Rudy Van Gelder Dead at 91

Legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder passed away today at age 91. The jazz engineer and friend to many musical greats began his recording career as an amateur enthusiast in 1952 (his day job was as an optometrist), using the living room of his parents' home at 25 Prospect Avenue, Hackensack, New Jersey.

The house stood empty for decades and only those who knew what went on inside understood the significance of the double doors and ramp leading to that famed living room.

In the early 1990s the building was torn down and replaced with a medical building. Obviously the home should have been preserved and memorialized, even if it required moving, but money won. I lived down the block in the late 1980's and I used to pass the house every day. "I"ll take some pictures one day" I told myself, but I never did.

That home is where he recorded many of the great classic Blue Note and Prestige records by, among many dozen others, Miles Davis and Hank Mobley. Inspired by his time at the home studio Thelonious Monk wrote "Hackensack". In 1959 Van Gelder moved to a new, purpose-built studio located at 445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where he recorded many more classics including A Love Supreme, His recorded output is staggering both in quantity and quality, both musically and sonically.

That's all I'm going to write. I'm now going to pull out some Blue Notes and enjoy. I suggest you do the same! We forgive Rudy for his embrace of digital recording late in his life, but compared to working with tape, for sure it was a hell of a lot easier.

COMMENTS
elliotdrum's picture

RIP Rudy-
You gave music lovers an incredible contribution.
I can still remember unwrapping my first Blue Note record.
Further Explorations of the Horace Silver Quintet in 1959.
For those interested go to allmusic.com and type in Rudy Van Gelder-then hit credits and be ready to get your mind blown!!!!

bent river music's picture
bent river music's picture

I recently posted that I thought the ERC recordings recently reviewed by Mr. Fremer were worthy investments. After writing that and then hearing about Mr. Van Gelder's death I realized that the 1950s-1970s era jazz recordings will go down in history as revolutionary in terms of innovation both musically and with regard to audio engineering. Certainly RVG may have had the most impact on the latter - celebrate what he did for it will never be repeated.

stewart0722's picture
stewart0722's picture
kimi imacman's picture

mosty Hard Bop and the vast majority are RVG recordings, Miles, Rollins, Adderley etc. They certainly are wonderful moments. Spookily I'm playing Tenor Madness at work as I read this post.

Paul Boudreau's picture

...

Sergii Dybov's picture

I may recognize any his record with closed eyes, from first notes. He has his own unique style.

He will be always Number One in Jazz for me.

Kirby's picture

So few have done so much for Jazz as RVG. His contribution is easily as great as the musicians that he recorded. Thanks for the music, thanks for the memories...

Kirby's picture
Kirby's picture

May 11, 1956 Relaxin' with The Miles Davis Quintet / Steamin' with The Miles Davis Quintet / Workin' with The Miles Davis Quintet...May 24, 1956 Tenor Madness Sonny Rollins...June 22, 1956 Saxophone Colossus Sonny Rollins... Not a bad output for only a month and a half worth of work!!!

Jim Tavegia's picture

Now that I am 69, I still enjoy listening to music on any of my 3 crappy turntables or digital, but now mostly 2496 and better. I now get more enjoyment when players or singers come to my house to have me record them, they take those recordings and work on their craft, and come back for another take. I do understand Rudy's passion and why he loved doing what he did.

RIP.

jim Williams's picture

I have several lp's of music by Mozart,Haydn, Liszt, etc. They are on the VOX label. The liner notes state that they were mastered by Rudolph Van Gelder. One even says, Dr. Rudolph Van Gelder. I understand he was an optometrist, so I suppose he could use the term, Dr. Is this the same RVG of Blue Note fame?

Barretter's picture

Yes, it's the same man. He not only recorded but also cut the stampers used to make Blue Notes. With the Voxes he won't have made the recordings (usually European in origin) but will have cut the stampers. You will find his initials in the space between the groove and the label.

jusbe's picture

Thanks for that. Tasteful, warm remembrance of an engineer who facilitated so much of my present vinyl joy - and the preserving of the amazing musical artform of Jazz in C20.

jett094's picture

A great piece of hard work and research. It is something to be proud. Thank you ......

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TutorMaryJones's picture

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TutorMaryJones's picture

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