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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE RECORDING ACADEMY®'S
LOS ANGELES CHAPTER AND PRODUCERS & ENGINEERS WING PRESENTED UP
CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH AL SCHMITT
Legendary Producer/Engineer/Mixer Shared Priceless Stories
and Pointers; Special Guests George Benson, Natalie Cole and Steve Lukather
Joined Schmitt Onstage to Discuss Their Collaborative Work
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (May 29, 2009) — The
Recording Academy®'s Los Angeles Chapter and Producers & Engineers
Wing presented an exclusive and intimate Up Close & Personal interview
with legendary engineer Al Schmitt on April 28, 2009. Schmitt, the recipient
of 17 GRAMMY® Awards, two Latin GRAMMY® Awards and a Recording
Academy Trustees Award, was interviewed by GRAMMY Museum Chief Curator
Ken Luftig Viste as Schmitt regaled an audience of more than 200 with
stories spanning his career and life in the recording business. Joined
onstage by GRAMMY Award winners Natalie Cole, George Benson and Steve
Lukather, all artists with whom Schmitt has worked, the audience was
given insight into Schmitt's philosophy of life, work style and how
he has stayed busy and relevant throughout his long career.
The event was held at the GRAMMY Museum's SoundStage,
a fitting location, as Schmitt himself is a veritable one-man "Museum."
His first GRAMMY (among a collection of 17 and counting) came for Henry
Mancini's Hatari soundtrack, and his most recent was awarded this past
year for his engineering role on Natalie Cole's Still Unforgettable
album. Schmitt's other honors include two Latin GRAMMYs, and as producer,
engineer or mixer, he has worked on more than 150 gold and platinum
albums for artists ranging from Sam Cooke and Steely Dan to Jefferson
Airplane and Barbra Streisand.
Opening remarks were provided by Recording Academy West
Regional Director Lizzy Moore and P&E Wing Senior Executive Director
Maureen Droney. The Los Angeles Chapter President Tom Sturges then delivered
well-wishes from some Schmitt colleagues who could not be in attendance,
including a heartfelt letter from Schmitt's longtime producing partner
Tommy LiPuma and a special audio and video congratulations from Streisand,
with whom Schmitt is currently working with. As Viste brought Schmitt
to the stage, the capacity crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Schmitt entertained the audience with anecdotes from his
long career. He laughingly told of his initial plunge into the recording
world when, as a teenager working at his uncle's New York studio, a
scheduling error had him single-handedly running a session for Mercer
Ellington, Duke’s son, with the Duke right there. "I kept
saying to Duke, 'I’m not qualified.' And he just kept saying,
'Don’t worry, son – we’re going to get through this,'"
In a low-key fashion, Schmitt recounted one amazing studio
experience after another, actually drawing some gasps of awe from the
audience as he described typical workdays in which he’s record
Ike and Tina Turner in he morning and Henry Mancini in the evening,
or Eddie Fisher in the afternoon and Jefferson Airplane after hours.
Despite the wide stylistic range of artists Schmitt has worked with,
there are some common elements in a Schmitt-engineered track: an engaging
natural presence to the vocals, an organic feel to the rhythm section
and a skillful use of strings. When asked for the secret to his sound,
Schmitt shrugged. "There's no secret. Use great omnidirectional
microphones and put them in the right place. Done. It's easy."
Special panelists for the evening included Natalie Cole and former Toto
guitarist Steve Lukather, both of whom achieved some of their greatest
successes while working with Schmitt. Lukather marveled at how great
a sound Schmitt could pull from his band simply by mic-ing the players
well, and without relying on EQ, compression or other standard studio
tricks. "Never mind the record," joked Lukather, "Even
the headphone mixes sounded phenomenal." Cole took an ambitious
step away from her R&B comfort zone with the jazzy Unforgettable
With Love in 1991, and she notes that Schmitt's skill and support were
crucial. "Working with Al, I felt like I was flying as a vocalist,
and he made that seem effortless."
The group was also joined by an unscheduled but very welcome
special guest, 10-time GRAMMY-winning guitarist George Benson, who quickly
credited Schmitt as having a profound effect on his career, as the engineer’s
recording of "This Masquerade" from 1976’s Breezin'
gave him confidence as a vocalist he'd never had before. Benson also
spoke of trying to pin down the elusive secrets of Schmitt's sound.
"I brought him to my own studio, and I figured I'd watch everything
he touched and write down every setting," recalled Benson. "He
didn't touch anything, and it still sounded beautiful." Benson
also probably spoke for many in the crowd when he said to Schmitt, "I
really appreciate what you've done for the whole industry. Thank you
for being the kind of person you are."
At the end of the evening, Schmitt fielded questions from
the audience, sharing anecdotes about his work with Frank Sinatra on
his Duets comeback album, and advising that an engineer should try to
stay involved with a project all the way through to the mastering phase.
He then returned to the main themes of his life’s work: loving
and listening. "I've been blessed with so much joy in my life,
and I'm happy every day I go to work. I love being in the studio,"
said Schmitt. "I don't think you can do this work unless you really
have the passion for it. And if you do have the passion, trust your
ears. That's what I do."
Photo File 1: PE_AlSchmitt09_Photo1.JPG
Photo Caption 1: Pictured L-R: Steve Lukather, Al Schmitt and Natalie
Cole. Photo courtesy of The Recording Academy® / Photograph by Maury
Phillips/WireImage.com © 2009.
Photo File 2: PE_AlSchmitt09_Photo2.JPG
Photo Caption 2: Pictured L-R: Steve Lukather, George Benson, Al Schmitt,
Ken Luftig Viste and Natalie Cole. Photo courtesy of The Recording Academy®
/ Photograph by Maury Phillips/WireImage.com © 2009.
Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization
of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals that
is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life
for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards
— the preeminent peer-recognized award for musical excellence
and the most credible brand in music — The Recording Academy is
responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment,
advocacy, education and human services programs. The Academy continues
to focus on its mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating
for the well-being of music makers and ensuring music remains an indelible
part of our culture. For more information about The Academy, please
Currently, 6,000 professionals comprise the Producers
& Engineers Wing, which was established for producers, engineers,
remixers, manufacturers, technologists, and other related creative and
technical professionals in the recording community. This organized voice
for the recording community addresses issues that affect the craft of
recorded music, while ensuring its role in the development of new technologies,
recording and mastering recommendations, and archiving and preservation
initiatives. For more information, please visit www.producersandengineers.com.
Robert Clyne/Clyne Media, Inc./firstname.lastname@example.org
Lourdes Lopez/The Recording Academy/310.392.3777/LourdesL@grammy.com