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Rudy Van Gelder 1924-2016: Remembering Jazz's Brilliant Engineer

A behind-the-scenes music giant has passed away. Rudy Van Gelder, the brilliant engineer whose name is synonymous with many of the finest jazz recordings ever made, died Thursday at the age of 91 at his home in New Jersey. Countless artists, producers, and music listeners consider Van Gelder the best jazz engineer in history. Having presided over sessions for Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, and other notable imprints during the 1950s and 60s, and for CTI Records in the 70s, the Jersey City native shaped the sound of innumerable landmarks. Groundbreaking efforts such as John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Herbie Hancock's A Maiden Voyage, Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus, and Horace Silver's A Song for My Father constitute a tiny sample of his achievements. One of the first to utilize cutting-edge Neumann microphones in the studio, he wore white gloves during sessions in order to protect equipment he considered sacred. Van Gelder's albums remain renowned for their immediacy, spaciousness, depth, and multi-dimensionality. Working from a home studio he designed in Englewood Cliffs, he sought to make records sound "as warm and realistic as possible" and placed microphones in distinct areas to achieve his goals. "I think I've been associated with more records, technically, than anybody else in the history of the record business," Van Gelder told The New York Times in 1988. For that, we are forever grateful.

August 26, 2016

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