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2014 was another active year of recording music for a variety of media content.
As part of NBC’s TODAY Show‘s “Shine a Light” campaign, host Hoda Kotb led a drive to raise money to help battle childhood cancer for the American Cancer Society. Kotb, a cancer survivor herself, spotlighted the efforts being made by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She embarked on Project Truly Brave to give kids battling cancer a gift of a perfect song that would make them feel better utilizing the healing power of music. She enlisted two artists, Sara Bareilles and Cyndi Lauper, to see if they’ll mash-up two of their hit songs, “Brave” and “True Colors.” They came to Avatar in mid-June to record “Truly Brave” in Studio C. The session was produced by Lauper and Bareilles and engineered by Bill Wittman assisted by Aki Nishimura & Nate Odden. You can watch the resulting music video here.
Delving into the American and international folk songbook, Kronos Quartet teamed up for the first time with four celebrated roots artists within the Nonesuch family—Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens, Sam Amidon, and Olivia Chaney—to create entirely new arrangements of classic folk songs. The effort was part of the 2014 Next Wave Festival and Nonesuch Records at BAM where the artists performed. They all came in A to record their collaboration in Studio A. The sessions were produced by Doug Petty and engineered by Todd Whitelock assisted by Tim Marchiafava. You can read more about their performance here.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recorded their jazzy duet album, Cheek to Cheek, in Studios A and C. It was mixed in Studio C by engineer Dae Bennett. The album, produced by Danny Bennett, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Some of the artists that we recorded in 2014 included David Bowie, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Glen Hansard, Christopher Cross, Jesse Harris, Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming.
Jazz artists recorded at Avatar include Cecil McLorin Salvant, Aaron Diehl, Maria Schneider Big Band, Stanley Jordan, Hiromi Uehara Trio, Brad Mehldau Trio, Vijay Iyer (for ECM), Igor Butman, Eddie Palmieri and many others.
We hosted sessions for international artists such as Skank (mix), Fito y Fitipaldis (mix), Juanes, and Estrella Morente (mix).
Thanks to the NY State film tax credit program, we continue to do a lot of work for film and television. Film scores for future releases recorded at Avatar include Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, The Humbling (starring Al Pacino), Mr. Holmes (starring Ian McKellen as the aged, retired Sherlock Homes), Anomalisa, Cleopatra Backstage, Experimenter and Mortdecai (starring Johnny Depp). You’ll be seeing some of these later this year.
Mortdecai is scheduled for theatrical release this week. The unique music for this film, tracked in Studio A, was produced by Mark Ronson with music editor Nick Ratner and engineer Josh Blair assisted by Tim Marchiafava.
Avatar was involved with the groundbreaking and memorable soundtrack by Antonio Sanchez for the movie Birdman. In April 2013, director Alejandro González Iñárritu came in with Antonio Sanchez to record drums in Studio G. The director walked through the scenes, describing the action and giving Sanchez cues. After shooting had completed, the director revisited the tracks and did not like how the drums actually sounded because it was “extremely crisp and clear” and did not match the aesthetics that he was aiming for, one that reflected the tension and dysfunction inside an old theater on Broadway. They ended up rerecording the tracks somewhere in LA and by purposefully degrading the drum kit they used. Oh well, at least we had some part in the creative process. You can read more about the fascinating evolution of how the soundtrack came to be in this article.
Other film projects that Avatar hosted in various capacities included Foxcatcher, Inside Out, Carol, Sweet Micky for President, Black and White Stripes: the Juventus Story and more.
Avatar also recorded music for Walt Disney’s upcoming Frozen Forever! short in Studios A and C. The session was produced by Andrew Page, Bobby & Kristen Lopez and engineered by Joey Raia assisted by Tim Marchiafava & Nate Odden. You can read more about the highly anticipated short here.
As we have for previous seasons, we continued working with producers Stewart Lerman and Randall Poster on the music for the fifth and final season of Boardwalk Empire, most of the sessions taking place in Studios A and C. The sessions were engineered by Stewart Lerman. On one of the last sessions, Norah Jones sang on a track. That song is included in the third compilation of selected music from the show, recently released as the album Boardwalk Empire Volume 3: Music From The HBO Original Series.
The instrumental music for NBC’s Peter Pan Live!, which aired on December 4, was recorded in Studio A. The sessions were produced by David Chase and engineered by Frank Wolf assisted by Tyler Hartman and Thom Beemer.
A segment of Disney on Broadway was recorded and videotaped in Studio C with Ashley Brown, who originated the title of Mary Poppins on Broadway, singing “Feed The Birds.” The video features Jim and Lori Abbott on piano and violin. The session was produced by Megan Harding and engineered by Aki Nishimura. The segment aired recently.
The music for season 4 of Louie with Louis CK was recorded and mixed at Avatar with producers John Skidmore, Matt Kilmer and engineer Adam Tilzer.
Six notable cast albums were recorded at Avatar in 2014 – The Bridges of Madison County, Rocky on Broadway, Violet, The Last Ship, Side Show and Tamar of the River.
The cast albums for The Last Ship (a musical with original score by Sting) and Side Show were tracked using our two-room scheme utilizing both Studios A and B to accommodate the large orchestra and large cast. You can read more about this process in our blog article.
Over the course of the year, we recorded music for a fair number of ads. One of the more memorable one is presented below. The session was produced by Eric Hachikian and engineered/mixed by Roy Hendrickson assisted by Thom Beemer.
You’ll be seeing a few commercials we worked on in a couple of weeks during the Super Bowl, including one for Snickers.