Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet: 'In the Beginning, Volumes 1 & 2'

Oct 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By Matt Gallagher


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photo of Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet

From left: John Ellis, Jason Marshall, Ed Cherry, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Kwame Bell, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Jonathan Blake, Andy Gravish

Hammond B3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith teamed up with alto saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith (a former member of the Dap-Kings) to re-imagine some of Dr. Smith’s earliest recorded songs for In the Beginning, Volumes 1 & 2, which was released on October 15 on Dr. Smith’s Pilgrimage Productions label. Following five decades with appearances on more than 70 albums, Dr. Smith revisited 12 original songs from his first 10 years as a recording artist.

“People keep asking me about these tunes,” Dr. Smith says, “why I don’t play them and how come they can’t find them. Basically I think it was time for that. This album was a long time coming.”

Co-producer Hendrickson-Smith assembled a band of New York City musicians—Ed Cherry (guitar), Jonathan Blake (drums), Little Johnny Rivero (congas), Andy Gravish (trumpet), John Ellis (tenor and bass clarinet), and Jason Marshall (baritone sax)—and convened three recording dates at Forrest Sound & Vision (FS&V), which was located in a converted Ford Model T factory in Long Island City, Queens; since this album was completed, FS&V has moved into a different space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The studio and event space in Queens had a 25x75-foot main room, two isolation booths, and high ceilings with skylights. FS&V makes its collection of instruments and amplifiers available for recording sessions.

Audiences attended each session. “We set it up like a nightclub,” Hendrickson-Smith says. “Lonnie loved it. The way he plays in front of a crowd brings out a certain charisma and fire. We felt that was the best way to capture his music.”

Engineer and FS&V owner Glen Forrest recorded the octet through a TL Audio M4 tube console to 1-inch tape on a 16-track Tascam MS-16 using numerous ribbon mics and outboard that included Neve, Altec, Telefunken, Universal Audio and TubeTech.

“We had 16 channels to record an 8-piece band,” Hendrickson-Smith says. “We essentially set up like you would play a live show—Doc straight in the center, and then the rhythm section around his left-hand side. Then we just splayed the horns across the other side of the stage, so the band was circling Lonnie. And every guy had his own channel.

“I would say 90 percent of the mics on that recording are ribbons,” he continues. “On the drums, believe it or not, we had one overhead, one mic kind of near the snare and the hi-hat, and then one mic on the kick. But the mix of the drum sound is like 90 percent that one mic, just the overhead, a beyer 160. It’s an amazing drum mic. Then one mic for the congas, one mic for the guitar, an RCA BK5—it’s a [ribbon] mic made shortly after the RCA 77, very directional, lots of rejection. And then on Lonnie we had a direct for the bass and a mic on the bass, then two mics on the cabinet. And then one mic in the room; I believe it was an AKG 414 in omni. And then a vocal mic. But really that’s it, essentially a channel for each guy.

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