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Rudy Van Gelder (1924 - 2016)

Image via Facebook / Blue Note Records

Rudy Van Gelder (1924 - 2016)

Rudy Van Gelder, a legendary jazz recording engineer, died Aug. 25, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 91.

Blue Note Records spokesman Cem Kurosman said Van Gelder at his home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Van Gelder worked on thousands of jazz recordings including albums by jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis. He recorded albums for Blue Note Records, Savoy, and Impulse. He was responsible for just about every session recorded for the Blue Note label from 1953 to 1967.

Van Gelder was credited with creating the trademark sound of jazz music by using innovative recording techniques. He was said to be secretive with his approach to recording. He had a particular method of setting up the microphones that captured each instrument in its own acoustic space. He was able to capture the unique dynamics of the different instruments.


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Van Gelder was an optometrist, but his real love was jazz music. He started out working part-time at night recording local musicians. He became a full-time recording engineer in 1959.

Van Gelder worked with jazz saxophone legend Sonny Rollins on some of his albums including “Saxophone Colossus.” NPR spoke with the jazz great on the phone about Van Gelder. Rollins said, "It wasn't the days when ... everybody comes by and listens in the booth and sees how it sounds," Rollins said. "No, no — if we did it, we knew (the recording) would be impeccable, and perfect. And so we came in, did our recordings, and we left. Next thing, record comes out with superb sound. Hey, well, that's Rudy. Rudy was the engineer."

Van Gelder told NPR in an interview in 1993, "We get albums that sound the way they want them to sound," Van Gelder said in 1993. "The rest of it can all be very difficult — including me, personally and any other way. But I try to make sure that nothing leaves here that is not flattering to the musician, and that is not what the musician wants. When they tell me that they like what they hear, what comes out of here, then that's my reward."

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