Vijay Iyer is an international artist of the highest caliber and reflects the new sensibilities of jazz’s next generation of players. Though considered a ‘youngster’ in the world of jazz, Vijay has been recording albums for more than 15 years. Vijay was named 2010 MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR in the Jazz Journalists Association Annual Jazz Awards! I’ve had the great fortune of recording all but one of his releases. It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow and see him grace the covers of notable magazines such as Downbeat and Jazzwise. He was recognized with a Grammy Nomination for Best Jazz Recording.
Though Vijay is a resident of New York City, he chose to fly to the San Francisco area to record at OTR Studios, my commercial recording facility of 25 years. Because this would be his first solo piano effort, his decision to use my studio was based around the 1885 Steinway that lives at OTR along with my personal bias to record on analog tape and mix to DSD (Direct Stream Digital). Light or heavy action, key grip, pedal noise, and you name it variations between instruments make it a challenge for any pianist to perform at their best.
Vijay is always keen to ‘future-proof’ his music by recording with the highest fidelity audio gear and format available. We used the E.S.E (Extended Sound Environment) techniques devised for Blue Coast Records’ projects. We simultaneously recorded to tape, DSD and 44.1khz/24bit.
Most of you are familiar with analog tape and have heard of Direct Stream Digital recording. DSD is a one-bit digital recording format that offers 2.8 million samples per second. I realize there are numerous opinions on this subject of preference, but, in my view, DSD comes closest to tape and is our format of choice for multitrack recording. Thanks to Gus Skinas and the Super Audio Center, we have a Sonoma System at OTR studios for use with EMM Labs ADDA converters.
The front part of the recording chain can vary from project to project. Typically, I use two microphones – a stereo pair of B&K 4012 powered mics, about 8” apart at a 60 degree angle, that straddle the middle of the instrument, not directly over the sound holes or any metal bar. We place piano mics about half way from the lid to the strings, with the top open full stick. Slight variations in mic position depend on how hard the performer plays the instrument.
To add spatial dimension, in Vijay’s recordings we used a six-mic setup, adding a Neumann U67 and U87 placed about three feet from the piano, and a pair of Neumann KM184’s placed about 24” behind the B&K’s, half way between the lid and edge of the piano.
All the microphones were connected to the preamps by our handmade cable–a silver/copper alloy that we build in house using a patented custom design from France. They are expensive but well worth the price. In remote recordings, we can do 100-foot cable runs without loss of quality. The pre-amps, by Millennia Media, are very clean and handle transients of the acoustic piano without distortion. We don’t compress the sound of the piano. No EQ or compression was used in the recording or mix down of the Vijay Iyer solo piano project.
Every artist wants to preserve their work at the highest quality possible and in turn wants their fans to experience what the performer hears while recording in the studio. Limited only by broadband, we can now deliver recordings from the studio control room to your home listening system without third party interference.
Though we did not do the mastering for the CD released on ACT Music, we were pleased that ACT allowed us to master the high resolution files for download release on Downloads NOW!. We can ensure that no unneeded transfers and no EQ or compression was used in the processing of the 96/24 and DSD files offered to music lovers.
Our high-resolution files are extremely large. We don’t advise you download without a good broadband connection to the Internet.
We hope to bring another story and maybe a free download next month. If you’re in the San Francisco area, please come by our room at the California Audio Show, July 15-17. We’ll be in the Blue Coast World room offering live recording demonstrations with fantastic performers and uploading new recordings for you to try out!
Thanks for letting me share a recording story,
And to all, Enjoy your listening!
Special 10% rebate for PS Audio readers on any download purchase of this recording available until June 15, 2011.