Rubbing sticks and stones together, make the song ignite.

brent 9

I had the privilege of recording Brent Lee the other day.

Brent is one of those people I knew of but didn’t know. We have some mutual friends, and people have told me good things about him, but I’d never met him or heard him play.

I asked if he’d be interested in playing on something. My attitude these days is I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not going to chase people, but I will at least try to start a dialogue with someone if I think there are some interesting musical possibilities there.

He was up for it.

I didn’t get around to putting together a rough mix, or a demo, or anything to send him beforehand. He came in cold with his soprano sax. I played him a couple things I thought might be fun to tackle. One of them was a brief ambient piece made up of some processed Fender Rhodes. The other was a new Papa Ghostface song.

He ended up playing great stuff on both of them. But what he did on that Papa Ghostface song sent it into the stratosphere. It was a little like Wayne Shorter came over to visit. So good.

The song is ten minutes long. It begins and ends with mangled samples, and between those bookends is not a structured song so much as a mood and a groove that are explored and allowed to develop in subtle ways. If it’s any indication of where the album is going, we might be looking at something a little less accessible than STEW. I like the idea of that album getting you in the door, and this one leading you into an attic stuffed with strange decorations and spiders that whisper troubling things.

Then again, it’s early yet. We could always make a summer pop album instead.

I think most proper engineers do this thing where they audition different microphones for whatever voice or instrument they’re recording, to find the best sonic fit. It makes sense. Me, well…I’m not a proper engineer, and I don’t bother pretending to be anymore. My Pearlman TM-1 has proven to be the right choice on wind instruments so many times now, it’s become my go-to.

This was my first time recording soprano sax. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. There’s a unique brightness to the sound, and you want to capture it without things getting harsh. I did what I do with any horn or woodwind these days: stuck the TM-1 in omni, placed it a couple feet in front of the instrument, added a bit of compression, and that was it. The sax sat just right, with no EQ needed.

Funny thing about this microphone — I bought it in the spring of 2007. Dave was using a different capsule then, and probably different tubes. I can’t remember if it’s the American or the German tube in mine. The TM-1 went through some tweaks before arriving at its current capsule/tube configuration and paint job, and the mic he’s selling now is quite a bit different from the one I’ve got.

A few years back I was tempted to send mine off to be updated/upgraded so it would match the new specifications. I couldn’t do it. My TM-1 has been so good to me, I wouldn’t want to do a thing to alter it. In the past two years I’ve used it to record almost twenty different voices (in solo and group settings), trombone, flugelhorn, trumpet, upright bass, handclaps, harmonica, saxes from several different walks of life (alto, tenor, and soprano), recorder, shaker, tambourine, spoons, triangle, and who knows what else, and it hasn’t once let me down or been the wrong choice.

It’s true what they say after all: if it ain’t rope, don’t climb it.

Wait, that’s not what they say…

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