Rudy Van Gelder on being discovered by Alfred Lion

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "The Gears" (from 1952 Gil Mellé recording), CD: Gil Mellé: The Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions, Blue Note 724349571822 (disc 1, cut 2)

Each year, one NEA Jazz Masters Award goes to a non-musician. It's called the Jazz Advocate Award. Recipient Rudy Van Gelder is a recording engineer who was responsible for almost every Blue Note jazz session from 1953 to 1971. Blue note founder Alfred Lion discovered him after listening to an album Van Gelder recorded in the early 50s. Lion was so taken with the distinctive sound, he set out to duplicate it. Rudy Van Gelder.

Rudy Van Gelder: So Alfred took that album to the engineer who he had been using at WOR in New York and the engineer listened to it and he said, "Alfred, I can't get that sound. You better take it to the guy who made it."

Lion tracked Van Gelder down and hired him on the spot. Together, they created the much-revered "Classic Blue Note Sound".

Rudy Van Gelder: Alfred liked the sound of what I had done so he put me on his team and from then on I was working for him. And I didn't realize what a great team it was. It was just, everything was focused on keeping the machines working right. But it was great, really. I was extremely lucky.

MUSIC: up and fades

This Jazz Moment with recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Rudy Van Gelder on being discovered by Alfred Lion