RCF and I arrived within minutes of each other and we could hear George Mastrogiannis was already on drums. As we entered the studio, I saw the sound engineer’s work space lined with guitars and records, and the production equipment below the glass window that separated the recording room from the producer’s room. The owner of the studio and sound engineer of this album, Dave Swanson, had the previous session’s tracks already playing and after brief introductions, RCF entered the recording room and sat down to experiment with the new piano organ. It was then that I became more aware of what a truly multi-faceted musician RCF is. In every other setting where I’ve seen him play, the guitar has been the sole instrument of choice but in this setting, where tracks for each instrument can be played individually and then overlaid on top of each other, the guitar was but one weapon in the musical arsenal. As 730pm arrived on this Tuesday, the three professionals had a plan in place and were ready to get to work.
George Mastrogiannis is a drummer in his own band but got together with RCF during an open mic night at the Iron Frog, in Simsbury. RCF doesn’t let just anyone come up to the stage even on open mic night but he knew working with George would be a good thing and that alchemy resulted in a strong musical bond. Twice during the evening, George brought out his notes to work on the music for the recording. At one point he said with a wry grin and in an ironic tone, “Hey, why don’t we forget about having day jobs, why don’t we just do MUSIC for a living?” The musicians laughed but knew, if they could and the choice were theirs, it wouldn’t be a choice at all!
Dave Swanson already had a working history with RCF, for he was the sound engineer behind the first album “Never Too Late”. The many records around the room demonstrated this was a man who loved music and had been part of a band that had been around a while. Dave shared that he loved making music but when he started his family with his wife, touring with a band would not have been optimal so producing and playing music in his studio became his mode of musical creative expression.
There were two songs on tap for today’s recording session: “Let it Rain” and the working titled “She Takes her Picture at Night”. I enjoyed hearing the acoustic version of the latter song during the Thursday night Great American Songbook concert (see my last post). It was interesting to hear the percussion and bass bring the song to the next level and the end result just might be one that is added to that Great American Songbook.
RCF played bass while George played the drums. As visitor sitting in the recording room without headphones, I heard only the drums for the sound of the bass can’t be heard because it’s plugged in directly into the computer (as opposed to setting up an amplifier and a microphone). When in the producer’s sound room on the other side of the glass, I had a better understanding of how the bass will mesh with the rest of the song.
After the recording had been done we listened to the tracks that Dave Swanson had expertly mixed. The musicians were happy with the sound and yet they still knew that more recording would have to be done to get it exactly right. That’s what I meant about patience. To make the truly great album, the recording artist doesn’t simply put up “the best of whatever takes they got”, the recording artist puts up their best and only the best-full stop, which means, they’ll do take after take of a song until it is exactly right.
RCF said during the night’s session that he had practiced these songs and he had the song perfectly in his head and the trick was to bring what he had in his head into the studio and play it and work with everyone until the recording of the song sounded like the song he had in his head or better. That requires patience, and professionalism and fortunately for all of us, all three musicians in that room had those qualities.
The album will take shape and evolve over time. But is a rare treat to see it in the formation stage and I’m happy I can share some of that with you today.
(**you might see/hear more from this recording session as some of the video that was taken will be edited to give a sample of the quality of art/work being created so stay tuned!)