Time Plus Seven
Finnadar : 1979 (rec. 1963)
TM, conductor; personnel unknown.
ONE AND ONE
On the Corner
Columbia : 1972
MD, trumpet; Bennie Maupin, bass clarinet; Carlos Garnett, soprano sax; David Creamer, guitar; Herbie Hancock, keyboards; Harold “Ivory” Williams, organ; Michael Henderson, bass; Colin Walcott, electric sitar; Billy Hart, Jack DeJohnette, drums; Badal Roy, tabla. Teo Macero, producer.
PHAROAH’S DANCE (excerpt)
Columbia : 1970
MD, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, soprano sax; Bennie Maupin, bass clarinet; Joe Zawinul, Larry Young, Chick Corea, keyboards; John McLaughlin, guitar; Dave Holland, bass; Harvey Brooks, electric bass; Lenny White, Jack DeJohnette, drums; Don Alias, congas; Jumma Santos, shaker. Teo Macero, producer.
HE LOVED HIM MADLY (excerpt)
Get Up with It
Columbia : 1974
MD, trumpet, organ; Dave Liebman, flute; Dominique Gaumont, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, guitar; Michael Henderson, bass; Al Foster, drums; Mtume, percussion. Teo Macero, producer.
Okay, so name a famous jazz producer. Bob Thiele? He was at the helm for Coltrane’s epochal run at Impulse, but his main contribution was a generous open-door studio policy and keeping the tape rolling. ECM’s Manfred Eicher, the Steve Albini of jazz? Yeah, though we’re fairly sure we could find nearly as many naysayers as yaysayers. Rudy Van Gelder? More of an engineer. Norman Granz? Please. Michael Cuscuna? We said famous…
Here at D:O, one producer towers over the rest: Teo Macero, easily the most important jazz producer of the last fifty years. Macero died on February 19th, and this is our humble tribute to his significant contributions to the music. For more on Macero’s early life and biographical details, we direct you to these very fine obits: Telegraph [UK] ; The Guardian [UK]; and The New York Times (Ben Ratliff).
Macero was also a musician and composer himself. His own work was overshadowed by his productions of Monk and Miles and the like, but he left a body of work that is worthwhile in its own right. “Equals” is one part of a ballet score, commissioned in the early 1960s by the Rebecca Harkness Dance Company, with choreography by Anna Sokolow (here’s a review [PDF] of a 1968 performance of the piece). It demonstrates Macero’s approach to jazz composition, and unusual voicings. Also found on the invaluable Jazz Satellites collection.
Macero’s musicianship (not to mention his fondness for Varese and other modernist composers, and for recording technology) informed his revolutionary prodcution work with Miles Davis. Their relationship was somewhat similar to George Martin’s importance to The Beatles. He pushed Miles’s music to places neither could’ve achieved by themselves. Their albums together stand as some of the most challenging, complex, and fascinating music of recent decades, regardless of genre. The Davis-Macero collaboration is unlike any in jazz, a fusing of artistic sensibilities and technical possibilities, and is a testament to both men’s artistic openness and strength of vision.
With a lot of Miles’ records we would use bits and pieces of cassettes that he would send me and say, “Put this in that new album we’re working on.” I would really shudder. I’d say, “Look, where the hell is it going to go? I don’t know.” He says, “Oh, you know.” So he sends me the tape, I listen to it, and I say, “Oh yeah, maybe we can stick that in here.” And there were a lot of times in my career with Miles that I would do that.
On putting together In A Silent Way:
We cut each side down to 8 1/2 minutes and I think the other side was 9 1/2 and Miles said he was leaving in four-letter words and that would be his album. I said, “Look you really can’t do that. CBS will suspend you, fire me. But give me a couple of days, I’ll think about it.” And then a couple of days later I sent him up a tape and that was it. What I did, I copied a lot of it. You wouldn’t know where the splices are. And Joe Zawinul should give us half of his money for fixing it all up. Because, at the end, I thought it was all Miles’ music. But apparently Joe Zawinul claimed it was his. So we paid him all the royalties.
On editing songs:
I just tried to use my imagination. “How can I make this better? It’s good, but electronically can we do something to give it more impact?” Miles’ stuff was mostly written down. I mean it was worked on in the studio. I would record from the time he got there and then when I’d go back and edit everything. Miles would say, “You remember that thing in the second take?” I said “yeah.” And I would maybe make a loop and create it. That’s why those records were so good. Maybe people will say it didn’t sound authentic. It is authentic because you’re acting like a writer for a book, like an editor. I mean you can’t pan the book if the material is great.
There were many times in Miles’ records that something didn’t please Miles. So we cut them out. That’s why those records are so tight. We don’t need 94 bars for solos and the drummer to take 2 minutes to do his schtick, because he’s doing it all along anyway. I mean you have to be creative. You let them play. And if I like the take I say, “That’s a good take”, but when I get it back I can just take out the few things that I want out to tighten it all up that’s what we did with Miles.
On his relationship with Miles:
We had our battles. There were times when he wouldn’t speak to me and times I wouldn’t speak to him. It’s like a husband and wife. There are times when you just like to be left alone. He used to call me at 2 or 3 in the morning and play a tape for half an hour, forty five minutes. And Miles would get on the phone and say, “How do you like that?” I said, “Well, generally the ideas are great. Let’s go in and do them.”
Brian Eno was hugely influenced by Teo Macero. Here’s his thoughts about Teo’s methods for “He Loved Him Madly”:
He did something that was extremely modern, something you can only do on records, which is, he took the performance to pieces, spatially. Now, those things were done across by a group of musicians in a room, all sitting quite close to another, like we are. But they were all close-miked, which meant that their sounds were quite separate from one another. And when Teo Macero mixed the record, he put them miles apart.
So this is very very interesting to listen to a music, where you have the conga player three streets down the road here, you have the trumpet player on a mountain over there, the guitar player – you have to look through binoculars to see him, you know! Everybody is far away, and so the impression that you have immediately, is not that you are in a little place with a group of people playing, but that you’re on a huge plateau, and all of these things are going on sort of almost on the horizon, I think.
And there’s no attempt made by Teo Macero to make them connect with one another. In fact he deliberately disconnects them form one another. This is a very modern feeling for me in music, where you think of the music as a place where a lot of things can go on.
Something you can only do on records. This is Teo’s legacy. You can hear its echoes in the extended disco remixes of Larry Levan and Tom Moulton, the production work of Can’s Holger Czukay, Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and especially in the cut-and-past productions of hip hop and countless IDM auteurs.
It’s surprising more jazz musicians haven’t embraced the Davis-Macero model and treated the studio as more of an instrument. There have been some brave exceptions – notably Burnt Sugar and various releases on The Blue Series, even if FLAM is no Teo. But largely this is an artistic road untraveled in jazz. Perhaps the “made in real time” ethos has kept the jazz producer from taking on a role akin to The Bomb Squad, Prince Paul, the RZA, Dust Brothers, Neptunes, etc.
Listening to the flood of unedited performances of Miles’ music from the recent Columbia box setsÂ only affirms the importance of Teo’s contributions. We wonder if Miles’ disappointing comeback in the 80s can partly be traced to Macero’s lack of involvement. Whatever the case, their sublime studio concoctions from the late 60s to the mid 70s still loom large, subsuming questions of authenticity and making claims of keeping it real seem quaint and superfluous.
* * *
–Check out these good technical and editing tidbits from Teo at Remix magazine.
–Interesting review of In a Silent Way at Stylus.
–Short video of Teo discussing Bitches Brew.
–There are at least couple of documentaries on Teo, one of which is still in production: Play That, Teo. You can see a preview and photos at that site; the film is by the daughter of one of Teo’s early musical collaborators.
–For those wishing to go really deep, you can lose yourself in the Teo Macero Collection at the New York Public Library (by appointment), all 57.5 linear feet of it. Just come back and tell us all about it.