Producing the Modern.

Since the 60’s, “jazz culture” has been in constant distress attempting to come to terms with the what trends would be considered a development of the genre; especially as so many new musicians challenged widely held conventions. Not surprisingly, the same long standing point of contention has also caused a rift in the philosophy of how to properly capture, record, and produce a jazz recording. Does the belief in natural/pure performance necessarily mean that the recordist must be completely minimalist in his approach. Does the mix stage of the production loose value? The attitude of a large majority of mix engineers reflects the ideology that the ideal jazz recording is a stark and true representation of the performance so as not to get in the way or alter the intended dynamics of the group. This, of course, varies quite considerably when considering the many different styles but is a widely held stereotype none-the-less. Compared to the pillars the of modern pop recording (such as the Lord-Alge brothers, Brendan O’Brien, and Andy Wallace) the jazz recordist may seem elementary in his/her mixing approach and must instead be a master of the tracking session primarily. However, this is simply wrong. What is not understood is the necessity of interpretation. The carefully crafted and fragile performance will loose all emotional intensity when translated onto loudspeakers without the skills of the engineer. This is what makes audio engineering a true art-form; the engineer who believes that a lack of production on a jazz record is always the best way to convey the artistry of the performance is acting on a pretentious thought process. Necessity must govern the recordists art. As Wagner states, “art is born out of necessity” and the recording process is its own form of communication. If the recording truly benefits from minimal mixing then that is what is appropriate. However, in the contemporary studio environment the performance may often benefit from an extensive mix; whether this “extensive” mix is subtle or aggressive is the actual question. Sweetening and trimming may involve considerable editing and processing but is not easily heard as a defining element of the recording. On the other hand, aggressive mix moves which can be audibly identified by the average listener are often reserved for pop music. With jazz in its current state the aggressive mix and use of modern recording techniques (such as full isolation during tracking) is becoming a more necessary element in the development of jazz in popular culture. Young audiences do not crave antiquity but appreciate culture through entertainment which invokes response/reaction; and recordings are the primary form of musical dissemination. How could the whispers of the quartet be expected to move the young listener unless they are amplified to stand next to the overbearing and often laughable trends of popular music today. The fear and bitterness that emanates from many traditionalists are the weaknesses that such a powerful music must overcome. If jazz hopes to survive as an influential art form, not only must the music advance but the production as well.