AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - October 27, 2009

Meeting Topic:

Speaker Name:

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A Memoir of Classic Recordings
with Frank Laico, CBS Records (ret)

Meeting held Oct 27, 2009 at Microsoft Studios, Redmond, WA

Frank Laico spent 30+ years as one of the main staff engineers at Columbia's 30th Street Studios in Manhattan. In that role he recorded many of the most famous artists of the day, recordings which have stood the test of time and become fundamental components of our musical vocabulary. As a staff engineer, he recorded whatever came through the door, and gave every project the same attention that he gave the giants. It is hard to imagine a world without Frank's work.

For this meeting, Frank went through his collection and selected some recordings that are memorable to him. Facilitated by PNW Committee persons Dan Mortensen and Bob Smith, the selections were played and pertinent photos shown, as Frank talked about the sessions and the artists for some of the most famous pieces in recording history. 14 AES members and 22 nons attended the event, held at Microsoft Studios in Redmond, WA.

First, Frank recounted the now-gone CBS 30th Street Studios. Originally an Armenian church, CBS used it as a studio for 33 years with few changes, finally selling it to be demolished for a residential tower. Frank described the scenes of photos of sessions, many showing him at work with the stars, including a video clip from YouTube showing Frank greeting Thelonious Monk at the studio. He went on to describe how the studio and sessions worked back then, and how much he enjoyed it.

Miles Davis - a portion of "Teo" was played, a tribute to producer Teo Macero. Frank reminisced about working with Miles and Teo, then the John Coltrane solo was played.

Questions arose, including miking techniques (never too close, typically about a foot away), track capability (3 tracks in 1968); and compression & limiting (seldom used except on vocals).

Next up, Tony Bennett - "Fascinating Rhythm" was played, with the Count Basie orchestra. They had tried a live location recording in Philadelphia, but it was decided to redo the concert in the studio with dubbed applause for release. Frank recounted stories of working with Tony Bennett for much of his career, including the "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" session.

A refreshment break was held and prize drawing winners were:

-CDs from Opus 4 Studios - Scott Knapp, Dave Franzwa, Bob Connelly
-Opus 4 travel mug - Jessica Ebilar
-CDs from Ars Divina Mastering/Burning Sky Records - Adam Tews, Doug Meier, Gary Beebe
-CDs from Starbucks Music - Andy Hall, Steve Wilkins, Simon Buckmaster, Rob Miller, Scott Mehrens, Larz Nefzger,
-Wintergrass T-shirt/Shure toque provided through Dansound - Ross Benson, Dave Campbell

Continuing after the break, some of Arlo Guthrie's - "Alice's Restaurant" was played (1967). Done at 30th street with an audience, it was all a surprise to Frank, who wasn't told much about the session. He got no credit as it was on the Reprise label.

Next was some of Tony Bennett - "If I Love Again" (1962) - Frank talked about reverb (a combination of the room (100x100x100 feet) and an unused room in the basement pressed into service as a reverb chamber, as well as a little tape machine delay.

Thelonious Monk - "We See" (1967) was played, and Frank said he loved the work and the music, despite the long hours - even doing musical cast albums on Sundays.

An excerpt from Miles Davis - "A-Leu-Cha" (1956) was played. Noting the drum solo, there was a discussion about developing the recorded drum sound with the drummers, and general drum miking techniques

The Miles Davis - "Someday My Prince Will Come" excerpt started a discussion of his muted trumpet sound and how unique it was. The was followed by Miles Davis - "Dear Old Stockholm" (1956) and some questions on tiredness and sound perception.

Finally, Tony Bennett - "All My Tomorrows" (1965) was played as the nightcap, and Frank recalling how much he enjoyed working with Tony.

By Dan Mortensen & Gary Louie, PNW Section. Thanks to Dave Simons (author of the book, Studio Stories) who provided information and photo permissions.

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