By Dan Daley
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If your idea of Pro Tools is a digital multitrack system and not a high-end Black & Decker drill, then you needed to be at Catch A Fire, The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing event on Jan. 27.
The event recognized the critical contributions made by the creative technical talent behind recordings, and in particular honored one of the greatest of them all, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Chris and Island gave us music from the likes of Grace Jones, Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Cat Stevens, Toots & The Maytals, U2, and Steve Winwood, among others.
The P&E Wing soiree was held at the Village Recording Studios in West Los Angeles. The Village is an amazing place — a former Masonic temple where classics from Fleetwood Mac's Tusk to John Mayer's Continuum were recorded. Owner Jeff Greenberg's attention to detail is what makes it such a killer place for musical creativity. And the creative talent was out in abundance. Honorary event chairs/producers Jimmy Jam and Daniel Lanois, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, and three-time GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams, 27-time GRAMMY winner Quincy Jones, singer/songwriter Jackson Browne were among the throng that boogied to the beat of KCRW music director Jason Bentley, who manned the turntables for the evening.
The guest of honor was preceded on stage by heartfelt paeans from P&E Wing Sr. Executive Director Maureen Droney, who said Blackwell exemplified a true "commitment to excellence." Academy Chair Emeritus and GRAMMY-winning producer Jam, diamond stud glittering in his left earlobe, introduced Lanois, who with vocalist Trixie Whitley, serenaded Blackwell with an original song called "Surely You Were Meant To Be Mine."
In front of projections of classic Island Records album covers from Stevie Winwood, Bob Marley and Roxy Music, Blackwell said unabashedly, "I was a borderline groupie — my favorite time was in the studio. I love the fact that you can spend a week on a record that runs three minutes and 22 seconds."
GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer/mixer Ed Cherney (Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones) added context to the event: "A decade ago, me, Elliot Scheiner, Phil Ramone, Al Schmitt, George Massenburg, Chuck Ainlay, and others put together the Music Producers Guild. We brought our 400 members to The Academy and it became the P&E Wing, now with 6,800 members. Tonight is a celebration of all the unsung heroes who make sure that the magic of music gets captured."
(To view photos from Catch A Fire and other GRAMMY Week events, click here.)