Twenty-five years of success in the recording business is anexceptional achievement, especially if you're still under 40 whenyou hit that milestone. But that's how it is for James Lloyd,keyboardist and musical director of the smooth jazz band, Pieces ofa Dream. Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon founded the Philadelphiaband while they were teenagers and have kept the group active eversince.
To celebrate their silver anniversary, Pieces of a Dreamreleased a new album, Acquainted With the Night, theirfirst on the Heads Up International label. Most of the tracks weredeveloped in Lloyd's project room and completed at The Studio inPhiladelphia — owned by the noted string arranger andmusician Larry Gold — with Jeff Chestek handling theengineering duties.
Lloyd's studio centers around a Mackie 32×8 analog console,Mackie HR 824 monitors and a Roland VS-880 digital recorder, whichhe uses for writing purposes only. “I lean heavily on my MPC2000, and lately I've really gotten into the Roland VP-9000variphrase processor,” he says. “I like the fact thatyou can adjust pitch and time independently. I processed both drumand vocal tracks with it.”
Lloyd brought his rack, which includes three keyboards (KorgTriton and SG Pro and a Roland XP-80), the MPC 2000 and an AlesisQSR synth module into The Studio, and over a two-day period,dropped songs to 2-inch tape. “It does take time to drop totape. Some songs had as many as five kick drums and maybe six orseven snares. I used all eight outputs of the MPC during each pass,but the time still adds up.
“After we dropped, we started doing overdubs. At times, wewere using both Studios A and B. Gerald Albright was laying hornoverdubs on the tune we co-wrote “Off the Hook” in oneroom, while vocals on some of the songs were being tracked in theother.”
Although everything was tracked to 2-inch and all mixing wasdone in that medium, Pro Tools was also used during the process,according to Jeff Chestek. “We made slaves on Pro Tools.First we filled up one 2-inch reel, and then we dumped these tracksinto Pro Tools. The Pro Tools station was then slaved to the 2-inchmachine, which we used to keep tracking. When it came time to mix,we slaved the 2-inch machines together and worked off of theoriginal analog tapes.”
Many engineers these days like to track to 2-inch andimmediately drop to Pro Tools, looking to avoid the wear and tearof multiple rewinds and playbacks on tape. “That's the way Iprefer to work,” says Chestek. “I personally have noproblem mixing with Pro Tools. If you use good converters on theway in — we have Apogee AD-8000s — the sound is verynice. On this project, we mixed off the multitracks. We used an SSLE Series console. The Studio is getting ready to install an [SSL] JSeries console in several months. We really like the sound of thatboard.”
For more info on Pieces of a Dream, check out their Website atwww.piecesjazz.com.