Superstar Quartet at SFJAZZ Center

May 1, 2014 9:00 AM, By Matt Gallagher

Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Billy Hart, Joey DeFrancesco In Concert


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photo of SFJAZZ Center

From left: Joey DeFrancesco, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Hart, David Sanborn

In late February Mix caught an inspired concert in SFJAZZ Center’s Miner Auditorium (profiled in Mix’s April 2013 issue), presented by vibraphonist and NEA Jazz Master Bobby Hutcherson, saxophonist David Sanborn, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart. Billed as the Superstar Quartet, the four musicians enraptured the audience with original songs from their forthcoming album on Blue Note Records, Enjoy The View, due to be released on June 24.

Visiting front-of-house engineer Steve Guest, who came to work with the Superstar Quartet by way of his experience with Sanborn, mixed his second set of shows in the venue one year after his first visit. “This is a great place to do a jazz show—one of the best in the world,” he says.

Audio engineer Masanori Yura, a 2009 Grammy Award winner for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, is SFJAZZ Center’s head audio engineer and works with visiting engineers. “This is an easy room to mix, but also an easy room to mess up,” Yura laughs, “because you can hear everything. Of course, it is important to produce a quality sound and balanced mix, but mixing at the right volume is [just] as crucial, and I think that Steve was right on it and did a great job maintaining the comfortable level, still powerful enough to feel the energy from the stage. We don’t want the audience to listen to the P.A. [which is a Meyer Sound system]. We want the audience to listen to the music as all the sound coming from the stage. Keep it organic!”

Guest adds, “There are many times during the show when there are hardly any microphones open other than the vibe mics, because it’s predominantly acoustic. I only fill in some holes. Dave is usually in the P.A. The vibes are always in the P.A. The drums and the Leslie mics [a pair of KM 184s] come up and down, depending on how dynamic the song is.

"The room is so nice, acoustically, I’m not really putting a full mix up in the P.A.," Guest continues. "If someone’s focus is what’s coming out of there [the loudspeakers], as opposed to what’s coming from there [the stage], then I think that’s wrong. Your focus should always be there [the stage]. It’s almost like I shouldn’t be heard, which is counterintuitive! I want the sound system to go away, to disappear, and you’re just listening to a band play. It’s not completely like that, but that’s what you shoot for. And if you get close to it I think people enjoy themselves more because they’re just taking in the music and they’re not listening to a sound system. It's a better illusion!" [Laughs]

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