Streisand At the Vanguard

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

RARE PERFORMANCE SHOWCASES AN INTIMATE SOUND, NEW ALBUM

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Streisand performed for an elite audience at the Village Vanguard.

Streisand performed for an elite audience at the Village Vanguard.

Mix magazine's behind-the-scenes access to Barbra Streisand's performance at the Village Vanguard came from Jim Flynn, whose Jim Flynn Rentals (JFR) provided most of the equipment used to capture the concert. After 15 years in business, serving many of New York City's big-name studios, JFR is also the audio resource for ABC-TV's Good Morning America program and numerous other broadcast/recording events.
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In 1961, Barbra Streisand took the stage at the Village Vanguard, Max Gordon's once-eclectic music club in New York City's Greenwich Village that had gone all-jazz four years earlier. It was an audition for Gordon, set up by a mutual friend who also managed to coax Miles Davis and his group to back her. Gordon was reportedly unimpressed. Two years later, Streisand's debut album won two Grammy Awards.

At the time, Streisand was building a reputation in the Village as a rising star on the scene, singing in clubs like The Lion and The Bon Soir. Forty-eight years later, Streisand is now the Number One best-selling female recording artist in history, with 50 Gold, 30 Platinum and 13 multi-Platinum albums, and a slew of Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Golden Globe Awards. In recent years, Streisand's concerts have filled arenas, but on a warm evening last September, 120 or so people crammed themselves into the Village Vanguard — now one of New York City's most venerable jazz venues — to hear Streisand celebrate the release of Love Is the Answer, her new album of jazz standards and classics.

There to capture this singular event was Jim Flynn, Streisand's executive producer/A&R liaison Jay Landers, and engineer/mixers Dave Reitzas and Isaiah Abolin. Flynn supplied most of the recording gear through his company and had also scouted the club with Abolin for several months leading up to the show, choosing equipment and plotting cable runs. Abolin, whose discography ranges from the two most recent Mars Volta albums to cast recordings of The Little Mermaid and West Side Story, had been suggested to Landers (also an executive producer and A&R executive for Bette Midler) a couple of months earlier through a mutual friend. Reitzas, whose work on live and studio recordings with Streisand since 1993 has earned 10 Grammy Award nominations — and who is well-known for his work with artists including Madonna, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Natalie Cole and Ricky Martin — came onboard closer to show time. Two assistant engineers, Derik Lee and Jesse Singer, were also on the crew.

“Old-Time” Microphone

The team recorded to a Digidesign Pro Tools HD3 system, backing everything up to a Tascam X-48 hard disk recorder using a 100-foot 32-channel snake that ran from stage boxes in the club to an All Mobile Video trailer shell that they would use as the remote control room. “We wanted to keep all the cable runs to a minimum to avoid degrading the signal,” says Flynn, who prefers to keep cable runs between mic pre's and recording system under two meters. “One main concern was having a home run directly from [Streisand's] microphone to a separate splitter.”

Inside the club, Flynn, Abolin and Reitzas conferred on microphone choices. Reitzas brought with him an Audio-Technica AE5400 handheld condenser mic. “I did the recording for Barbra's 1994, 2000 and 2006 concerts, and the FOH mixer had been using a Sennheiser microphone with a Neumann capsule in it, but I always had a problem with it in terms of rejection, and this gig was going to be in a very small club with her right in there with the musicians,” Reitzas explains. “So for this show, I decided to use something else, and the 5400 sounded nice and full, with great presence and good rejection qualities. No leakage at all.” Flynn adds that the choice of a wired vocal microphone was deliberate. “It was part of re-creating the 1960s ambience of the club,” he says. Streisand actually commented on it from stage during the show, referring to it as an “old-time wired microphone.”

Abolin chose eight Millennia HD-3V mic pre's, in part for their sound and because they could be easily stacked, as well as the fact that they could send a split of the signal to the Mackie 1604 mixer that would be used to make a stereo mix to be sent to two channels of the Pro Tools rig and to the video crew's cameras. The All Mobile Video unit was quite cramped, but at least it presented an isolated space where the team could monitor the recording; an earlier plan was to try to record from the club itself, whose sound booth Flynn described as “a closet.” “The remote unit was small, so we knew there was no chance of having a real console to sit behind, but at least I would be out of the club and off of headphones,” Abolin says.






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