Trustees Award: Rudy Van Gelder

Fusion star Jeff Lorber pays tribute to innovative jazz engineer
  • Photo: © Mosaic Images/CORBIS
    Rudy Van Gelder
  • Photo: Dr. Billy Ingram/
    Jeff Lorber
February 01, 2012 -- 3:32 pm PST
By Jeff Lorber /

As a young music student at Berklee College of Music in 1970, I started to buy what was considered the classic jazz music library and started a lifelong love of music that still sounds as alive and creative today as it did when it was recorded. Later, as I started to pay more attention to the credits of these records, one credit stood out: "Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey." Obviously, Englewood Cliffs was a magical place where all kinds of amazing recording took place. Horace Silver's Song For My Father and Blowin' The Blues AwaySidewinder by Lee Morgan; Life Time by Tony Williams; The Prisoner and Speak Like A Child by Herbie Hancock; The Real McCoy and Tender Moments by McCoy Tyner; Joe Henderson's early records; Freddie Hubbard; Miles; and the list goes on ... and on! These are records that I loved then and I still can’t get enough of listening to.

Of course, the amazing cover artwork of the Blue Note classics helped establish that label as the gold standard of jazz, but without the inspired music and superb recording techniques of Rudy Van Gelder, no one would have noticed. I'm sure that Rudy's training as an optometrist helped him master the new technology of recording and the fine adjustments that are required by a master recording professional and mixer. He astutely chose his tools carefully as newly invented microphones and recording gear became available.

Rudy went on to record and mix an unprecedented number of jazz classics, including works by Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and Thelonious Monk, among others. He even recorded most of the albums released by Creed Taylor's CTI Records, which were a bit more in the pop and R&B directions, and pointed the way to a more modern style of jazz music production.

I'm glad to report that Rudy is still busy recording. The legacy of the brilliant jazz records he helped bring to life only seems to gain importance as time goes on.

(Four-time GRAMMY nominee Jeff Lorber was a major force in jazz fusion in the '70s, '80s and beyond as a solo artist and as the architect of Jeff Lorber Fusion. Jeff Lorber Fusion's latest album, Galaxy, was released in January.)

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 54th GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 2012 Special Merit Awards recipients.

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