Good Things Happen After Dark
By Mike Guy
We have to disagree with our grandmothers here and go with Rudy Van Gelder, "Good Things (do) Happen After dark." Rudy was referring to the magic that musicians create in front of a live audience, which happens at night, seemingly the later, the better. Magic that is rarely captured in a studio. While there's nothing is like live music, Rudy was able to record magic in the studio better than anyone.
The name Rudy Van Gelder is on the back of many of your Verve, CTI, Impulse! favorites, and just about all of your classic BlueNote LPs. It's there on the CDs too, but it's far too small for me to read.
Rudy started as an optometrist but must have gotten into the wrong line somewhere because he became the single most influential person in the jazz sound you love. He created the rooms and crafted the sound on many of the greatest jazz records from the 1950s into the ’70s. On the ones he didn't record, those engineers were trying to recreate his sound.
In 1959, he employed the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright to build a studio in New Jersey that became the cornerstone for so many great recordings. Try an audio experiment sometime. It'll work best with a good old 2-channel stereo system or a quality pair of headphones. Play a BlueNote from before 1959 and one from after. You'll hear it. Before ’59, the sound was more intimate and somewhat hushed, and after, more open and deeper (to my ears anyway).
The You Discover Music website recently posted Van Gelder Studio and The Blue Note Sound. It's a nice short read with great photos. There is also an excellent interview with Rudy by Michael Cuscuna entitled A Work in Progress, and alternatively, Blue Note Perfect Takes. Enjoy.