By: Molly Black, Metro Staff Writer
Legendary music producer and local philanthropist, Tommy LiPuma spoke on Monday, January 30, 2017, to a packed classroom of Recording Arts & Technology (RAT) students (and G. Paul Cox, Ph.D., dean of Creative Arts) at Metro campus about live production and how to best approach it. It was a lively talk which David King the Program Manager of the RAT department said would “cover the challenges of recording music live and on-location.”
LiPuma donated $3 million dollars in the largest private donation to Tri-C, in 2012, in order to help upgrade and update the RAT department and help jump start musicians and recording artist students from him hometown of Cleveland. Though he no longer lives in CLE, he comes back to speak at the school at least once a year in order to help continue his philanthropy at Tri-C.
He began by speaking about his start in the music industry and how he worked as a “record plugger” for various Los Angeles record companies in the 1960s. A friend who owned a record company offered him an opportunity to produce a band and he chose “Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks,” a band that had a unique sound. He said about prior live albums that, “the spell was broken when the songs faded out and faded in,” so he wanted to an album in a different way. Rather than having the album have breaks between each song, thus destroying the feeling of a live show, LiPuma organized the album so that it flowed and had a cohesive whole; this idea became a signature of his work over the years.
One of the points that he covered for students was the idea that live can be fixed in the studio if there’s a bad performance, or leakage from other instruments. LiPuma said, for instance, “Drums are irreplaceable…if the drums aren’t happening, throw the track out.”
He also discussed his productions of live and concert records from Diana Krall, George Benson “Weekend in LA”, Al Jarreau, “Look to the Rainbow”, and the 1981 Montreaux Jazz Festival.
Students came away feeling that they definitely learned from listening to LiPuma speak. Charise, 19, a Jazz studies student said, “It made me think about how I need to come up with a master plan well before when I go into the studio.” Michael, 28, (RAT major) said, “I learned that a producer is basically a director and you need to put an album together with a flow.” Leaving the classroom it seemed that everybody had learned something new that would help them with their musical lives moving forward.