The Dave Grusin Archive
Dawn of the Digital Era in Jazz

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"We had been interested in real hi fi quality stuff from the very beginning. And sound was as important to us as anything."  

--  Dave Grusin

It was during the tenure with Arista that Dave Grusin cut an album for JVC which was also released on his own label.  “Mountain Dance.”  A title which speaks for itself.  But its significance goes well beyond the fact it's a terrific record.

Dave Grusin's concept was a synthesizer-based project, supported by keyboards and rhythm section.  To make the `experiment' work, he wanted to do it in studio but with the feel of a live session.  Originally he had thought of direct-to-disc as the answer.  When word came out about the new digital technology, and Thomas Stockham's inventive Soundstream machine, it seemed the perfect thing.  A further experimental element to be added.

Just what the digital technology might be like in practice, of course, Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen couldn't know.  But the latter's first experience was unforgettable for him, and was conceivably the high point of his musical life.  “When you're in the studio as an engineer and you're recording multi-track analog, when you press that button to play back, there's something - as good as the quality is - there's some way that you realize what's a playback and what's live.”  But the digital sound was so extraordinary, when listening to the beginning of the first playback, he had an incredible experience.  “Before the music started, there was conversation on the tape, and somebody said, "Hey, Larry. ..." I turned around.”  He was sure he just been called, and states, “it was so real. Everything about it was an exact duplication of what happened live.”

The live mixing experience, and the complexity and concentration involved, was a high on its own.  And when it came to the proper test, the music itself, the sensation was compounded. “The first thing I heard was Marcus Miller's bass and I couldn't tell if it was really happening in the studio, whether he was playing the bass or it was really on the tape. I never heard anything like that. Dave and I looked at each other and we said: "That's it, digital technology, there is no doubt that this is the future."

However, the high additional cost (up to $10,000 in 1979) which the complex digital procedures added to the production meant that this was not something which could be used on anything more than an experimental basis.  Furthermore, as the technology was still only two-track, it would have been a limiting factor for the general type of recordings they were involved in.  It was back to analog for the rest of the Arista tenure, but of course, that incomparable digital experience was something the pair continued to dream about.

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