Burbank, CA (November 6, 2006)–Among those who suffered the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina were members of New Orlean’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Checking up on their whereabouts after some band members lost their homes, the group’s record management inquired, “So what’s going on?” Right there, the idea to cover Marvin Gaye’s soulful 1971 hit What’s Going On? was born–and microphones from Royer Labs helped make it happen.
Established in 1977 by Benny Jones together with members of the Tornado Brass Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has become one of the best known of the New Orleans-style brass ensembles. What’s Going On? represents the loss they shared with much of the Gulf Coast community. The project is given voice by the band and special guests G. Love, Ivan Neville, Bettye LaVette, Guru, and Chuck D. The album was produced and arranged by Anthony Marinelli, co-produced by Shawn Amos (also the band’s A&R) and recorded and mixed by Clint Bennett.
Pictured here is The Dirty Dozen at Bismeaux Studio in Austin, TX: Back Row (l-r): Kevin Harris (tenor sax), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), Clint Bennett (engineer), Revert Andrews (trombone), Terence Higgins (drums), Anthony Marinelli (producer & arranger), Efrem Towns (trumpet, flugelhorn). Front (l-r): Shawn Amos (co-producer & A&R), Roger Lewis (baritone sax), William Vanden Dries (2nd assistant engineer). Not present in photo: Gregory Davis (trumpet) and Jamie McLean (guitar).What’s Going On? was recorded at LA’s Westlake Studio D and Bismeaux Studio in Austin, TX, and was released on the first anniversary of Katrina’s deadly strike. Bennett, the mix engineer, reflected on the project: “Surprisingly, the album was recorded in just eight days during February and March. We were all very eager to capture a polished studio sound with a very present, up-front, in-your-face brass sound, as we wanted to capture the intensity of the brass section’s live performances. I’ve previously had great success with Royer ribbon mics, and I knew it would be much easier to achieve the sound we wanted if I used them on this project. After a few well-placed calls, we secured a combination of R-121s, R-122s, an SF-12, and an SF-24.”
To achieve the bold, punchy sound of the Dirty Dozen’s brass, Bennett used a combination of Royer R-121s and R-122s as spot mics on each of the two trumpets, the trombone, a tenor sax, and a baritone sax while the players were positioned in a semi-circle around an SF-24 phantom powered stereo ribbon microphone that served to capture the brass section as a whole. The sousaphone was placed in an isolation booth with yet another R-121. “This arrangement enabled me to blend the composite brass section sound with that of the individual instruments,” noted Bennett, “and it worked beautifully. Depending upon what we were looking for on any given song, this approach provided all the flexibility we could have wanted.”
“The SF-24 added a tremendous sense of depth to the performance,” continued Bennett. “Equally important, the mic has phenomenal imaging capability, and this enables the listener to hear exactly where each instrument is positioned. Together, the individual spot mics and the SF-24 created this really huge brass sound with loads of space and a lot of punch.”
Bennett reported that, in addition to the brass, the R-121 was used to close mic the guitar amp for the sessions and an SF-12 Stereo Coincident Ribbon Microphone was placed into service as a drum overhead. “The R-121 handles high SPLs really well and makes a great choice for miking an amp,” said Bennett, “and the SF-12 is one of my favorite overhead drum mics. It’s a great mic for picking up the sound of the whole kit.”
In addition to its use on the brass section, Bennett used Royer’s SF-24 to record some backing group vocals/chants. He also reported that the SF-24 is a perfect mic for capturing group percussion. “On the song Flying High,” said Bennett, “I placed the SF-24 in the middle of the band playing all sorts of shakers, agogo bells, and other percussion instruments. It did an amazing job with the imaging of all these various percussion sounds. You can hear each instrument from different positions within the stereo field. The SF-24 did a terrific job with the percussion.”
The Royer Labs website also has a special section on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, with photos and MP3 clips, in its special Session Photos section at www.royerlabs.com/session_photos/dirty_dozen.html.