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Grapefruit Moon, the songs of Tom Waits by Southside Johnny with LaBamba's 17-piece Big Band

Around the time my good buddy, Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg asked me to produce and engineer "Grapefruit Moon, the Songs of Tom Waits," I had been listening to "Sinatra's Swingin' Sessions," which was recorded some time around 1960. I was fascinated by that album. I remember thinking,"How can this sound so good when the technology was so limited compared to what we have today?" The album cover features a photo taken at the session, and you can clearly see the way Nelson Riddle's orchestra was positioned in the studio, and even the types and positioning of mics. When you listen, you hear every instrument in the stereo field exactly as you see them in the photograph. And the overall sonic quality is so natural and open. It's recording 101: proper positioning of the proper mic for the job, a clean, simple signal path, and letting the musicians balance themselves and, well . . . PLAY!In the pop music idiom, the producer usually plays a strong role in shaping the sound of a record. In fact, the recording studio has become another musical instrument, where the producer can shape, and reshape a sound, sometimes to the extent that it bears little or no resemblance to the original performance. In my opinion, jazz should be approached differently. When you have great songs, great orchestrations by a talented arranger like LaBamba, a soulful and adventurous singer like Southside Johnny, and great musicians, the producer's job should be to encourage the musicians to forget the studio technology that they've become accustomed to depending on - my job was to use my skills to capture the music that the arranger and the musicians were producing.The 12 songs on "Grapefruit Moon - the songs of Tom Waits" were recorded over 4 sessions. The first two sessions were at Jon BonJovi's Carriage House, a wonderful studio - and Jon was a gracious host, thank you. The other 2 sessions were at Avatar studio B in NYC. Each of the sessions was preceded by 2 or 3 rehearsals. Our basic unit was a 'traditional' 17-piece jazz big band, i.e. 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 woodwinds, piano, bass, guitar, and drums. Woodwinds most often were configured as 2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes, and baritone sax. But the sax players often doubled on clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, and soprano, per LaBamba's arrangement. Every effort was made to position the players and Johnny in the studio as they would be heard in the final mix, and to record the performances live.There were struggles in getting the musicians and the arranger, who grew up with modern recording techniques, to embrace this old school approach. The 'simpler' way was, in many respects, harder for all of us. But in the end, everyone associated with the project agrees that the recordings and the performances are something special, both sonically and musically.The Southside Johnny and LaBamba's 17-piece Big Band are scheduled to appear on the Conan O'Brien show on Thursday, Sept. 18.Dan GralickProducer

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Southside Johnny with LaBamba's 17-piece Big Band
  • CD Title: Grapefruit Moon, the songs of Tom Waits
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Leroy
  • Tracks: Yesterday Is Here, Down Down Down, Walk Away, Please Call Me Baby, Grapefruit Moon, All The Time In The World, Tango Till They’re Sore, Johnsburg Illinois, New Coat Of Paint, Shiver Me Timbers, Dead And Lovely, Temptation
  • Musicians: Southside Johnny (vocal), Richie
  • Rating: Five Stars
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