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The Producing Philosophy of Dave Grusin & Larry Rosen


"What a producer has to do is say: "What is the best that this artist does and how can I complement it in a way to bring out the best."

--  Larry Rosen

With all the side issues involved in releasing records for Arista-GRP, the main focus was always the music.  Dave Grusin described his role as “somewhat of a musical director, usually out on the floor playing keyboards, which is a very good way to conduct the session.”   With Larry Rosen in the booth engineering, he found ”communication more direct that way.”

Aficionados of GRP recordings will have noticed that their signings' initial offerings often had a noticeable Dave Grusin influence in the sound.  The producer discloses that he helped the new artists with arranging, unless they were arrangers themselves.

When the label was in its infancy, he said, “I try to establish a framework which allows enough freedom for the musicians. We haven't yet made a record where the horn parts are written before we enter the studio. It's not that rigid. We also go in without any charts. I'm talking about all the people I've worked with. Part of my job as a producer, as I see it, is to make sure the musician gets a second shot. That means I have to judge somewhat the kind of album people are going to listen to.”  Those early procedures formed a very successful and comfortable production style.

He indicated that the two producers put a lot of their own recording experience into their efforts with young musicians.  To explain the techniques used, Dave Grusin cited the following example. “When we're recording a player with strings, we'll turn up the level higher than it will ultimately be on the record. The strings sound so good that they inspire the artist and help him or her to perform better. That's how I see my role-to help the artist perform as well as possible.”

Because part of the Arista-GRP mandate was to discover new talent, many of the people they signed had never cut a record before.  “That's when they need the most control, they need the most help. After they start gaining experience doing this by themselves we want to be able to provide the type of label where they can grow on their own,” Larry Rosen adds.

He sums up his vision of the producer's role as follows.  “What we would do - especially with a new artist - is try to find the major strength of this performer.  When you first listen to that person play a lot of times, the total style has not been developed yet. "

In terms of style, not only for other musicians, but his own headliner albums as well, Dave Grusin's philosophy was always developing.  For instance, in the mid-eighties, he indicated, “what I really love is a basic good sound that's used to play a nice line; something that's specific and clear.”

This was a move from earlier ideas, and he explained, “I feel that people get confused by too much information. So in the final analysis, I don't communicate what I want to say if I get too involved and too complicated.” Referring to stacking tracks or sweetening elements, he said that “shouldn't be done if your only reason for doing it is because it's supposed to be there.”

However, in the right circumstances, the value of multi-track recording, particular when there is a problem to solve, is something he finds undeniable.  "The advantage of the 16-track recording facility is that it allows the musician a concentrated direction at any specific time, rather than having to deal with all the creative aspects of recording at once


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