AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - June 9, 2008

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(a full report is available on the PNW website,

The PNW Section's June guest was retired CBS/Columbia recording engineer Frank Laico. Frank worked between 1946 and 1982 at Liederkranz Hall, and Columbia's famed 30th Street Studios, an Armenian church building. Projects included artists such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis.

Jazz writer Thomas Conrad (Stereophile, Jazz Times) served as emcee/interviewer for the evening. Studio owner Dr. Mike Matesky did the introductions.

Frank was born and raised in NYC. The Great Depression ended his education. To help family finances, he became a mimeograph operator for a record company: World Music. In his free time, he walked the halls, and discovered the disc mastering room, which he found fascinating. One thing led to another and he became a part of the record industry. At that time, recordings were direct to disc onto wax, tape came later. Some of his success came from starting with mono. "You had to get the sound, balance, ensemble right, with no retakes." The draft got him in 1943; he ended up making records that were part of a Top Secret voice scrambling system.

After the war, he started at Columbia. Frank loved the acoustics at 30th street so much he turned down higher paying jobs, staying at Columbia for 35 years until the studio was bulldozed. During that time, he got to work with some of the greats of the era.

The group listened to some of Frank's work at the Columbia 30th Street Studios - "Teo," with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and "Green Chimneys" from Thelonius Monk. The discussion turned to the Bennett "...Heart in San Francisco" session?

Frank remembered it clearly. "In those days you recorded four tunes in three hours. Mitch Miller produced, and said to start with San Francisco. Tony comes in, says he doesn't want to do that song. They do another song, then Mitch asks for San Francisco again, and again, Tony says no. After 3 tunes, Tony wants to stop. Mitch gets upset, tells Frank he can produce San Francisco." Miller leaves. Frank asks Tony to do the song, they do 3 takes, the 3rd was "the one." "Tony didn't much like it then, but now it's probably his favorite," Frank said.

A Q&A session followed with questions from the audience. Frank stated he enjoyed the evening very much and wanted to come back! It was a lot of happy memories for him. He seemed none the worse for wear after having brain surgery two weeks prior.

Reported by Gary Louie, PNW Secretary and Rick Chinn, PNW Chair 2007-8

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