The world's great recording studios -- Abbey Road where the Beatles recorded all of their music, Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady and Sun Studio where Elvis Presley became a star -- are sacred places to me. So when I was invited to a press event at the legendary Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, my heart skipped a beat.
Rudy Van Gelder recorded countless legends including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, and John Coltrane in his studio.
I was visiting to hear a soon-to-be released John Coltrane album. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album was recorded on March 6, 1963 in this studio. The assembled press listened in awe, hearing Coltrane and his men lay down tracks recorded fifty-five years earlier in this room, the music leapt through time and space. I had goosebumps.
The studio opened in 1959, and while the design was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright it was actually designed by architect David Henken. The studio is a chapel of jazz, with its peaked wood ceiling that has a lot to do with Van Gelder's signature sound. Rudy Van Gelder passed away in 2016.
Enclosed piano and drum booths weren't part of the studio's original design. In the early days the entire band always played together "live" in the big room. The need for greater separation and overdubbing in stereo recordings made booths a necessity.
All of Van Gelder's classic recordings were done on analog reel-to-reel recorders like this one. I'm pretty sure this one is an old Ampex, but I didn't have the nerve to peel back the plastic cover and see for sure.