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Jim Anderson on Recording Sixteen Sunsets in Surround

Sixteen Sunsets

Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom’s Sixteen Sunsets, currently nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for best surround-sound album, was recorded and mixed in 5.1 high resolution surround sound as well as stereo at Avatar Studio B in New York City with engineer and co-producer Jim Anderson, assisted by Mike Bauer & Aki Nishimura. The album was mastered by Alan Silverman for stereo and by Darcy Proper at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands for surround and is available on Pure Audio Records. (Jane plays with Cameron Brown on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, and Dominic Fallacaro on piano).

1. What was the overall concept of the album?

Jane has always been interested in surround sound. She has performed live sets in surround and her music has always reflected a ‘surround aesthetic’ but we always lacked a way to deliver the music.  We had been looking for the appropriate project that could be recorded effectively in surround and we made some test recordings about two years ago in Avatar’s studio B. Jane has always felt comfortable in the intimate atmosphere of Studio B and she’s made the majority of her recordings there. We have always been intrigued with the possibilities that surround offered but didn’t have a clear concept of what the album would be. Jane took some time to think about the tunes she might record and the musicians that she would play with. In the spring of 2013 Jane told me that she was ready to record; had the tunes and the musicians in mind and would I help her in the production of the album. The album would be mostly standards from the American Song Book and some original tunes of hers. She’s a very fine composer and I feel that her tunes complement the others on the album. We wanted to create an immersive atmosphere for the recording; a setting that wouldn’t make the listener feel that the use of surround was a gimmick.

2. What was the surround recording set up you used (mics used, etc.)?  Where did you place the musicians?

We’ve used Neumann U47’s for recording Jane’s soprano sax for many years and that’s the basis of the sound for her. The soprano is placed in the phantom center of the L/R, leaving the center channel for other duties. Jane was in the main room, the piano was in the piano booth, bass in the left back booth and drums in the back right. I used some Sanken CUB – 100’s on the inside glass of the piano booth and some PZM’s on the floor of the bass and drum booth for some extra ‘atmosphere’

JaneInStudioB

3. What made you decide to use the Hamasaki Square?  Did you modify or vary any of the parameters to adjust for the room or match the music?  How did this configuration enhance what Jane does? 

I’ve been impressed with the Hamasaki Square’s ability to help define a space in surround and felt that adapting the technique would help create a credible surround image of the space that Jane was inhabiting. So there are 4 Brauner VM-1’s (2 matched pairs) in a square and Jane is surrounded by those 4 microphones. They’re high up, physically, in the room and capturing the atmosphere of Jane’s performance space. Those four microphones are each located in the LF/RF/LS/RS channels.

4. Did the recordings give you more options when it came time to do the surround mix?  Any special mixing effects you would like to share?

I feel that we’re able to appreciate the communication of the musicians more effectively in surround and intimately hear the inner workings of the band better. I tried to especially make the piano and the drums immersive in the mix. Rather than panning I used different miking to create the front/back relationships. I’ve found that I like to use co-incident pickups in the rears and wider miking in the front, so there’s both m-s and x-y in the back for drums and piano and wide cards and omnis in the front. This gives a natural spread to the instruments and any movement detected is a natural effect. I also created a live chamber in the live room of Studio B using the 4 Brauner microphones and my HD-1’s to excite the room during the mix.

5. What do you think of the resulting Pure Audio Blu-Ray release? 

We’re very pleased with the Pure Audio release. The ability to navigate the disc without a screen is a definite plus and the listener’s ability to jump from surround to stereo by use of the red and yellow buttons on the remote.

We both feel that it’s a beautiful album and one that were very proud of and we feel that we’ve created an effective presentation of jazz in surround.

Spirit Family Reunion Recording at Avatar

Spirit Family Reunion recorded in Studio B claiming their prize of a free day in the studio as one of The Deli magazine’s Best of NYC Emerging Artists of 2013 (see Issue #34 Volume 2, Spring 2013). The recording session took place on August 1, 2013.

Here are a few photos from that session.
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Spirit Family Reunion gathers for a group photo (L to R: Peter Pezzimenti, Stephen Weinheimer, Kevin Woodward, Nick Panken, Maggie Carson and Mat Davidson)

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Here are some moments captured during their recording session (video by Alexandra Lucia).

Press Release

Six Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship

1. Set Objectives

You should consider your internship experience as a trial or test run. Like any test, you prepare by knowing what is being tested, except you determine what the parameters are. Before you start your internship, write down what you want to get out of your internship. Establish a few objectives for yourself. You want to find out how a studio works. What is the day in the life of a professional audio engineer like? What does it really take to become an assistant? What knowledge and skills am I deficient in? Am I even cut out for this kind of job?

2. Listen, Watch and Observe with Purpose

When you go about your assigned tasks, pay attention and remain alert. Don’t just “go through the motions.” Be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Take in what goes on in the studio, what “systems” are in place, and for what purpose. Observe the different roles and what people do. Why are things done a certain way? Is there a reason why certain procedures are emphasized over others? How do the tasks that I perform affect the clients?

3. Ask Questions

Ask your supervisors regularly how you are doing and how you can improve. It is a good way to gauge your performance. Asking for feedback (and being open to criticism) is a great way to keep yourself engaged and show others that you care. Of course, you have to heed the feedback you receive.

When you’ve gotten a sense of the daily rhythms of the studio, start asking questions that may have started forming in your mind. You’ll be surprised to know that, in general, the staff likes it when you ask questions. In fact, if you don’t ask questions, we tend to get the impression that you are not interested. Remember to ask questions tactfully, and choose the right time to ask them, e.g. not in front of clients, not when things are hectic, and not during a session.

If you think you need a block of time to find out more in-depth information about a particular subject, ask to make an appointment and take the opportunity to ask them. Be well prepared when you do.

4. Hang Around

When your shift is over or your scheduled hours have been completed, don’t just take off (unless you absolutely have to get to a job). Ask if you could hang around and help out with additional tasks, help another member of the staff (e.g. maintenance, resident engineers, etc.), sit in on practice sessions, go through manuals of a particular piece of equipment or just spend time in an empty room and see if you can identify all the gear and what it does. Ask if you could come in on an off day. The point is you want to take advantage of the limited time you have been given to learn as much as you can while you have access.

5. Review Your Experience

At the end of your internship, there will be an exit interview with your supervisor. This meeting is very important because 1) you can ask for an overall impression of how you performed; and 2) this is your last opportunity to get additional information and/or advice on your career, including getting references for the next step. You need to have given some thought to where you want to go from here, to ask the questions that could really help you down the road.

It is important to do an honest personal post-internship assessment, and take time to reflect on your overall experience. Were you able to fulfill the objectives you set for yourself at the start of the internship? Can you see yourself working in this environment? Would you enjoy it? Is this job right for you? What adjustments do you think you will need to make for continued success?

6. Stay in Touch

Your internship ending does not mean ending your association with the people you had the good fortune to work with, however briefly. Ours is a small industry, and every meeting / introduction is a blessing. You never know which contact might bring your next break or gig. Send word as to how you are doing, and ask how the studio is doing. You professional net worth is directly proportional to the size of your relationship network. To be honest, we’ve had so many interns over the years, many of the names and faces have blurred together. The ones we do remember are those with whom we have kept in touch.

2012: Year in Review

Here are some of the major projects that were recorded at Avatar Studios in 2012.

Unorthodox JukeboxBruno Mars recorded tracks for his new album, Unorthodox Jukebox, including “Locked Out of Heaven” in Studios A and B with producer Mark Ronson and engineer Alan O’Connell assisted by Bob Mallory and Tyler Hartman.

Paul McCartney recorded the track “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (with Diana Krall on piano) as part of the compilation Holidays Rule in Studio A with producer Tommy LiPuma, engineer Al Schmitt assisted by Brian Montgomery and Tim Marchiafava. Watch video footage of the session.

Tony Bennett sang duets with Thalia and Marc Anthony in Studio C and with Juan Luis Guerra and Romeo Santos in Studio A for his latest, Viva Duets. Dae Bennett produced and engineered the sessions assisted by Aki Nishimura and Charlie Kramsky.

Dionne Warwick recorded her album Now in Studio C with producer Phil Ramone and engineer Lawrence Manchester assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

Glad Rag DollDiana Krall spent a couple of weeks tracking her new album Glad Rag Doll in Studio A with producer T Bone Burnett and engineer Michael Piersante assisted by Bob Mallory.

Placido Domingo recorded with Harry Connick, Jr. in Studio C with producer / engineer Rafa Sardina for his new album Songs. Fernando Lodeiro and Charlie Kramsky assisted on the orchestral dates.

Pat Metheny took over Studio A for four days of tracking with his full Orchestrion for his latest album Unity Band. The session was produced by Pat Metheny and Steve Rodby with engineer James Farber assisted by Bob Mallory.

Other artists who worked on their upcoming projects included Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Jane Monheit and Megan Hilty.

121212On December 12, a historic gathering of top artists descended on New York and performed at the 12.12.12 Sandy Relief Benefit Concert. Some of the songs from the concert were mixed in Studio G by Bob Clearmountain assisted by Bob Mallory.

Up & Coming:

The band Carney was in Studio B recording their self-produced project with engineer Chris Rondinella assisted by Bob Mallory and Tim Marchiafava.

The four-piece band The Rubens from Australia tracked in Studio A with producer David Kahne, engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

The New York City based band The NowhereNauts tracked in Studio A with producer Kevin March, producer / engineer Carl Glanville assisted by Tim Marchiafava. Watch a short clip of their session.

The Young Presidents tracked in Studio A and C with producer /engineer Rob Fraboni assisted by Bob Mallory and Tyler Hartman.

Film:

2012 was a year that saw a lot of film scores and music recorded at Avatar.

Music for a new Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis, was recorded in Studio A with producers T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers, engineer Jason Wormer assisted by Bob Mallory.

ALateQuartetThe film score to A Late Quartet composed by Angelo Badalamenti was recorded in Studio A. The session was produced by Angelo Badalamenti and Jim Bruening and engineered by Todd Whitelock assisted by Charlie Kramsky and Tyler Hartman. The film is directed by Yaron Zilberman and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken.

The film score to Hope Springs composed by Teddy Shapiro was recorded in Studio A. Directed by David Frankel, the film stars Meryl Streep, Steve Carell and Tommy Lee Jones. The session was produced by Teddy Shapiro and engineered by Chris Fogel assisted by Tim Marchiafava and Aki Nishimura.

Music for Rise of the Guardians, composed by Alexandre Desplat, featuring Renee Fleming was recorded in Studio C in September with producer Christina Steinberg, engineer Richard King assisted by Charlie Kramsky.

The film score to an upcoming film Mood Indigo was recorded in Studio A with director Michel Gondry, engineer Brian Montgomery assisted by Tim Marchiafava.

TV:

Avatar continued to be the place where music for NBC’s show Smash was being recorded, now in its second season, with producers Mark Shaiman and Scott Riesett. In one of the sessions for the show, Jennifer Hudson was in Studio B with producers Marc Shaiman and Harvey Mason, Jr., engineer Andrew Hey assisted by Charlie Kramsky. The most recent Smash session in Studio A was videotaped. The song “Let Me Be Your Star” from the show is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.

Music for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire also continues to be recorded in Studio A. Guest performers included Liza Minnelli.

Jimmy Fallon and The Roots recorded Jimmy Fallon’s comedy album, Blow Your Pants Off, in Studios A and C. Produced by Fallon, the recording session was engineered by Lawrence Manchester and assisted by Charlie Kramsky. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Comedy Album category.

Broadway Cast Albums:

Once Cast AlbumBroadway cast albums recorded at Avatar included Bonnie & Clyde (producer David Lai, engineer Isaiah Abolin assisted by Charlie Kramsky & Tim Marchiafava in Studio C), Once: A New Musical (producer Steven Epstein, engineer Richard King assisted by Fernando Lodeiro & Mike Bauer in Studio A), Merrily We Roll Along (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, producer Stephen Sondheim, Tommy Krasker, engineer Bart Migal assisted by Bob Mallory and Tyler Hartman in Studio A), Leap of Faith (producer Alan Menken, engineer Peter Karam assisted by Bob Mallory in Studio A) and Last Smoker in America (producer Andy Sandberg, engineer Joel Moss assisted by Tyler Hartman in Studio B).

Once: A New Musical has already won a Tony Award for Best Musical and is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Musical Theater Album category along with the Broadway cast album for Follies, which was recorded at Avatar in 2011.

Incidentally, Avatar hosted a live orchestra in Studio A that was linked via fiber to The Beacon Theater during the Tony Awards telecast.

Other Notables:

Some noteworthy projects recorded included:

Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Hezekiah Walker recorded in Studio A with a 60+ piece choir. Hezekiah Walker produced with engineer Larry Sturn assisted by Tim Marchiafava and Tyler Hartman.

Brooklyn Rider, an interesting string quartet with eclectic repertoire recorded in Studio B after Thanksgiving with producer Johnny Gandelsman, engineer Jesse Lewis assisted by Aki Nishimura.

The Jazz Flute Big Band with 16 great flute players and rhythm section recorded in Studio C with producer Tom Burns, engineer Katsu Naito assisted by Aki Nishimura. The recordings will premier at the 2013 National Flute Association Convention in New Orleans in August 2013.

2011: Year in Review

Not all of the following info made it into SonicScoop’s year-end list for NYC Studios, but we feel the projects below are significant and noteworthy. They also represent the kind of services New York can offer and handle.

Looking back at 2011, there are two distinct groups of projects that stood out for us at Avatar Studios.

The first group involves album projects.

Duets IIThe first project is Tony Bennett’s Duets II album recording sessions with producer Phil Ramone and engineer Dae Bennett. In March, Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow recorded “The Girl I Love” in Studio A (assisted by Fernando Lodeiro). In July, Tony Bennett sang and recorded “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” with Aretha Franklin in a memorable session in Studio C (assisted by Fernando Lodeiro and Tim Marchiafava). At the end of July, Tony Bennett recorded “The Lady is a Tramp” with Lady Gaga in Studio A (assisted by Fernando Lodeiro and Tim Marchiafava). All of these sessions were filmed. The details of the duets session with Lady Gaga was captured and documented in Gay Talese’s article in the New Yorker magazine. The album, released on September 20, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Charts (dated September 28, 2011). The album also garnered a Grammy nomination for the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category.

One of the highlights of 2011 was hosting Paul McCartney in a session held in Studio A recording a Buddy Holly tribute, Rave On Buddy Holly, with producer David Kahne, engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Fernando Lodeiro. The details of the session were written up in a Mix magazine article. There were additional sessions on a separate project and the resulting album will be released next February.

Ingrid Michaelson worked on her upcoming project throughout the year at Avatar. In April, she was in Studio A working on basic tracks with producer David Kahne, engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Fernando Lodeiro and continued working in Studio G. Ingrid was back in September in Studio A for horns with producer David Kahne, engineer Robert Smith assisted by Charlie Kramsky. The resulting album is Human Again scheduled for release on January 24, 2012. Her single, “Ghost”, has already been released.

The second group of projects involves music for TV & film.

Regina 2One of them is more about a very talented artist, involved in multiple projects, who is uniquely gifted. The artist’s name is Vince Giordano and his (big) band is the Nighthawks. Because of his expertise in music from a specific time period, he was key in making the music for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire authentic and alive. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks recorded music for the show in February in Studio A with producer / engineer Stewart Lerman assisted by Rick Kwan. They came in again in April to record with Regina Spektor in Studio A again with producer / engineer Stewart Lerman assisted by Bob Mallory. The music has been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media category. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks also recorded music for HBO’s mini-series Mildred Pierce in Studio A with producer Randy Poster, engineer Stewart Lerman assisted by Charlie Kramsky. Vince has been written up in the NY Times and NY Daily News.

The next notable project was the film score to Moonrise Kingdom, a new Wes Anderson film. The music, composed by Alexandre Desplat, was tracked in Studio A and mixed in Studios G and B. The sessions were produced by Jeremy Dawson, Alexandre Desplat and engineered by Gary Chester assisted by Tim Marchiafava and Tyler Hartman. Moonrise Kingdom, which stars Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Frances McDormand, will open May 25, 2012.

The last mention is a TV project that is still under wraps. It is NBC’s Smash, which will debut right after the Super Bowl. In October, music for the show was recorded with Nick Jonas in Studio C with producer Jim Black, engineer Andy Zulla assisted by Bob Mallory. Since then, additional music has been recorded in Studio B with producer Marc Shaiman, engineer Brian Garten assisted by Charlie Kramsky and orchestral recordings in Studio C with producer Marc Shaiman, engineer Todd Whitelock assisted by Charlie Kramsky and Tim Marchiafava.

From the most recent session news for December, T Bone Burnett was in producing a couple of songs for the soundtrack to the hotly anticipated film The Hunger Games in Studio A with artists Punch Brothers and Secret Sisters. The session was engineered by David Sinko assisted by Bob Mallory. The Hunger Games, directed by Garry Ross and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth will open March 23, 2012.

We consider every project we are entrusted with to be important and we pride ourselves in giving our best whether it is a 60-piece orchestral session or a simple overdub. We want to thank all our clients for making 2011 a very special year for us. Happy Holidays and we hope to serve you again in 2012.

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