Music: Live Jazz Gig

The Mission

Now there'd be no point having a born'n'bred New Orleans lead character in your film and *not* having a jazz club scene. So Franny asked said character, Alvin DuVernay, who are his favourite local musicians. He turned out to be a total jazz buff and drew up a huge long list, which eventually got whittled down to a top 10. Franny and Lizzie then borrowed a tonne of CDs to see whether any of the top 10 happened to have a song that would be suitable for the film. As Franny explains in her diary entry from that day the moment she found the perfect song, by the perfect singer, was a pure ecstasy moment.

Then all they had to do was find a suitable venue, persuade Betty Shirley to do it, book a load of musicians, find two local camera operators, install a 24-track recording studio in the back of the bar, light the bar, then fly in from England and film the thing. What could be more straightforward?


The Team

Front row (from left): Sound engineer Tim, Sound Recordist Rob Davis, Steadicam Operator Ralph Madison. Middle row (from left): Producer Lizzie Gillett, Singer Betty Shirley, star Al DuVernay. Back row (from left): Pianist Karl Budo, Bassist David Phulpus, Trumpeter Jamelle Williams, Drummer Kirk Branch, Director Franny Armstrong

The Technical

Recording enginer Rob Davis explains:  Recording a live band in a bar as small as the Spotted Cat was an interesting experience.  We pretty much had an entire recording studio setup in there at the time.  Everything was tucked away in the corner. After the sound check, we spent most of the time trying to stay out of the way of the camera.  In the end I think the small size of the room with all the people in it helped to make the recording have more of a live sound.

We used 11 microphones on seperate tracks to record the band.  I think we had 5 mics on the drums.  2 small diaphragm condenser mics for overheads, 1 Beyerdynamic kick mic, 1 sm 57 on snare, and something for the toms.  We used an sm58 for the vocals, and ran a line out from our recording interface to a P/A for the live sound.  This gave us complete control over the position of the vocals in the mix, because there was minimal bleed-through from the other instruments, and the use of a dynamic mic gave the vocals more of a warm feel. (We were able to use an EQ boost to achieve adequate presence in the highs)  The keyboard was recorded with a direct output, so we had to add a little reverb to keep it from sounding to digital and in-your-face.  The other instruments were mic'd with 57's or 58's.  We used a room mic as well, which we mixed in as a substitute for reverb, to help make it sound live, and not like a studio recording. The room mic also picked up some noise from the bar; people talking and drinking and so on.   

After we were done, we spent a while back in the studio, mixing until we were satisfied.  We recorded and mixed the project in Cubase, and we used mostly presonus preamps.

The Results

Well you'll just have to watch the film won't you.