Thursday, June 12, 2008

The "Windows" Recording - By Jack Wilkins

For this discussion I’d like to take you back in time to 1972! (A long time ago). It was my first recording under my own name for the Mainstream label. I had just finished a session with saxophone great Paul Jeffrey- his album “Watershed” was from 1971.My record “Windows” was released in ’73. It featured Michael Moore on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums. The guitar I was using at the time was an old Gibson L7 from I think 1951. It was in bad shape with all kinds of scratches and nicks. A pickup was drilled into the body so it wasn’t worth anything to the vintage collectors. It had a very long and worthy past and was one of the best sounding instruments I ever played.

Mainstream produced most of their recordings at the old Mercury studios on West 57th street. It was a rather large room and with just a trio in session, I felt at first that it would be much too echoing. The amp I was using was an old Ampeg GT10. Very big and booming. A forerunner to the Roland Jazz Chorus with two 12-inch speakers. My concern was for real. The first take we did sounded awful! Very washed out because of the echo. Since producer Bob Shad was not at the session because of some family problem, it was up to me to find a way to make this work. It was in fact the only recording I ever performed without a producer. (Except for Jazz Guitar Christmas). I was lucky enough to have Ernie Wilkins (no relation) on the recording console. He was very agreeable to any suggestions on how we could make a go of this. I thought we should play as soft as possible without sacrificing the playing. I turned that amp down to about a 2. (Not eleven!) I had Ernie raise the volume in our headphones and we nailed it. We finished the whole session in 6 hours. An hour a tune. After a little layering, we had an unmixed recording.

The mixing part was the most fun I can remember in a studio. Still minus Bob Shad, I had all the time I needed to experiment with sounds and dynamics. When a phrase I played was a little bit lost in the low register, I simply raised it up in the mix! How simple is that? I added some snazzy EQ on the solo of “Red Clay”. It was a very satisfying experience for us all. We managed to take a possible disaster and turn into a winner. I still say that session is one of the best recorded of all my solo and sideman sessions.

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