DJA out in blaze of glory (at least for a minute) and home jazz recording

Darcy is putting his Secret Society blog on a bit of a hiatus. He’s acting like he has to actually do some work or something. His most recent post however links to enough stuff to keep you reading until May anyway. I won’t link to all of it, just go over there and see for your self.

One discussion that I would like to add to is the one about home recording as it relates to jazz. It started with Daniel Melnick, who writes at Soundslope. He wrote:

What it really made me think about and wonder is if jazz has moved towards having more home based recording environments, as many rock musicians and producers have, and if it hasn’t, why is that the case? Recording technology keeps getting cheaper, so why is the studio even in the equation? I wonder if it has something to do with the technical difficulties of recording jazz. I would assume, based on my own rudimentary knowledge of microphones and recording technology, that making a good jazz recording requires a higher level of mastery than the average home recordist possesses. Nevertheless, I think it makes sense for jazz artists to look beyond the traditional studio environment as a means of making records if there is really value in being able to spend more time recording.

Then DJA replied:

A few factors that may partially explain why home-recorded albums don’t happen more frequently in jazz: [1] Lo-fi, as an aesthetic, lacks widespread acceptance in jazz circles — when you’re recording acoustic instruments, there really is no substitute for a good recording engineer using good mics in a really good space. [2] The buy-in and setup costs for a home studio, while falling, are still well beyond the means of many jazz musicians, especially young artists … [3] In New York, at least, many if not most musicians do not live in spaces where they can play (especially when there is a drummer invovled). [4] As a corollary to [3], many New York musician apartments are barely large enough to serve as functional living spaces as it is. Where are you going to put the home studio?) [5] The number of home-recorded commercially-released nonjazz CDs is vastly exaggerated — unless you count things like Prince records as “home recorded,” which is obviously absurd. The overwhelming majority of successful and semi-successful albums are still cut in professional recording studios.

To me the biggest issue is that you can’t record jazz one player at a time. I could pretty easily cut a pop tune on the gear I already have here in my house, especially if I used programmed drum sounds, and I don’t have a huge setup here. It would be much harder to do a jazz record, because I can’t have the bass player play, then track the sax, then the trombone, etc. It is also very hard to engineer and play any sort of session, and that is just magnified on a jazz session. There are two very different types of mental focus required, and they almost cannot exist concurrently. If I were doing a home CD with my rock band one of the other guys could engineer while I laid my parts.

I have done one album completely DIY on my laptop with two mics, but it is a duet album with only trombone and guitar. Not having to record drums makes DIY much easier. It is a download only release, and you can check it out here. Interestingly, that album is the only project that I have done that was in the black in any sort of reasonable time after its release, because it cost nada to make.

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