by Christopher Walsh
It’s always nice to come across a collective of like-minded musicians and audio pros–sometimes they are both–and one such is the Harlem Parlour Music Club.
A group of approximately 14 musicians, HPMC is recording an album’s worth of songs at Beats Me, a studio located in the Harlem townhouse of drummer/producer Sammy Merendino, a member of Cyndi Lauper’s recording and touring band who has also recorded and/or performed with Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Foreigner, Aretha Franklin, the Beach Boys, Lou Reed, Hall & Oates, Pat Metheny, Ziggy Marley, Anita Baker and Joan Osborne, among others. He has also played on over 1,000 commercials and television themes including Monday Night Football, Nightline and World News Tonight.
“My wife and I bought [the townhouse] in 2000,” Merendino recently told me. “I had a studio downtown, and when we moved up here–we were going to buy the house and rent out a room, and I said ‘I should just change a floor to a studio and move everything here.’ So I ended up taking one of the rooms downstairs; it started there and expanded upwards to [another] room. It’s all wired with video. It’s all API  and Neve [preamps] and Pro Tools, and I’ve got a 2-inch machine, an [Otari] MTR 90 mkII.”
The Pro Tools rig is integrated with a plethora of Dangerous Music equipment: the Dangerous 2-Bus LT analog summing amp, a Dangerous Monitor ST monitor controller, and a DAC-ST stereo D/A converter.
“Originally I was just planning on getting the Dangerous Monitor ST,” Merendino said in a Dangerous Music press release, “because I was monitoring through a low cost monitoring system. It dawned on me that I have all this high-end API and Neve gear and vintage mics, and I was monitoring all this stuff through a $200 system! I was listening to my $100,000 worth of studio gear and all my beautiful drums through a cheap monitor controller. It made no sense!
“It was night and day,” the statement continues. “The speakers sounded terrific. And when I took the mixes out of the studio they really translated well.
“I was mixing a bunch of my stuff and I just kept thinking things were ‘thin, thin, thin.’ I started looking around at [analog summing] products like the API and the Dangerous, and ran into Kate Cardwell [of Music Pro Marketing], and along with the Monitor ST she sent me the Dangerous 2-Bus LT to check out. It has made a huge difference–now my mixes sound the way I want–really big, wide, with lots of clarity, low end punch and detail.”
Merendino produces album projects here, and also does session work worldwide via DigiDelivery. The tracking space is outfitted with Auralex treatment and gobos from Atlantic Studios. “It’s more like the [Daniel] Lanois setup,” Merendino allows, “where it’s in my house.”
The Harlem Parlour Music Club has recently completed two videos, directed by respected independent film producer Bill Goins. “We met on a trip to India a couple years ago,” Merendino explains. “A friend of ours got married, and we became friends. He did some documentaries, and I ended up scoring and producing the music for one.”
Goins returns the favor with videos for “Runaway Train,” featuring Allison Cornell, which can be seen and heard on YouTube; and “Dyin’ to be Born Again,” featuring Darden Smith, also on YouTube. The songs were recorded and mixed by Tim Hatfield.
The Harlem Parlour Music Club performs May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Village Underground in New York. In addition to Merendino, Cornell and Smith, the collective includes Steve Count, David Mansfield, Andy Burton, Amanda Homi, Andrew Carillo, Elaine Caswell, Mary Lee Kortes, Ann Klein, Chris Tedesco, Jeff Golub and Roger Squitero.