In the Studio With Michael Benedict, Part II
The tune rolls forward beautifully. A round robin of inspired solos is passed from one musician to another, and then the jazz classic “Whistle Stop” comes to a close.
As the last note hangs in the air, the session’s engineer Ace Parkhurst quickly turns to producer Tom Bellino and says, “The drums are coming in through the piano.” Bellino nods in agreement, answering with a sigh, “Yeah, I know. I heard that, too.”
The piece will have to undergo a second take. Parkhurst flips on a intercom and informs the band, “We’ll have to that one over again. We’ll be right in.”
Parkhurst follows Bellino into the recording room, and they chat with the musicians individually and collectively. A few adjustments are made to the placement of the padding that drapes over the top and sides of the grand piano. Finally, everything’s ready for another try.
Signaling through the glass that the recording session is ready to go, Parkhurst leans into the control board, makes some final adjustments and hits the “record” button. Inside the performance room, bandleader Michael Benedict turns to look at each of the musicians one at a time from behind his drum kit and then counts off the tempo.
The band revs up and slides right into high gear. This time tune flows effortlessly with inspiring, precisely timed solos coming in one after another. Saxman Brian Patneaude blows the first chorus, delivering a tasteful and dynamic solo. Chris Pasin follows suit with energized trumpet lines that eventually pass the baton to Bruce Barth. His piano solo bobs and weaves in and out of the melody line.
Behind each of the solos, Benedict and bassist Mike Lawrence and Benedict propel the song forward, putting a tight lock on the rhythm. The chord changes turn on a dime and the take concludes with shared smiles and congratulatory nods all around.
Sometimes when a band does a second take, a little more creativity bubbles to the surface in their playing because the ideas build on one another.
Benedict and his bandmates leave their instruments and cross over to the control room, piling into the seats. After Bellino shares a few observations culled from his notes, Parkhurst presses a switch, and the track is played back through the monitor speakers. It’s a great take, and everybody knows it.
Back in the studio again, the band launches into the chord changes of the Clifford Brown classic, “Joy Spring.” The tune sails through without a hitch. Or so it seems.
Mike Lawrence steps up to the plate and says into the mic that he was a hair slow coming in on the bridge. Can he do that part over again?
Parkhurst looks at Bellino and smirks appear on both their faces. Bellino states light-heartedly, “Many a musician wouldn’t admit to that.” Parkhurst nods in agreement. By doing that, both know that Lawrence is both respectful to the original arrangement and a consummate professional. They record that four-bar part over again with Lawrence nailing it right on cue.
Lunch break is called as Benedict’s lovely wife Ginger arrives with the band’s deli-sandwich orders. The band members relax in the break room and discuss music, life and the session at hand.
After lunch, “Circulation” by Gary McFarland takes flight, but quickly crashes due to a false start. Some back-and-forth dialogue between the control room and the musicians brings on a renewed count-off, and the song lifts off for a second run. The tune soars right through its melodic twists and turns.
Patneaude’s solo is right on the money. So is Pasin’s. The same goes for Barth’s. The band brings the tune in for a solid landing. “That’s a take,” Parkhurst announces.
The four-hour Sunday recording session concludes with a inspired and faultless re-take of the Bobby Timmons’ modern jazz standard, “Moanin.”
“Yesterday, it was the first take we did in the studio, and it just didn’t gel like it did today,” says a happy Bellino, adding, “I think everybody just needed to become comfortable playing with each other.”
How right he was.
Michael Benedict & Bopitude’s CD of this recording session is scheduled to be released late in the spring on the Planet Arts label. Meanwhile, Michael Benedict & Bopitude step into the spotlight at Justin’s in Albany at 9:30pm on Saturday. The line-up for the evening will feature drummer/bandleader Michael Benedict, trumpeter Chris Pasin, saxophonist Lee Russo, pianist Yuko Kishimoto and bassist Lou Smaldone.
Story and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
RELATED STORY: “In the Studio With Michael Benedict, Part 1”