It’s been a week since I packed up from two weeks of recording in Steim’s Studio 1 and I am still utterly exhausted. This was the most focused and intense period I have ever spent in the studio. As the work progressed, it became more and more difficult to ‘be me’ without the feedback of an audience and a space, but on reflection I am thrilled with the results.
The first week I focused mainly on laying down live-in-the-studio tracks with DJ Sniff. We are at work now selecting and editing (eventually mixing and mastering), creating a record we hope to release in 2010. I don’t mean to be immodest or something, but the tracks are pretty damn hot, full of the fire of the legends who inspire a lot of it. We were fortunate to have had the participation of Ernst van der Loo as recordist. I have worked on some other projects with Ernst and I’m always impressed with how fast he can detect and solve problems, while constantly re-evaluating microphone and speaker placements and really listening carefully to the music. It was wonderful to be able to zero in on our playing and know that everything was being captured well.
Sniff uses vinyl as his sound source, so his output already has a degree of ‘production’ attached to it. Matching that is less of an issue when I play cassette tapes, but when I play saxophone I am particularly sensitive to the way it sounds in context. Some of that might be solved during mixing, but I decided to try a little experiment on day three, and asked Ernst to capture the direct saxophone line onto cassette. We have yet to hear the results but I have the feeling this could bring the sonic atmosphere of the saxophone more in line with that of the old LPs that Sniff uses. We’ll see, which is to say: we’ll hear.
The difficult thing right now is what to leave out: there is a lot of great and diverse material and we want to keep the concept straightforward. It is very clear that when I play the saxophone and Sniff scratches ‘freedom’ drumming from the likes of Milford Graves, Rashied Ali and Max Roach, we are channeling and carrying forward and showing respect for a particular stream of the jazz tradition. When I play tapes and effects, there is also a clear concept, albeit perhaps more devious: it feels like we’re not only referencing that (and other) music, but referencing <em>the referencing</em> of it. Putting these two concepts together on one record may work, but that’s a decision we’ll take later.
I also did individual sessions with Joel Ryan, Audrey Chen, Juan Parra, Tom Tlalim, and Mike Majkowski. I don’t know yet what each of these recordings will lead to but it was great to be able to document collaborations in very different stages of development.
At the end of the second week I recorded two days of acoustic solo saxophone. Toying around with mic placement (I used five: Joel’s two Octavas, the AKG 414, and two Senkens) I captured saxophone playing that I would not be able to do in a home studio situation: extreme, extreme loud playing that I have been trying to control recently.