New York, NY (August 25, 2016)—Legendary Jazz engineer Rudy Van Gelder died Thursday at his home in Englewood Cliffs, NJ; he was 91. Over the years, Van Gelder recorded some of the most important jazz artists of the 20th Century, capturing classic albums by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Donald Byrd, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and many others.
Born November 24, 1924 in Jersey City, NJ, Van Gelder was drawn to electronics at a young age as a ham radio hobbyist; by the mid-1940s, he had begun recording musicians in the living room in his parents’ house in Hackensack, NJ. Thelonious Monk would eventually pay tribute to the space with his mid-1950s track, “Hackensack.”
Throughout the 1950s, he recorded sides for independent labels in New York, including Prestige, Vox, Savoy and the label he grew to be most associated with, Blue Note. Even though he was capturing classic performances like The Miles Davis All-Stars’ Walkin’, recording was still something he did on the side at the time, spending his days working as an optometrist.
In 1959, he finally leapt full-time into recording and moved to a new studio which he designed in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. In that facility, where he also lived, he continued to record inspired albums like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Donald Byrd’s Fuego. During the later 1960, Blue Note began working with a wider variety of engineers, but Van Gelder, too, shifted with the times and through the 1970s, worked mostly with smooth jazz label CTI Records, home of Grover Washington, Jr. and others.
An in-demand recording and mastering engineer for decades, Van Gelder was still actively working in the early 2000s, when he remastered many of his best-known efforts for Blue Note as a specialzied series, the Rudy Van Gelder Editions; similar series for CTI and Prestige soon followed.
In more recent years, he was awarded the Audio Engineer Society’s highest honor, the AES Gold Medal, in 2013, following his being named as a fellow of the Society in 2009. No cause of death had been announced at press time. He is survived by his brother, Leon.