R.I.P. (Record In Peace) Legendary Recording Engineer Al Schmitt

Legendary recording engineer, producer, mixer and all around great person Al Schmitt died last week at 91. He was still working at the end of his life. The multiple Grammy winner engineered albums for Bob Dylan, The Jefferson Airplane, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Sam Cooke, and on and on in an illustrious career that began as a child in his uncle Harry's New York City recording studio where he did odd jobs including cable cleaning.

His uncle got him a studio apprentice job after his stint in the Navy. On the job a short time, Schmitt's nerves and his set-up acumen were put to the test due to a scheduling error of some sort in which he ended up being surprised in the studio by Duke Ellington and group. Alone and without support Schmitt set up the microphones and successfully recorded four songs. His engineering career had begun!

Schmitt moved west five years later for a job at famed Radio Recorders in Hollywood and thus began his incredible Hollywood career. In this video, AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer runs through some of Al's greatest records and talks about his encounter with Al during the mix of Bob Dylan's Sinatra album Shadows In the Night

. Al's book "Al Schmitt On the Record" is a great read and highly recommended.

Tom L's picture

said this about Al on his "Cracks in the Finish" blog:
At my age I have been saying a lot of goodbyes the most recent being to my old friend Al Schmitt. Al was such an important part of the Jefferson Airplane Family in terms of what he brought to the table as a producer. RCA assigned him to us starting with After Bathing At Baxters. At a point in our relatively young lives when we thought we knew it all we were probably not the easiest folks to work with. That being said, Al found a way to get the best out of us without being constraining. Al had golden ears. He knew good sounds when he heard them. Our recorded life would not have been the same without him. He was a good man and a wonderful human being. As so often happens, I was just thinking about getting in touch with him when I heard from my good pal Mike Lawson that he had passed. Another moment down the river. More than being a great recording engineer, Al knew when he heard the great performances in a time before Frankensolos.

Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks for posting that.
SeagoatLeo's picture

I own 28,500 LPs/7,000 78s/7,000 CDs. My friends include world renown mastering engineers whose recordings you site. We listen to both records and CDs. My own CD listening is done with a COS Engineering DAC D1, using Verastarr copper power cord and Zero one interconnect, GroverHuffman silver coax. It provides me (and my friends, wife) with exceptionally great sound. You could call it analog comparable. It is open, detailed and tonally rich/accurate sound, like my Al Schmitt engineered LPs of which I have dozens.

I never discarded my mono LPs and thoroughly hate fake stereo recordings. I've been listening/collecting since 1959 and have excellent hearing.

I have friends like you who only listen to LPs. I have friends unlike you who only listen to CDs or streaming. Some only listen to stereo, one to mostly modern pressings or digital recordings. Most of my friends listen to all formats and recording periods. I don't argue with them about their choices. They don't condemn me with my choices.

My condolences to the Al Schmitt family.

Michael Fremer's picture
Back when I spoke those words (1988), yes I HATED CDs for every good reason: the awful sound (though fools insisted it was "perfect") and the horrible packaging. Switching to CDs for new recordings, ok, I could accept that. But trashing a record collection and replacing it all with CDs? Now that was stupid and most people who did that ended up regretting doing so. Not sure why you think I only listen to LPs. I have a dCS Vivaldi One, Roon, and almost 9000 hi resolution files plus hundreds of SACDs. Here on AnalogPlanet the subject is analog so it's all about LPs. People don't come here for CD reviews. I certainly prefer vinyl records but hi-res digital comes in second along with SACDs. Redbook CDs lag far behind. I just find them annoying—even new ones— but even then if that's the carrier, I listen to that too.
SeagoatLeo's picture

I too thought CDs sounded like crap in the 1980s. When I purchased an EAR Acute I began to appreciate their sound. I apologize for overreacting to your 80s comment thinking you still hate digital sound. Listening to my COS D1 DAC or my neighbor's Meridian Ultra DAC (only listens to his 3,000+ EAC extracted Redbook CDs to a thumbdrive) disabuses me of not recognizing the greatness of well mastered Redbook CD digital sound.

amudhen's picture

I had just finished reading Al's book last week when I learned of his passing,

xtcfan80's picture

say it all...Sounds like Al was the of the greats, known as a real pro and loved by the folks he worked with, the best rec you can hope for.

alucas's picture

just pulled it out from my collection,from the dollar record bins, great sounding recording!!! i love it! thanks for the info for future recordings.

WaltonGoggins's picture

Kisses on the Bottom. Paul didn't have a voice, but he sang around it well enough and with Diana's group, John Pizzarelli and Clapton, it's a lovely sounding thing.(Ironically, with arguably the best collection of songs of any album associated with Mr. Mac.)

HalSF's picture

Thank you for recommending this both above and in your memorial video. I just finished reading it and the enthusiasm and inspiration involving everything from microphones to career wisdom to love of animals and life in general is outstanding. And of course, the brilliant musical flow.

Babysharks's picture

Thank you for taking the time to put together this video and for including the personal memories.

LyndonSoulGroove's picture

Sad news but also an education of the Man behind those Great lp's I recall buying Diana K Album on CD sounded great but so looking forward to sourcing a Vinyl Copy of this to hear it in full Glory. Love the Radio archive too Mike, I recall in 1989 a hi Fi Guy on a different radio show in UK telling people Vinyl would be here for a lot longer, an boy he was right, took me a few years to upgrade and finally with a Ort Black MM cartridge I can hear all the instruments ..Long Live Vinyl