Music: Charlie Hunter

Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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McNair: “So the record is actually mono except for the return from an EMT plate and then just a hair — a tiny bit — of a pair of East German Neumanns we used as room mics.”

Miking on the instruments was also kept simple. “I only used three mics on the drums,” McNair says. “A [Neumann] 47 on the overhead; a 47 kind of behind the floor toms — almost like a Glyn Johns thing, but maybe a little higher than that, looking at the floor tom and the ride cymbal — and then an M49 about two feet from the bass drum, no hole. No snare mic, no hi-hat mic, no tom mics.” The two trombones “each played into either side of an RCA 44 ribbon; the trumpet was a Coles [ribbon].”

As for Hunter's custom Jeff Traugott 7-string axe — which has three bass strings and then four strings, “like the middle four strings on a regular guitar,” he says — that constitutes two channels. McNair explains, “He's got a pickup on it so the bottom three strings go to a separate output and it's pretty discrete — you can hear a tiny bit of guitar in it but not much.

“[The bass signal] went to an Ampeg SVT, just used as a head, and powered [to] a closed single cabinet — it's a box with a speaker in it and you put the mic in there. I think I had a condenser — maybe a TLM 170 — in there. No direct; just the mic on the internal cabinet, no EQ. Then the guitar signal went to Charlie's [Wayne Jones/Headstrong blueprinted Fender] Deluxe, and I put an RCA 44 ribbon on that. The only other mics were the room mics, which were spaced on either side of the control room window.”

All mics went straight into Brooklyn's Steve Firlotte/Inward Connections-designed 10-channel Vac Rac re-creations of Bill Putnam's United Western tube preamps, “no EQ whatsoever,” McNair says. “Then we took the output of the rotary fader and put [it] into the cleanest insert point in the Neve so I could have faders in front of me, and I put a Pendulum Audio Variable-Mu 6386 — a little bit of that — on the quasi-stereo, and that was it; no compressor on the bass, guitar, horns. I put a little bit of a Purple Audio 1176 on the 47 overhead and that was it. Then we went to 15 ips [Ampex ATR-102] half-inch, no noise reduction.”

Recording took place on two different days: The first was devoted to setup and capturing a couple of songs that feature just Hunter and drummer Kalb; the second was the full quintet. There are no overdubs at all on the album, and even McNair's original notion of comping together performances at convenient edit points from different takes went out the window (except for the title track, which comes from two takes). “It was all so well-played it just became a question of which performance was the best,” McNair says.

Hunter says he was happy to leave the take selection to McNair, noting, “Once I play it, I trust it to others to know what to do with it. Dave's very musical, so I had no trouble putting it in his hands.”

And as for the mono(ish) 2-track experiment? “I liked it,” Hunter says. “I can definitely picture doing that again.”

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