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Northeast U.S. News & Notes

Water Music Recording Studios — Hoboken, N.J.

Water Music Recording Studios recently acquired a legendary piano to replace its former legendary piano, which was lost due to flooding from Hurricane Sandy. “We do a lot of high-end jazz, classical and film scoring, so the piano is a big deal to our clients,” says Rob Grenoble, Water Music owner. “Finding a replacement took many months. It was an international search. We finally found an incredible piano in New Orleans—thanks to John O’Brien—that has been widely praised since it arrived. It was legendary in New Orleans: Herbie Hancock used it. Allen Toussaint wouldn’t record on anything else. Dr. John, Jon Cleary, Fats Domino, Ellis Marsalis, David Torkanowsky…everybody used it.”

John O’Brien has been rebuilding/restoring/taking care of pianos for more than 30 years, and is the chief go-to piano guy for the likes of Daniel Lanois, Paul Allen, Roberta Flack, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. When Grenoble was in need of a new, stellar piano, he reached out to O’Brien. “Years ago, I was out in L.A. looking for a Disklavier,” O’Brien says. “The dealer I went to had at least 20 C7 pianos, including used ones. I’d decided on a used one, and for three days I kept going back to the showroom to play all the Yamahas there, and I was set on buying a used one. The new ones were very expensive, and the sales guy kept suggesting I try a new one. Finally, I sat down to play a new one, and within 30 seconds, it destroyed the one I’d been eyeing. This one had something really special, so I knew I had to get it.”

Rocking Horse Studio — Pittsfield, N.H.

Artists recording “Do They Know It’s Christmas” at Rocking Horse.

Over the past two years, Rocking Horse Studio has become an integral part of the burgeoning New Hampshire music scene, promoting concerts and working with radio to raise the profile of local artists.

Producer/engineer/studio owner Brian Coombes contributes weekly to the Cail and Company show on WTPL-FM in Concord, N.H. Host Ken Cail and Coombes select local artists as a Pick of the Week. The artists are played on-air and invited to the station to perform and discuss their careers. The Pick of the Week feature began in early March 2013 and has become one of the most successful segments on the station.

The studio is also working with ABC-TV’s Manchester affiliate, WMUR, on a one-hour Christmas special to air in December. The show, which features the best of the New Hampshire music scene performing traditional and modern holiday favorites, was recorded and filmed at Rocking Horse Studio in November. The music was recorded by Rocking Horse house engineer Josh Kimball and produced by Coombes. Artists include the Dusty Gray Band, Pat Gochez & the Hats, Will Kindler, Rachel Vogelzang, Karen Grenier, Chris Peters, the Four Legged Faithful, MB Padfield, and Tristan Omand, among others. Rocking Horse session musicians Eric Wagley (drums), Joey Pierog (bass), Myron Kibbee (guitar), Matt Jensen (guitar), Rick Black (piano), Coombes (Hammond/Mellotron), Richard Gardzina (woodwinds), Tim Gray (percussion), and Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki (fiddle) acted as the house band for the show.

In other studio news, former Tower of Power lead singer William Edward McGee is currently in the studio working on a new solo album with Coombes, featuring appearances by Rocking Horse Studio session men Wagley, Pierog and Kibbee on drums, bass and guitar, respectively.

Additionally, Rocking Horse Studio’s Control Room B went online in July 2013. The new control room/editing suite features Pro Tools HD Native, a Soundcraft Ghost console, and outboard gear from Focusrite, Retro and Chandler.

The Gearbox — Paramus, N.J.

Ryan Ball

The Gearbox is a two-room, mid-scale studio built into the home of owner-engineer Ryan Ball. The Gearbox prides itself on a handpicked collection of outboard gear, featuring pieces by Avalon and Summit, as well as an extensive collection of vintage keys, including a Fender Rhodes Stage 73, Hohner Clavinet, Sequential Circuits Pro-One and Hammond CV. Tape is also popular, with the Toft ATB24 being a central part of tracking and mixing on every project.

Recently, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band—one of the nation’s top children’s music acts, who have been featured on Nickelodeon’s Jack’s Big Music Show—visited The Gearbox to work on The Dirty Socks Come Clean. The project was produced by Mike Messer and engineered by Messer, Sean Dixon and Ball (with Ball also on mixing duties), mixed to ¼-inch tape using a hybrid technique via Digital Performer, three Apogee Rosetta 800s and the Toft ATB24 console.

Showplace Studios — Dover, N.J.

Ben Elliott

Showplace Studios recently completed a tribute to Les Paul titled Thank You Les, a collaborative effort between Lou Pallo and Showplace Music Productions (a subsidiary of Showplace Studios). Pallo had performed with Les weekly in New York City for more than three decades. “These were the infamous ‘Les Paul Mondays,’ which took place in a small jazz club and continually drew A-listers from Tony Bennett to Jimmy Page,” says Ben Elliott, producer/engineer and co-owner of Showplace. “Together with Lou and my business partner, Joni Forte, we decided to create a recording and documentary that would give fans insight to the genius and humor of Les Paul through the eyes and ears of those who knew him best. Almost all of the 21 tracks recorded, plus interviews, took place at Showplace Studios. Sound was everything to Les Paul. We recorded and mixed analog using mainly vintage equipment to produce the best possible sound, in Les’ spirit.

“Once we had the concept, it snowballed,” Elliott continues. “Every member of Les Paul’s Trio, during Lou’s 30-year tenure, provided rhythm for the recording. This included four upright bass players, one pianist and a guitarist. It was quite an experience to have the wide array of artists participate that we did. Some, like Steve Miller [Les’ godson, who provided the album’s liner notes], had never been to Showplace. Being a well-respected musician’s musician, Lou was able to get everyone on the phone, and session dates were set with a film crew. We covered more than 100 hours of video and edited it down to a 60-minute documentary with bonus features and music videos.” In addition to Miller and Richards, other artists featured include Slash, Billy Gibbons, Eddie Brigati (The Rascals), Jose Feliciano and Bucky Pizzarelli. The documentary and the CD won three 12th Annual Independent Music Awards, and the documentary has been and will continue to be broadcast on PBS.

Presence Studios — Weston, Conn.

Aaron Russell (left) shows off the facility’s new Fairlight Xynergi DAW while Jon Russell is seen with one of the company’s three Fairlight MFX3+ DAWs in Control Room A.

Now in its 35th year, Presence Studios keeps moving forward with next-generation technology and personnel.

Owner Jon Russell recently brought on his son Aaron to work in the company’s artist development division as video project coordinator. “We were in Edinburgh, Scotland, this past summer filming a new music video,” recounts Jon, “and Aaron captured the song’s most dramatic segment by literally hanging with a harness out of a twin engine Eurocopter traveling 150 miles an hour, 300 feet over Tantallon Castle. His visual sense and intense dedication to the shots are really quite special.”

Besides being behind the camera, Aaron has been involved in the operation of the latest technology installed at Presence: Fairlight’s latest generation Xynergi DAW.

“The major sports and sports entertainment networks set the standard in the broadcast world, which is why the NBA, MLB, NFL and WWE all use Fairlight systems for everything from live broadcast, post-production and ADR to music recording and in our case, even our Forensic Audio division,” he says. “We opened in 1980, and we’ve been running Fairlight systems since 1982.”

Also pictured is the facility’s Neve VRL 60 Console along with ATC-SCM 300 monitors, SCM 20 near-fields and both Lexicon 480L and 224XL controllers.

Studio B, equipped with a Fairlight Prodigy digital workstation, offers audio recording/editing along with Final Cut Pro video editing services, video and audio archiving, and analog-to-digital transfers. Studio B also keeps busy with the company’s successful Legal Forensic Audio group, providing law firms across the U.S. with expert analysis and testimony of all media-related evidence.