exists it should exist outside the influence of FREE EXPRESSION hindered. I mean, I can dig Jazz stuff but it can't be as prohibitive as that paper I designed and let go away just to test the fact that the Monk Tune Hackensack is disjunct in timing as cool walk away as the hackecensack Jazz Cafe... ya dig?
Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Hackensack Jazz on March 30, 2005, 07:21:56 PM
My brother told me that many important Jazz and Blues musicians recorded in Hackensack. Rudy Van Gelder's Blue Note Records was in Hackensack somewhere.  Does anyone know where? 

"On The Corner" (c) Copyright 2002
A Derivative from the notes of Joe Campagna (c) 1987. Used by Permission.


On The Corner of Prospect Avenue where now is at 25 Prospect Avenue stood the remains of what was a California Style Stucco Home converted into a recording studio by a man who is the subject of or contained in many books about Jazz, Sound Engineering and Acoustics. Rudy Van Gelder moved his studio to Englewood Cliffs where today he continues what many believe to be the fundamental methods of recording session jazz.

The following paragraph only describes the night life support which sprung from speak-easys and post-prohibition. That is what had Hackensack Bopping with live cabarets and attracted live Jazz Artists to many an enthusiastic and "buzzing" crowd. Black or White each section of town had their spots and the payola did fly.
In its hayday Hackensack in the late 1930's and 40's had evolved a very cool (quiet) and little known tradition which was born of a plating factory in South Hackensack set up by a Chicago salesman. It had a very special vat and condenser cover. One of the biggest stills made whiskey and a Irish/Scotsman made it age (or taste that way) and it was even better than what you might get from Scotland. 150 Proof! It was such a secret that the locals didn't even know about it. It was sold in New York, Chicago, L.A.  But Hackensack had its own bathtub industry usually operating out of grocery stores. Some drug stores also sold the raw materials and mixing flavors. These were fronts operated by the Black Hands (Sicilian Mafia). It was often a franchise you couldn't refuse. Eventually the Tax Stamps were put on a ne Federal system of keeping America stupid and Main Street became slurred buzz word for Hackensack for some Yet for some it was the intellectual Beat for the Music Nicks.
The last remaining places to fold in name were the State Cafe on Main Street and Leons.

You have to understand that in those days Hackensack was an extremely racist town. Prone to racial beatings by police and occasionally white men especially police looking for a cheap thrill. Hey! truth is truth.   There were those, who differed.People who loved the music could not deal with the racism. Music is from where we all come from. God is where it's from and He ain't a racist!

But all in all there were those who crossed racial barriers and jumped high wall and sounded out high notes. Rudy Van Gelder made possible many things that had secondary effects worldwide. And it was all positive.

Probably the most intellectual of the crowds were the musicians. You asked who played in Hackensack. Here is a few: Thelonius Monk; John Coltrane; Miles Davis; Horace Silver; Dizzy Gilespie; Charlie Parker;

Well, I dont want to do the work for the County Seat...et them buy their won LP's and mess it up for themselves.  - Jazz

Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on April 07, 2005, 10:58:04 PM
'Hackensack Sessions' by Artist Allan Hill
All Rights Reserved

Notice the words "Blue Note" toward the bottom of the painting.

Click here for more art by Allan Hill (http://www.torogallery.com/ArtistsPages/Hill/HillMain.html).

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Jpatete on September 02, 2005, 10:23:36 AM
Its very nice to see that the jazz made in Hackensack is getting some recognition. As the previous posts stated up until 1960 or so most of the classic Prestige Jazz albums were made on the corner of Thompson and Prospect in RVG parents living room. Most are out of print but some notables are: Blue Trane, Cotrane's Lush Life,a good percentage of the Prestige All Star dates,most of the Miles' Prestige recordings that later became Steaming, Relaxing ect. and countless other incredible dates whose players read like a jazz Hall of Fame list.It would have been nice to see those guys lurking around the Hilltop area.  8
  Rudy moved to Englewood Cliffs in 1960-61 and recorded perhaps the gold standard of jazz recordings "A Love Supreme" in 1964. Too bad JC didn't get the urge to record it in 59 we could have claimed it as the official album of Hackensack. )
 I still get chills everytime I ride past the professional office it became! A memorial is a great idea. People should know that they are standing on hallowed ground.
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on January 20, 2006, 06:41:28 PM
Jazz great Lee Morgan taken at Johnny Griffin's "A Blowing Session" in Hackensack, New Jersey, on 6 April 1957.
Sonny Rollins Volume II session at Hackensack, New Jersey on 14 April 1957
Jazz great Thad Jones taken at the Magnificent Tad Jones session in Hackensack, New Jersey on 2 February, 1957
Doug Watson and Horace Silver Quintet session at Hackensack, New Jersey on 6 February 1955

I found these on ebay.

Nobody has ever documented an era more lovingly, or more thoroughly, than Blue Note Records founders Alfred Lion and Francis (Frank) Wolff. The era that they chronicled: the inception and rise of bebop in America. Lion's charge was the music. He recorded a staggering array of seminal jazz artists from 1939 through 1967. Wolff's contribution to history was more subtle but no less significant. Using a hand-held Leica or Rolleiflex camera, he, too, recorded every Blue Note artist for posterity. Three hundred of Francis Wolff's jazz photographs were artfully cropped, integrated with typography and given jazz immortality as Blue Note album covers. Aside from the album reissues and Mosaic Records brochures, this book of postcards marks the first appearance of a selection of Francis Wolff Blue Notes photographs in twenty-five years.
Title: Video: Coltrane/Hackensack
Post by: Editor on December 16, 2006, 11:30:59 AM
John Coltrane & Stan Getz: Rifftide (Hackensack) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-2uBeMgV4I) (You Tube Video)

Hackensack is a Jazz song.  I think Thelonious Monk wrote it.
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on December 30, 2008, 03:02:42 PM
Here's a nice write-up of Rudy Van Gelder: http://www.answers.com/topic/rudy-van-gelder

This is a small portion:

Early career
Van Gelder's interest in microphones and electronics can be traced to a youthful enthusiasm for amateur radio. A longtime jazz fan, his uncle had been a drummer for Ted Lewis in the 1920s, Van Gelder first recorded friends in his parents' Hackensack, New Jersey, living room, while working during the day as an optometrist. The house in Hackensack had been designed and built so that it could also be used as a recording studio. One of Van Gelder's friends, baritone saxophonist Gil Melle, introduced him to Blue Note Records producer Alfred Lion around 1952. The meeting led to the start of a second career, and as a result, Van Gelder is closely associated with the Blue Note label.

Within a few years Van Gelder was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York, including Prestige Records and Savoy Records.

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on December 14, 2009, 12:13:50 AM
Cleopatra's Dream - Bud Powell Trio

The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 5 - The Scene Changes Bud Powell (pf) Paul Chambers (b) Art Taylor (ds) Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 29, 1958 Blue Note BLP 4009   

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on December 14, 2009, 12:17:59 AM
Royal Flash - Sonny Clark

Cool Struttin' Art Farmer (tp) Jackie McLean (as) Sonny Clark (pf) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (ds) Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 5, 1958 Blue Note BLP 1588   

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on December 14, 2009, 12:22:27 AM
Hank Jones - Little Girl Blue

Drums: Kenny Clarke Bass: Wendell Marshall Originally recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack, New Jersey 1955 The audio was recorded from radio in autumn 2005.

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on December 14, 2009, 12:38:20 AM
Tadd Dameron with John Coltrane - On a Misty Night

"On a Misty Night" from Tadd Damerons "Mating Call" album. Composed by Tadd Dameron. Recorded November 30, 1956 in Hackensack, New Jersey.


*John Coltrane: tenor saxophone
*Tadd Dameron: piano
*John Simmons: bass
*Philly Joe Jones: drums
*Rudy Van Gelder: recording engineer

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on January 07, 2010, 09:47:16 AM
Reflection - We Three - Roy Haynes

We Three Phineas Newborn Jr. (pf) Paul Chambers (b) Roy Haynes (ds) Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 14, 1958.

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on January 11, 2010, 02:34:27 PM
Art Farmer Quintet 1955 w/ Gigi Gryce - Forecast

Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder Studio Hackensack, NJ, October 21, 1955.  Personnel Art Farmer - Trumpet Gigi Gryce - Alto Sax Duke Jordan -Piano Addison Farmer - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on January 11, 2010, 02:37:58 PM
Jackie McLean Quartet 1957 - Bean And The Boys

Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder Studio Hackensack, N.J. February 15, 1957.  Personnel: Jackie McLean - Alto Sax Mal Waldron - Piano Arthur Phipps - Bass Art Taylor - Drums

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on February 10, 2010, 09:16:55 AM
Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack, NJ, May 11, 1956. Miles Davis - Trumpet John Coltrane - Tenor saxophone Red Garland - Piano Paul Chambers - Bass Philly Joe Jones - Drums 

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on June 06, 2010, 09:09:38 PM
June 04, 2010  — Recorded on february 6, 1955 at Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack studio.

HORACE SILVER, Doodlin\' (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=tu4o65SwUIw
HORACE SILVER, Hankerin\' (Mobley) (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=tbqxlJzJmXs
HORACE SILVER, The Preacher (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=oBGhx6iXA9A
HORACE SILVER, Hippy (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=R2pBi8sO534
HORACE SILVER, To Whom It My Concern (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=qQ8rFrIxpxA
HORACE SILVER, Stop Time (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=qjfD-6nQpOE
HORACE SILVER, Creepin\' In (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=tWrbK4_-EtA
HORACE SILVER, Room 608 (2010-06-04) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=5hjWcEPyHhk
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on July 06, 2010, 11:31:18 PM

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. See YouTube description for dates.

MILES DAVIS & MILT JACKSON, Changes (Ray Bryant) (2010-07-06) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=tiYqygXAORY
MILES DAVIS & MILT JACKSON, Minor March (McLean) (2010-07-06) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=O_cAWjyVH58
MILES DAVIS & MILT JACKSON Bitty Ditty (Thad Jones) (2010-07-06) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=54Nx-_lpN-o
MILES DAVIS & MILT JACKSON, Dr. Jackle (McLean) (2010-07-06) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=Y5lXtN5_Jqc
Miles Davis Quintet 1956 - Oleo (2010-07-05) http://www.video-alerts.com/video-watch/2857?vid=xKRfio2GOLM 
Title: Re: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: BLeafe on September 05, 2010, 01:05:21 AM
'Hackensack Sessions' by Artist Allan Hill
All Rights Reserved

Notice the words "Blue Note" toward the bottom of the painting.

Click here for more art by Allan Hill (http://www.torogallery.com/ArtistsPages/Hill/HillMain.html).


Here's an 18" x 24" poster of the image:

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on November 09, 2010, 06:17:40 PM
A few more, all recorded at RVG, Hackensack. See YouTube descriptions for details.

Miles Davis Quintet 1956 - Trane\'s Blues (2010-11-09) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiGTa-adz4Y)
Miles Davis Quintet 1956 - When I Fall In Love (2010-11-09) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcups9lo-dg)
John Coltrane Sextet 1957 - Straight Street (2010-11-08) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CqMlLJYVpo)
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on November 07, 2011, 08:07:46 AM
YouTube Description: Record producer OSCAR "OZZIE" CADENA talks about legendary Jazz recording engineer RUDY VAN GELDER and the sessions at the Van Gelder home in Hackensack, New Jersey. Videotaped on May 26, 2001 by CLYDE YASUHARA.

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on February 07, 2012, 09:47:03 AM
New Jersey Jazz Revolution
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Rudy Van Gelder warned his guest not to trip over the thick cables snaking along the floor as we made our way through a forest of microphone stands at the far corner of his famed recording studio. "Here it is," he said, tugging a gray plastic cover off a Hammond organ. "Nearly every organist I've recorded—Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland and others—used this instrument. Many people would probably be surprised to learn that it's actually a C-3 model, not a B-3."

Christopher Serra

Mr. Van Gelder is still a stickler for details. Since 1952, the 87-year-old engineer has recorded thousands of jazz albums—first at his parents' home in Hackensack, N.J., and then here. The lengthy list includes Miles Davis's "Workin'," Sonny Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus," Art Blakey's "Moanin'," John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" and Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay."

On Saturday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will honor Mr. Van Gelder with a Trustees Award—a Grammy that recognizes his lifelong contribution to jazz recording. As an engineer, Mr. Van Gelder is credited with revolutionizing the sound of music in the LP era—capturing the distinct textures of each instrument and giving jazz albums a warm, natural tone.

From the outside, the building that houses Mr. Van Gelder's studio looks like any chocolate-brown suburban home—except there are no windows. Inside, the butterscotch-hued, cathedral-like space features a vaulted ceiling made of laminated Douglas-fir arches and cedar planks, giving the room a Scandinavian feel. Snap your fingers or talk, and the sound appears to hang in the air momentarily, as if the rafters were evaluating the sonic quality before letting it go.

Mr. Van Gelder is notorious for stonewalling questions about his recording techniques. "But I'll tell you this," he said, seated in his studio's long control room. "I used Neumann Condenser mikes before anyone else did. I bought one of the first ones sold here. They were extremely sensitive and warm-sounding."

When asked about the creative ways he placed microphones near instruments—in one case reportedly wrapping a mike in foam and sticking it into the piano's tone hole—Mr. Van Gelder channeled his inner Sphinx. "All I'll say is nothing is simple, everything is complex."

Born in Jersey City, N.J., Mr. Van Gelder began listening to jazz on the family radio. At age 12, he ordered a home recording device that came with a turntable and blank discs. "I tried playing trumpet in my high-school marching band but I was soon demoted to ticket-taker at football games," he said.

After high school, Mr. Van Gelder attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia. "I wanted the mental discipline and the prospect of a steady income after college." While there, he visited a network radio station. "A powerful feeling swept over me. The music, the equipment's design, the seriousness of the place—I knew I wanted to spend my career in that type of environment."

Immediately after graduating in 1943, Mr. Van Gelder opened an optometry office in Teaneck, N.J. By day he worked on eyeglasses and in the evening he recorded local artists who wanted a 78rpm record of their efforts. "I was obsessed with microphones," Mr. Van Gelder said. "When I'd see photos of jazz musicians recording or performing, I found myself looking at the mikes, not them."

In 1946, his father decided to build a house in Hackensack, N.J. Mr. Van Gelder asked for a control room with a double glass window next to the living room, which would serve as the studio. His father agreed. "The architect made the living room ceiling higher than the rest of the house, which created ideal acoustics for recording," he said.

Early clients included singer-accordionist Joe Mooney and pianist Billy Taylor. Then in 1952, Gus Statiras, a local producer, brought baritone saxophonist Gil Mellé to Mr. Van Gelder's studio to record. Mellé later played the results for Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records in New York. "Alfred wanted more tracks and went to his engineer at WOR Studios to see if he could duplicate the natural sound," Mr. Van Gelder said. "The guy told him he didn't know how, and urged Alfred to see the person who had recorded the originals. So he did."

Before long, Prestige, Savoy, Vox and other labels began booking studio time for LPs. "To accommodate everyone, I assigned different days of the week to different labels," he said. "But I continued to work as an optometrist, investing everything I made in new recording equipment."

Mr. Van Gelder learned his craft on the job. "Alfred was rigid about how he wanted Blue Note records to sound. But Bob Weinstock of Prestige was more easygoing, so I'd experiment on his dates and use what I learned on the Blue Note sessions."

As the home's driveway filled with cars, Mr. Van Gelder's parents added a separate entrance to their bedroom wing to avoid walking in on the musicians. "My parents and the neighbors never complained," he said. "Only once my mother left me a note asking me to do a better job tidying up."

In 1954, Mr. Van Gelder and his wife, Elva, moved into a nearby apartment. A museum exhibit in New York on Usonian architecture gave the couple an idea. "The image I had in mind was a small concert hall," Mr. Van Gelder said. Then came a meeting with David Henken, a Usonian architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Henken designed plans for Mr. Van Gelder, and Armand Giglio, one of Henken's developers, built the studio on a wooded lot in Englewood Cliffs.

"A crane had to hoist the arches and rafters into place," Mr. Van Gelder said, pointing up at his studio's ceiling. "They were bolted together at the top and joined at the bottom with a steel cable under the floor. This design allowed for the large space to stand unencumbered by columns, which was essential for a studio."

During the 1960s and '70s, Impulse, Verve, A&M, CTI and other labels used the Van Gelder studio. "'A Love Supreme' was recorded right here," Mr. Van Gelder said. "The session was hypnotic, exciting and different. But I didn't realize that until I remastered the tapes many years later. When Coltrane was here, I was too worried about capturing the music."

Before departing, this writer tried once again to pry Mr. Van Gelder's techniques loose. "All I can tell you is that when I achieved what I thought the musicians were trying to do, the sound sort of bloomed. When it's right, everything is beautiful. I was always searching for that point."

Mr. Myers writes about jazz, R&B and rock daily at JazzWax.com.
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on August 14, 2012, 12:16:23 PM
Here is an interesting interview with RVG in which he talks about recording at this parents' home at 25 Prospect: http://www.jazzwax.com/2012/02/interview-rudy-van-gelder-part-2.html

Below are pictures of the home as it was and what replaced it.

JW: Does it make you sad that the house is no longer there?
RVG: A little. I suppose when you spend that much time recording history in a place, you sometimes wish you could at least drive by and see it. [Pictured: 25 Prospect Ave. in Hackensack, N.J., now home to the Active Center for Health and Wellness.]

This is from the Smithsonian site (http://blog.americanhistory.si.edu/osaycanyousee/2011/09/miles-davis-rudy-van-gelder-and-a-living-room-recording-studio-part-one-of-two.html).

Miles Davis, Rudy Van Gelder, and a living room recording studio

The lush tones of Miles Davis are unmistakable to millions. It is common knowledge among jazz fans that Davis was heavily influenced by giants such as Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins. Yet, had it not been for a modified U47 microphone, and a family’s living room in Hackensack, New Jersey, we might not hear Davis as we do today.

In April of 1954, Davis recorded his legendary album “Walkin’” at a studio built in a living room in Hackensack. Davis previously recorded there just 2 years earlier, and was familiar with the engineer—Rudy Van Gelder. While working and researching with the Jazz Oral History Program at the museum, which aims to give comprehensive documentation of the experiences of senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates, I found the story of Davis and Van Gelder’s collaboration particularly compelling. Part of my research included reading an interview with Van Gelder on the National Endowment for the Arts website, where he was interviewed as part of his lifetime award of being named “Jazz Master” in 2009. I was quickly taken with Van Gelder and his remarkable story, and wanted to know more.

Van Gelder is a pioneer in record engineering, sought after by many musicians for his ability to provide artists with an ideal means of communicating their music, and allowing musicians to be heard “the way they want to be heard”. Davis was no exception.

Rudy Van Gelder with recording equipment

Van Gelder was one of the first Americans, let alone engineers, to acquire the German Neumann U-47 condenser microphone when it became available in 1949. Van Gelder sought to bring a more intimate sound to small jazz groups. This required placing a microphone closer to the instrument in order to capture the subtleties that traditional recording techniques missed. When Van Gelder initially used the U-47 microphone, he found the sound was easily distorted and unusable. However, a friend of Van Gelder’s, Rein Narma, was able to reconfigure the circuitry of the U-47, making it ideal for close range recording. The result was a detailed, warm sound that many would imitate but few would master. The difference in sound is quite clear when comparing albums Davis recorded with and without Van Gelder.

"Half Nelson" from Davis’ “Miles Davis All Stars” was recorded in 1947 at Harry Smith Studios in New York City. Davis’ talent is undeniable, his vocabulary is progressive, his temperament is wholly his own but—he sounds far away. Davis’ voice exists in the mid range of the mix, and is overshadowed by the shimmer of Max Roach’s ride cymbal and the high end of John Lewis’ piano overtones.

The sound heard on "Solar" from Davis’ album “Walkin’,” recorded in 1955 with Van Gelder, is markedly different: his voice is at the front of the mix, his subtle inflections are captured perfectly. The once intangible details of his playing style are captured, thanks in no small part to a modified U-47 and of course, Van Gelder’s mastery. Yet, to characterize Van Gelder’s recording session with Davis as miraculous or even extraordinary would be misleading. Van Gelder’s work with Davis was simply a logical next step in a blossoming career Van Gelder started at age seven.

The Beginnings of a Master
Van Gelder caught the recording bug at an early age. At seven he was already in the experimenting with sound using his first piece of equipment, a $2.98 “Home Recorder,” to capture his friends’ voices, family’s poetry, and neighbors’ music. In 1931 that equipment was cutting edge. The home recording device used a tone arm and needle to press grooves into a blank plastic record. The sounds recorded on these blank disks could be played back and listened to using the same turntable on which they were recorded. However, Van Gelder quickly grew tired of the deficiencies of the recording equipment available, and ordered parts from radio equipment manufacturers to make his own recording gear.

Rudy Van Gelder and Alfred Lion, founder of Blue Note Records jazz label

Van Gelder enrolled in the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1938. When he graduated in 1942 Van Gelder opened his own practice, and proceeded to forge a career path that did not previously exist: “record engineer”. (Did he use his optometry practice to fund his real passion of sound recording? I am sure that the equipment was expensive)

He built a recording studio in his parents’ living room that would come to be known as the legendary “Hackensack Studio”. The studio was complete with central air conditioning, a separate control room, microphones galore, and inimitable “nooks and crannies” in which to record to achieve special sound effects. Van Gelder ran his optometry practice while recording at a feverish pace with artists such as Zoot Sims, Bill Triglia, Sonny Igoe, Phil Urso, Lennie Tristano, and Howie Mann. The studio became popular among New York area musicians due to Van Gelder’s skill, and recording rates. But the true allure of the studio was its atmosphere.

Rudy Van Gelder recording
Recording in a living room was miles away from recording in one of the few major studios at the time. Pianist Bill Taylor said in an interview with Current Musicology that Rudy “was the first engineer that I worked with who was that sensitive, and really just took time and cared about mike placement and all that sort of stuff.” Van Gelder’s technical innovations are inextricably linked to his love for jazz. Musicians appreciated this duality, and so did record producers.

The Blue Note Connection
In 1952 Van Gelder was introduced to Blue Note Records producer Alfred Lion. Lion was interested in Van Gelder’s signature sound produced in the Hackensack studio. Just one year later Van Gelder engineered his first album for Blue Note records, and began a fruitful relationship with Lion. While Van Gelder possessed the technical skills to record a band, Lion possessed the foresight to identify a desirable sound of the record, and draw that sound from Rudy. Together the two formed what is colloquially referred to as the “Blue Note Sound," a sound unique to Blue Note Records. However, Van Gelder did not exclude other labels and worked engineering for Prestige, CTI, Savoy and Vox Records.

Englewood Cliffs and Beyond
In the midst of his successful recording career in the late 1950’s, Van Gelder built his masterpiece: his own private studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. This studio is home to legendary jazz albums such as John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, McCoy Tyner’s “Speak No Evil” and Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”. While Van Gelder is currently not recording as actively as he was in the 1960’s, he still has a profound effect on jazz.

In 2009 Van Gelder received an A.B Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy. The Smithsonian’s Jazz Oral History Program will be interviewing him in the coming months to take an extraordinarily in-depth account of Rudy’s career, legacy, and future.

Van Gelder is currently re-mastering analog Blue Note recordings to restore them to their original state. This line of re-released recordings is known as the RVG series. Van Gelder is working to restore the original recordings’ mood, track listings, and warmth. He recently engineered trumpet prodigy Christian Scott’s record “Yesterday You Said Tomorrow," recorded at the Englewood Cliff studio.

The candor of Scott’s trumpet is as true as Davis’s in the mid-1950s. One has to wonder if we would hear Scott the same way had it not been for that modified U47 microphone, an optometrist, and a living room in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Kyle Kelly-Yahner is a senior at the University of Vermont and Jazz Oral History Program Intern with the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on October 07, 2013, 10:53:53 PM
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on August 26, 2016, 12:19:26 AM

Hackensack native Rudy Van Gelder, perhaps the most influential recording engineer in the jazz genre, who brought to vivid life the sounds of such legendary artists as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard, died Thursday morning at his longtime home and studio in Englewood Cliffs. He was 91.


We were planning on doing a mural tribute to Rudy downtown. I had hoped he'd live to see it.
Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on August 26, 2016, 03:44:41 PM
This was Rudy's family home at 25 Prospect (corner of Thompson) where he recorded many Jazz Legends.  (Source: http://www.jazzwax.com/2012/02/interview-rudy-van-gelder-part-3.html)

Also attached are "story boards" which I made a few years ago which I hope to display at some point in the new Performing Arts Center, along with dozens of other Hackensack Arts/Culture related topics.

Related stories:


Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: BLeafe on August 26, 2016, 04:50:43 PM
This was Rudy's family home at 25 Prospect (corner of Thompson) where he recorded many Jazz Legends

...which you can also see here: http://www.hackensacknow.org/index.php/topic,1809

Title: Re: Hackensack Jazz: Van Gelder/Blue Note
Post by: Editor on August 27, 2016, 03:35:50 PM