"Since I last saw you, Allen Toussaint is going to join the producers' panel."
Craig Schumacher is finalizing preparations for the Tape Op Conference, which will take place at the Fairmont Hotel and the Orpheum Theatre Friday through Sunday. Tape Op magazine, a 9-year-old publication dedicated to music recording and production, is sponsoring the conference, now in its third year. Producer/editor Larry Crane and producer/publisher John Baccigaluppi have organized the event with Schumacher, himself a producer at Wavelab Studios in Tucson, Ariz.
"For me, as someone who loves New Orleans and Jazz Fest, to have someone like Allen join us gives us a badge of credibility," says Schumacher. "I sent an email to Tony Visconti (a panelist and producer famous for his work with David Bowie and T. Rex) about that and he sent me back an email saying, Great! I'll just listen to him talk!'"
In addition to Toussaint and Visconti, other luminaries from behind the board include Steve Albini, Dave Trumfio, Joe Ciccarelli, Jack Endino, and New Orleanians Mark Bingham and Dave Pirner. The conference, like the magazine, approaches recording from the personal side, "and I think that rings well with these guys because they get to tell their personal stories," Schumacher says. "Anyone can talk about what mic they used, which people do want to know, but we're focused on how you dealt with this situation, this artist, these long hours, the budget crunch, the A&R pressure. It's more talking about music than the gear side."
In keeping with the conference's attempt to take a less technical look at recording music, famed New Orleans producer Cosimo Matassa will deliver the keynote speech. Schumacher says, "Listening to Cosimo talk and tell stories about what it was like to be recording in the early '40s and early '50s, dealing with racial issues, the union, the segregation at the time and the whole growth of the New Orleans scene through the radio -- that stuff to me is fascinating history and is stuff we need to know about."
Though the conference deals primarily with the human dimension of recording music, it isn't for everyone. "The workshops dig more into the technical side," he points out. "If you didn't understand anything about a computer, I don't think a Pro Tools workshop would do you much good; however, if you wanted to know how a record is finished, going to the mastering workshop might teach you something even if you didn't know anything because you'd be like, Wow, I had no idea this step even existed called mastering that people spend so much time and money on." Fans attending the conference, he says, "have to sort of be a fan of music and production and wanting to peel back the layers and understand how the process works."
Because of the producers' relationships with the artists they record, getting musicians to play the evening parties wasn't a problem. "It's a chance for them to play for their peers," Schumacher points out. Friday night at The Howlin' Wolf features an acoustic night headlined by Athens, Ga., singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, whose previous appearance in town was cancelled when his bus broke down en route. Saturday night at The Howlin' Wolf features an electric show with the North Mississippi All-Stars (possibly with father Jim Dickinson, who plans to attend the conference), Calexico and Steve Wynn. These shows are open to the public; the conference itself requires registration, and though walk-up registration is possible, going to www.tapeop.com for information and advance registration is advisable.
Louis Jordan and His Tympany Band: Films and Soundies -- Louis Jordan (Idem): This DVD of jump blues pioneer Jordan's movie appearances from the 1940s could stand as a very generous greatest hits collection, assembling 35 songs from three movies and 10 "soundies," or pre-video era videos. Typical of their vintage, the sound isn't always sync'ed to the performances, but seeing Jordan and his band rocking school rooms, Dick Van Dyke Show-like living rooms and barn dances (which feature the band in cowboy suits swinging to "Turkey in the Straw") makes them surreal fun. The situations are so unlikely, they whet your appetite for the movies from which they came: Beware, Reet, Petite and Gone, and Look Out Sister.
[CD REVIEW] Out the Box -- Tonex & the Peculiar People (Verity): If it weren't for Yolanda Adams' introduction, listeners could go 10 minutes without realizing this is a gospel album. Rather than sounding like he's dabbling in contemporary music because it'll help him reach the sinners, Tonex's synthesis of television theme songs, rap, techno and contemporary pop is sufficiently complex and dense to suggest he loves the sound as much as he loves the Lord. Though sonically he has little in common with Prince, they share a restless, hyperactive musical imagination and fearlessness. His sound is so idiosyncratic that reconciling it to the message is a little challenging sometimes, and the language in which he couches the message -- again, like Prince's -- can be awfully private, but those private elements are the things that draw us back. &127;