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Brent Sigmeth

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The Bad Plus
For All I Care | 2008



Recording a group like The Bad Plus can really take an engineer back to the days of classic recordings, when artists were prepared to commit their performances to tape live, as a band. On the album "For All I Care," there are few overdubs - a glockenspiel, some concert chimes, one tambourine, some handclaps, and a couple harmony vocals. Joy for the engineer also comes from the source instruments used by the group; a 9-foot Steinway tuned to perfection, a two-hundred year-old acoustic bass, a 1950s WFL snare drum nicknamed "Billy," carefully chosen Zildjian cymbals, locally made Ellis Drums, and a beautifully toned female voice. Over the years, I've found that no engineer can make a bad instrument sound too much better – it's best to start with the best before you even place a microphone. With The Bad Plus's command of their instruments and their craft, one can really hear what a great microphone sounds like. I was all ears.

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The entire recording session spanned ten days, with the first three days as rehearsals and sound checking. Great care was taken in making sure there was an abundance of sincerity in interpreting the chosen songs and the chosen sounds. Over the following seven days, the songs were tracked live, generally getting final cuts within one to three takes. We wrapped up the tracking session with a few minor vocal fixes and rough mixes before the record was sent to Tchad Blake in England for mixing.

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After several studio recordings as a trio (piano, bass, and drums), The Bad Plus added a vocalist on "For All I Care." Two things made this a unique and proud recording for me: the addition of a vocalist for the first time, and the fact that the vocalist is my wife, Wendy Lewis. Recording at Pachyderm, which is the studio I'm most familiar with, was the perfect choice. Wendy and I live about a mile and a half from the studio down a winding country road; our commute was almost silly when you consider that Pachyderm Studio is itself two miles outside of a town of five thousand people, forty miles from the Twin Cities.

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All in all, this recording is one of my favorites. After recording hundreds of great musicians in my career, The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson, David King, and Reid Anderson) really took me on a fantastic journey through a difficultly chosen selection of classical, jazz, and rock music.

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