For “Kala Dunn and the Todd Hill Quintet” we used one of the biggest spaces on campus: the stage of Lovett Auditorium. Back in the 20s the stage doubled as a basketball court – yeah, it’s that big. With a wooden floor, wooden ceiling 35 feet above, heavy theater curtains and miles of room from those reflective walls, it makes for a great, sonically neutral environment: fairly easy to get isolation and avoid a signature room sound.


Jazz drums tend to be much more subdued than, say, thrash metal drums. Jazz cymbals tend to be darker and jazz kits warmer in general. I might be tempted to try to tame the harshness in rock cymbals with ribbon mics as overheads, but for this jazz kit I was happy to put up the bright (some even say harsh) Neumann KM-184s as overheads. Sometimes bright mics make dark cymbals sound really great!

For the bass drum I was very happy to have an extra M-Audio Sputnik tube mic two feet out in front. The Sputnik has a big bottom, but is still bright. On a jazz bass drum I thought it would be a great fit, and I still think so.


The upright bass player had an absolutely killer pickup (no longer in production, unfortunately) that is responsible for a big part of the bass sound. The second of 3 Sputniks was placed on the bass as well – with some serious low end rolled off in post-production. The pickup gave a great bottom end anchor, and the Sputnik gave all the tasty string and finger noise, and a sense of air on the bass that I just love.


A Cascade Fat Head II ribbon mic was on sax, and it really complimented the tone. I wasn’t sure how it was going to sound at first but I was extremely pleased with the result. We left the EQ fairly flat, which included a significant high end roll-off that is part of the mic’s frequency response.


Two Avenson STO-2 omni mics hovered right above the strings of the Steinway D on one stereo mic bar. They got moved a bit in an attempt to keep a good line of sight between the drummer and pianist. In the end, we rolled  without even finally checking the piano sound because of the visual logistics.


Electro-Voice RE20 right up against the grill of the amp. Great mic for jazz guitar!


The third Sputnik was on vox, and I thought it complimented the female vocals very nicely. We did roll a bit off at 200 Hz in post. There was also a Fat Head II up for vocals, but it didn’t have the immediate wow factor of the Sputnik. I’m sure with some EQ, it would have been fine, but why mess with it when you’re happy with the other mic?

I tried to get the necessary isolation with a ton of blankets, piano covers, carpets, gobos, et cetera. The only issue I noticed was sax bleed when we wanted to overdub a new sax solo. Oh yes… and we did re-track most of the vocals later. However, on “Moody’s” the vocals are live. The drums were tightened up a lot on the louder tunes by overdubbing vocals, but on a couple of tunes (like this one) it wasn’t a big deal.

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