Recording Woahs! Get it?
Coffee: The 15th member
Walking through the doors of the studio at Chicago Recording Company was a highly sensory experience. The perfect acoustics of the room contrasted the overwhelming noise level of the Blue Line train I had just taken to get there. The smells of fresh coffee hung in the air as Bill Maylone, along with a team of people from CRC set up the room for the first day of recording. I remember sitting down in my chair and looking at the microphone and imagining all of the sounds (good and bad) I was going to hurl its way over the course of the next few days. It was time to get to work!
We had performed these pieces during our 2014-2015 season, and that process involved collaboration on the form and arrangement of many of the pieces we were playing. But, at this point, the forms were set and it was time to record. Regardless of how prepared I was, there’s something about recording in such a beautiful space that amplifies one’s anxiety and raises questions in one’s mind: “Did I overlook any bass lines? Does this reed sound okay? Am I sitting in the exact same location as when we tested the microphones?” Thankfully, that anxiety became excitement when we started the opening bars of Tres Hermenicas. There are 14 people playing on that piece with a mixture of instruments that have to be isolated and instruments that were grouped together in the same room. Eye contact was not possible in some cases, so we had to listen intently and trust each other. This came to be very valuable during the next track up for recording, Greek Blues.
Greek Blues is one of my favorite tracks on the album because of how it came to be. Initially, I wasn’t scheduled to play on it, but I was so interested in observing the rehearsal process during our 2014-2015 season that I stuck around in the rehearsal room and watched. I remember Tomer Moked-Blum and Dan Visconti discussing the arrangement when Tomer noted that the piece needed a strong bass line. Then, with deliberate intent and formality, Tomer turned to me and said something similar to “Deuce, do you want to try it?” It was a perfect moment that reminded me of why I make music in the first place. I have so many rules and standards that I’ve held myself to through my years of training and performing, yet there are countless times to try new ideas just because something outstanding might happen. I played back the bass line with this overdone pitch bend because I thought it sounded funny – and it stuck. We were all surprised at how well it fit, and it became a point in the recording that I look forward to every time I listen. It also helps that Bill Maylone made my bassoon sound like a million bucks.
While I was playing in the rhythm section for Raga Etude and Greek Blues, I couldn’t help but remind myself that Steve Rodby, our producer for the album and bassist for the Pat Metheny Group, was sitting in the control room. He was superhuman in the energy, support, and motivation he provided throughout the sessions, always letting us know when we were sounding hot via verbal communication or the “Rodby Fist Pump” that could be seen through the control room glass from time to time.
If there’s one mental image I’ll store from our time recording this album, it’s the amount of coffee mugs that we wound up with at the end of each day at CRC. I think it’s safe to say that the 15th member of the group was coffee. Is it too late to change the liner notes?
- Eric Heidbreder