In Studio C at Avatar Studios, Elliot Scheiner has been recording a unique project with Joe Jackson and a large and diverse supporting cast.NEW YORK, NY—In these fast-changing times, it’s especially nice to return to familiar and time-tested ways. Such is life, these days, for legendary engineer/ producer Elliot Scheiner. In Studio C at Avatar Studios, Scheiner has been recording a unique project with Joe Jackson and a large and diverse supporting cast.
The Duke, a reinvention of the music of Duke Ellington, is projected for an early 2012 release. The album not only spotlights America’s most celebrated composer, but its creation—Jackson and a small band performing live, in a properly designed and equipped recording studio—makes it that much more satisfying, Scheiner confides.
“Especially in this day and age,” he observes, “you don’t get many opportunities to work on really great stuff. The album concept is really great, and [Jackson] is just so talented, he’s just amazing. It’s all Ellington songs, but not in the typical fashion: It’s more modern versions of those old songs. I’m finding the whole thing rather incredible.”
As sessions resumed in August— recording also took place in May and June—the Roots’ Kirk Douglas was slated to visit Avatar and record guitar. This followed sessions featuring Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Damon Bryson, also of the Roots; Christian McBride, with whom Scheiner has worked extensively; longtime Jackson guitarist Vinnie Zummo; Regina Carter; Iggy Pop; and Steve Vai. Also appearing: Iranian singer Sussan Deyhim (“It seemed very appropriate for her to be singing ‘Caravan,’” Scheiner notes) and vocalist Lilian Vieira, performing “Perdido” in Portuguese. Jackson also recorded, in Amsterdam, with “Brazilectro” group Zuco 103, of which Vieira is a member.
The Duke represents Scheiner’s first project with the famously eclectic Jackson, and it fits nicely in a 40-plus-year discography that has yielded Scheiner six Grammy awards and 23 nominations. From early recordings including Van Morrison’s Moondance and His Band and the Street Choir, Scheiner has steadily added some of the most impressive and enviable credits in the business. He has recorded and/or mixed Steely Dan albums including Aja, The Royal Scam, Gaucho, Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go, for example, as well as Donald Fagen’s TheNightfly (which he also produced) and Morph the Cat, which he mixed. Scheiner has worked with scores of top artists from the 1970s to the present: Toto, Glenn Frey, Boz Scaggs, R.E.M., Sting, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, Foo Fighters and the Eagles represent a small sample.
More recently, Scheiner championed multichannel mixing and DVDAudio, garnering strong demand to create surround-sound mixes of classic and new titles alike, such as Eric Clapton’s CrossroadsGuitar Festival, which was featured on the PBS program Great Performances and earned him an Emmy award; and Sting’s Live in Berlin DVD. (He also recorded and mixed the latter’s “companion” CD release, Symphonicities.)
This love of multichannel audio led to a collaboration with Panasonic and Acura that produced the ELS Surround Premium Audio System, a six-disc DVD-Audio/CD changer that comes with eight- and 10-speaker packages and includes dedicated center and subwoofer speakers. The ELS Surround system is available in five of the luxury car manufacturer’s models.
In a roundabout way, Scheiner explains, his involvement with The Duke resulted from the ELS Surround Premium Audio System. “Acura heard that Joe was doing an album, and the woman that does advertising and PR for Panasonic ended up talking to Joe’s manager. She told him that we’re doing this thing for Acura, and would Joe consider getting involved? One thing led to another. They knew I was interested in working with Joe, and that’s how the whole thing came about.”
The sense of fulfillment The Duke engenders is obvious: “It’s a real project,” he enthuses. “I go into a studio and record a band! You don’t get too many opportunities; people are so insular these days. You record drums here, you record a bass player on the Internet, you take samples. Live recording is a whole different thing.”
“We got into a groove, and the work went quickly,” Zummo recalls of the spring sessions. “I also got the impression that Elliot made it look so easy because he’s so good at what he does. Joe and I are both very intense people when it comes to music, and we know each other a long time, so Elliot very wisely stepped back and let Joe and I hash out my solo and textural choices from song to song.
“Joe has really made Duke Ellington’s music his own,” Zummo adds, “and the arrangements are brilliant. I’m really looking forward to hearing Elliot’s final mixes.”
Another musical development has Scheiner similarly high-spirited: his son Matt’s band, Oberhofer, recently signed with Glassnote, home to artists including Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.
“They’re making a record this fall,” he reports. “I went to see the band at South Street Seaport, the Village Voice [4 Knots] Music Festival. I was blown away, they sounded so great. It was good to see a large audience, where all these kids knew the band, knew the music, could sing along with it. That was pretty outstanding, so I’m thinking maybe he’s on the verge of making it with this band.”
Elliot Scheiner (represented by Joe D’Ambrosio Management)