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The Article "Modern Drummer Magazine" Refused to Publish
Alfred Nobel And The Invention of The Microphone"
Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of twelve GRAMMY Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.
Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony.
As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the same orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several GRAMMY nominations (1979, 1980) and a GRAMMY (1979). Read more...
I strongly believe that technology is here to help the art form, not to overwhelm it, but tragically, with a very few, each day more and more scarce exceptions, the invention of the microphone, that is credited to the German Emile Berliner in 1876,
Inventor of the microphone
The Inventor of Dynamite
has resulted almost as damaging as the dynamite by Alfred Nobel, that both have been used and abused into creating irreversible material destruction by the later, as well as serious damages in the good taste of listeners by Berliner’s artificial amplification device. All of that with the support of sound engineers and the consent of the musicians –some of them talented professionals–, that increasingly ask for more and more volume in their reference speakers, and consequently into the house. It seems like if we’ve all reached the conclusion that the louder, the music is heard better, the volume is supposed to be a synonym with energy, and the one that screams more is the one that wins. Doesn’t it go that way?” How sad!
I have witnessed the volume and reverb go up so high on Dave Valentin’s flute, that it converted his gorgeous, natural sound into a synthesizer, more appropriate for a Heavy Metal band, than to play “Obsesion”, the beautiful Pedro Florez classic and classy tune he and his many fans enjoy so much. Nowadays the circus, the unnatural pyrotechnics, the addiction to gimmicks for provoking easy applauses, bad taste and that excessive volume have hit Jazz and popular music as a tsunami, so everything now is forte and fortissimo.
Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer
A few years ago the legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who made all those famous recordings for Impulse, Blue Note, CTI and Atlantic with Coltrane, Monk, Hubbard, Rollins, Miles, Lee Morgan and all those hip jazzmen of the 50’s and 60’s, had the guts to say – I believe it was in a Down Beat interview – that “ Jazz pianists don’t want or don’t know how to get a decent sound on the piano”.
And to certain point he was right since it is really difficult to find jazz pianists with the elegant, delicate, yet swinging sound of Kenny Baron,
or Bill Evans,
and there is no doubt that some of the fault lies on the drummers that everyday play loud and louder, forcing the pianists to bang on the keys, to ask for more volume on their wedges and thus destroying the inherent acoustic character of the instrument.
( I bet that was one of the reasons that Nat “King” Cole, many times didn’t use a drummer in his trio). “Give me more piano on my monitor” is the usual request, and my answer is always another simple question: Why don’t you play more softly so that you can hear what the “freakin” pianist is playing…You left the brushes at home or what?
The great Argentinean pianist Jorge Dalto was convinced that drummers were carriers of the “original sin”, and when they did play another way –meaning softly and tastefully–, it was with great effort and going against their nature. “Otherwise they would have taken up the harp or the violoncello, no?”, he would say half in jest.
I think Dalto was exaggerating a little bit, since still you are able to find drummers like Ben Riley,
95% of hearing loss is irreversible
"Impeccable musical balance"
Modern Jazz Quartet
The drum set, as well as the brass and even the saxophones, are instruments that have strong sonorous presence, so I think that by having that in mind all the time would make a big difference in balance and finesse.
–“If you can’t hear the guy next to you, you’re playing too loud. That’s the only way to play in tune…”–, is a sentence I hear since my early days at the conservatory. But how in heaven can I listen and play in tune with the guy next to me if I am not even able to hear my own horn with all that noise around me? And then we have the bass players, that since the electric bass emerged on the scene, many of them think that they’re always playing with KISS, Metallica or Deep Purple. Usually they ally with the drummers, and I even think that they buy earplugs together, in sets of four, so that in between themselves can have some fun while make life unbearable to the rest of the musicians.
Wynton Marsalis told me once that he thought that mikes are here to enhance the music, not to cover it.
So probably, that's why they have removed even the contact microphone from the contrabass of Carlitos Henriquez ( I love his walking bass!) in teh JALC orchestra, so drummers have to come down to hear what his partner in the rhythm is doing.
Of course, this thingabout turned off mikes applies primarily to indoor concerts, and I also believed in this concept, until certain evening, at the amphitheatre of our annual Jazz Festival in Punta del Este, trumpet player Terrance Blanchard ordered the removal of all the microphones, including that of exquisite pianist Ed Simmon. And guest what: miraculously, everything was heard crystal clear and with tremendous energy and swing. The only thing required was to be quiet and listen with attention, as that is what music was invented for in the first place, isn't it?
This is an article I mailed to George V Johnson Jr a few days ago that I thought all musicians, sound engineers, club owners, concert producers and fans should read. Enjoy the music and conversation~~~Jimmy Heath