SESSION SPOTLIGHT

Jun 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Gary Eskow

Polls


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Twenty-five years of success in the recording business is an exceptional achievement, especially if you're still under 40 when you hit that milestone. But that's how it is for James Lloyd, keyboardist and musical director of the smooth jazz band, Pieces of a Dream. Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon founded the Philadelphia band while they were teenagers and have kept the group active ever since.

To celebrate their silver anniversary, Pieces of a Dream released a new album, Acquainted With the Night, their first on the Heads Up International label. Most of the tracks were developed in Lloyd's project room and completed at The Studio in Philadelphia — owned by the noted string arranger and musician Larry Gold — with Jeff Chestek handling the engineering duties.

Lloyd's studio centers around a Mackie 32×8 analog console, Mackie HR 824 monitors and a Roland VS-880 digital recorder, which he uses for writing purposes only. “I lean heavily on my MPC 2000, and lately I've really gotten into the Roland VP-9000 variphrase processor,” he says. “I like the fact that you can adjust pitch and time independently. I processed both drum and vocal tracks with it.”

Lloyd brought his rack, which includes three keyboards (Korg Triton and SG Pro and a Roland XP-80), the MPC 2000 and an Alesis QSR synth module into The Studio, and over a two-day period, dropped songs to 2-inch tape. “It does take time to drop to tape. Some songs had as many as five kick drums and maybe six or seven snares. I used all eight outputs of the MPC during each pass, but the time still adds up.

“After we dropped, we started doing overdubs. At times, we were using both Studios A and B. Gerald Albright was laying horn overdubs on the tune we co-wrote “Off the Hook” in one room, while vocals on some of the songs were being tracked in the other.”

Although everything was tracked to 2-inch and all mixing was done in that medium, Pro Tools was also used during the process, according to Jeff Chestek. “We made slaves on Pro Tools. First we filled up one 2-inch reel, and then we dumped these tracks into Pro Tools. The Pro Tools station was then slaved to the 2-inch machine, which we used to keep tracking. When it came time to mix, we slaved the 2-inch machines together and worked off of the original analog tapes.”

Many engineers these days like to track to 2-inch and immediately drop to Pro Tools, looking to avoid the wear and tear of multiple rewinds and playbacks on tape. “That's the way I prefer to work,” says Chestek. “I personally have no problem mixing with Pro Tools. If you use good converters on the way in — we have Apogee AD-8000s — the sound is very nice. On this project, we mixed off the multitracks. We used an SSL E Series console. The Studio is getting ready to install an [SSL] J Series console in several months. We really like the sound of that board.”

For more info on Pieces of a Dream, check out their Website at www.piecesjazz.com.






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