A Fly on the Studio Wall

7 Dec

One of the great things about being in my job is having the opportunity to interview world-class musicians, or introduce them on stage at concerts. Of course the chance to hear them play live right in front of me, or learn interesting things about them during an interview is amazing, but for me the most entertaining part is the discussions that happen before the tape is rolling or before the show begins.

This is the time where, even if it is only a sentence or two, I feel you can really get the coolest story of the event.

I have yet to run into sax man Joshua Redman in a bad mood backstage. He remembers names, asks about other people at the radio station by name and tells me to say hello to them for him.

While walking on stage to introduce Wynton Marsalis, one of his band members told me to wait a second because he wanted to know where the best place to eat after the show was.

The late Michael Brecker made it clear to me multiple times in one interview, after complimenting his recordings, that if I really wanted to enjoy his music, “you need to hear that **** live.”

And the great Clark Terry, after a wonderful interview and performance, was kind enough to join some of the staff and listeners for a sandwich. God bless him, as he fell asleep while I was in the middle of a sentence. In his defense, most people start falling asleep when I talk too much.

Thinking about this made me start wondering about all of the great conversations and interactions that took place “off-mic” in recording sessions that we never got to hear.

For example, to be a fly on the wall, Christmas Eve, 1954. Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk are in a recording session that reportedly almost came to blows because Miles didn’t want Monk playing during his solos. Give their recording of The Man I Love a listen, and you can almost hear the animosity. I would have loved to hear that conversation take place.

Or perhaps some studio sessions with slightly less violent interactions. How about Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (or any recording session with either of those two guys)? I can only imagine the conversations that took place when the tape wasn’t rolling.

Certainly there are many sessions that would have been great to be a fly on the wall for, and no doubt that with all of the ones that are racing through my mind right now, I am probably forgetting some that would have been the best.

I invite you to share who you would have liked to overhear in the studio when the microphones were off.

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4 Responses to “A Fly on the Studio Wall”

  1. Scott K Fish December 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Fly on the wall? Any of the Charles Mingus recording sessions would have been fun, instructive.

    Best,
    Scott K Fish
    Managing Editor Modern Drummer magazine (1980-83)

  2. Bruce W. December 8, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Great topic.

    1) Jon Hendricks – Freddie Freeloader (would love to hear all the great vocalists talk about the solos they were recreating with their voices)

    2) Charles Mingus – Ah Um

    3) The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz Impressions Of Eurasia

    4) Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

    5) Weather Report – Mysterious Traveler

  3. Bob H December 16, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    Miles and Gil Evans during any of their collaborations. How much genius can you stuff into a recording studio?

  4. Kat Kilaerin December 19, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    – May 1956 “Tenor Madness”: John Coltrane & Sonny Rollins, Red Garland (piano) Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums).

    – Oscar Peterson & Ray Brown sessions of the late 1940’s to early 1950’s.

    – Any Billie Holiday.

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