"What an honor this is. Speaking with Chairman Gioia was a pleasure, especially when he told me I recorded half his record collection.
Considered by many to be the greatest recording engineer in jazz, Rudy Van Gelder has recorded practically every major jazz musician of the 1950s and 1960s on thousands of albums.
Van Gelder became involved with amateur radio as a teenager, which led to his interest in microphones and electronics. Since recording consoles were not then manufactured commercially, he created his own equipment and set up a studio in his parents' living room in Hackensack, New Jersey. An optometrist by day, Van Gelder began recording local jazz musicians in his free time.
In 1953, saxophonist Gil Mellé introduced Van Gelder to Blue Note founder Alfred Lion, beginning a 14-year association with the label. He recorded practically every session that Blue Note produced during that time period, from obscure sessions like Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims in 1956 to the popular Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock in 1965. Van Gelder's notable recordings helped establish Blue Note's reputation as an elite jazz label. They also enticed other labels, such as Prestige, Savoy, and Impulse!, to seek out his recording skills.
In 1959, needing a larger space for Blue Note and his other clients, Van Gelder finally quit his day job and moved his studio to a new facility he built in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where he has remained ever since. He became the house engineer for Creed Taylor's CTI label in the early 1970s.
The signature Van Gelder sound features a clearly defined separation among the instruments, ensuring that every sonic detail is clear and audible. This was accomplished by the strategic placement of instruments in the studio, though his exact technique has always been a closely guarded secret. Van Gelder's main goal was to create the best mood for the musicians to perform in, and from the results, he seems to have greatly succeeded. Among the timeless recordings made under his aegis are John Coltrane's Blue Train (Blue Note) Miles Davis' Workin' (Prestige), Andrew Hill's Point of Departure (Blue Note), Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay (CTI), and Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil (Blue Note).
Van Gelder still freelances for a variety of labels and since 1999 has been instrumental in the modern remastering of his original recordings -- most notably the Blue Note RVG series -- with the conversion from analog to digital formats.
Sonny Rollins, Volume 2, Blue Note, 1957
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