Dianne Reeves | Crooning With Strings

Mar 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Candace Horgan

DIANNE REEVES PERFORMS ONE-OFF WITH COLORADO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

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Handling monitor duties is Bret Dowlen (of Dowlen Sound), who is mixing on a Paragon P2 for the wedge-only stage musicians.

Handling monitor duties is Bret Dowlen (of Dowlen Sound), who is mixing on a Paragon P2 for the wedge-only stage musicians.

Boothe, who does “production du jour,” had some experience with the SD7, as well as the SD8, from previous tours in Europe. “We don’t travel with production at all,” he says. “We don’t even carry instruments. Guitar player carries a guitar, we carry cymbals, and that’s it. We have production du jour, backline du jour every day, and I’m blessed that I get to work with every desk that’s out there. The SD7 and SD8 are desks that I don’t work on a lot, but the ergonomics of them are friendly, unlike some. There hasn’t had to be a lot study. Of course, I don’t know the inner workings; the techs come in and take care of all the routing and all that so I don’t deal with much of the guts, the hardcore uses of the machine, but for the top layer it’s easy to move around on and it sounds good.”

Boothe didn’t use much in the way of effects on the SD7, except for some compression on Reeves’ vocal. The hall itself is difficult to mix in.

“Tonight, the room is the effect; I wish I had a reverb sucker,” Boothe says with a laugh. “I just finished doing a chamber orchestra tour with a pianist named Brad Mehldau, and he has a record out called The Highway Rider. We did a bunch of shows in Europe, and again it was production du jour. We had three orchestras on the tour but many nights in a row with the same orchestra, which helps, and I used the SD8 a couple of times over there. You’re not seeing another console that has the gang feature that has the sonic quality of the SD8. What a godsend that is.

Although there were close to 100 mics onstage, about half of those were used for the eventual broadcast in DTS 5.1; the others were used for SR in the hall.

Although there were close to 100 mics onstage, about half of those were used for the eventual broadcast in DTS 5.1; the others were used for SR in the hall.

“This room presents a lot of challenges,” Boothe continues. “The engineer here, Aric [Christensen], has done a great job balancing the P.A., so it’s made it really easy for me to come in and mix and be somewhat accurate. It’s a mono mix. Typically when I mix orchestras, and I typically do 30 orchestra shows a year, I do a lot of shameless panning because orchestras are that way acoustically; it’s not mono by any stretch. It helps when you can do that to reinforce an orchestra when you use hard panning of the mics. It’s a lot less demanding on the mix. You can get a lot more leeway, but when you have a mono mix of a whole orchestra and a band, that involves everyone coming out of the same speaker and you’ve got to multiply it all over the room. You have to really careful. Aric has done a good job of making that a possibility.”

One concession to carrying gear that Boothe makes is a Neumann KMS 105 microphone for Reeves, which he feels is one of the best for her dynamic vocal technique. “She has an incredible instrument—absolutely incredible, huge instrument,” he says. “And she uses the mic like a lot of other vocalists, but she has the instrument that can allow her to sing a foot-and-a-half to two feet off the microphone and not totally be a catastrophe. She will also get right up on the microphone, but she knows when to do that. She has really good microphone technique, but the 105 is one of the only microphones I’ve found that allows her to have that freedom.”

Reeves’ backing band included pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Terreon Gully and guitarist Peter Sprague, in addition to the CSO. The quartet required monitors, as did the orchestra’s percussion and the brass sections. In charge of mixing was Bret Dowlen of Dowlen Sound. The wedges were proprietary ones built by Dowlen Sound using a 12-inch and a 2-inch driver.

“Monitoring is on wedges for this application because that is what Dianne is most comfortable with,” Dowlen explains. “There are five out there for her and her musicians. It’s pretty simple; they’re not asking for much and they’re nice people so it’s been a good day.”

Dowlen mixes on a Paragon P2 desk, and found the mixing relatively simple as the musicians were not very demanding in what they wanted. “Wedges get louder than the orchestra, so the real challenge is trying to get them to be happy at much lower volumes than they might be happy with normally,” Dowlen says. “I kind of get the impression from the way they play together that they are jazz guys and listen to each other pretty well, and maybe monitors aren’t as critical to them as rock guys.

“Dianne’s getting her vocal, a little bit of piano and a tiny bit of guitar,” Dowlen continues. “The drummer really isn’t getting very much: a little bit of vocal, little bit of bass, little bit of guitar and a tiny bit of piano. The guitar player has a bit of her, some of the other vocals; they each sing on three songs so they each have a little bit of each other and themselves for when they sing. The piano player is getting a tiny bit of piano, a little bit of her and a tiny bit of guitar because they are kind of spaced far apart onstage. The bass player, he was the most particular of the bunch. I got his bass finally sounding the way he wanted it to, and we added a little bit of guitar and a tiny bit of Dianne, plus a tiny bit of the other guy’s vocals and tiny bit of his vocals, and that’s it for him.”

An estimated 1.5 million listeners heard the DTS Neural Surround broadcast on Christmas Eve 2010.


Candace Horgan is a Denver-based writer.






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