October 2018

Rudy’s Records

A Baker’s Dozen of Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s “Blue
Note Sound”

Some of the greatest recordings in jazz history – by such artists as John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey and Grant Green – were made in the unlikely locale of suburban New Jersey. It was in his studios there that Rudy Van Gelder engineered albums for, most famously, Blue Note Records in the 1950s and ’60s. Van Gelder was the architect of what become known as “the Blue Note sound,” which author Richard Havers described in Uncompromising Expression, his book on Blue Note, as a sound so present that it “makes you feel as if it were recorded just a few minutes before you hear it, almost as though the musicians were next door.” Achieving such musical realism on record was both a science and an art: “part technology… part architecture… part alchemy.” The rich detail of the drums, the organic tone of the double-bass, the warmth of the piano and the ravishing, almost vocal sound of horns and guitar – all that was lightning Van Gelder bottled for future generations to enjoy. The Icon column in the October issue of In Tune is devoted to Van Gelder. To hear what his work sounds like, here’s a playlist of some iconic tracks. — Bradley Bambarger