Mapleshade Jazz

by James D. Dilts

Local Studio's Attention to Detail Gains National Reputation

"Look at this setup," says Hamiet Bluiett, baritone saxophonist with the World Saxophone Quartet and an independent producer at Mapleshade. "It looks like The Flintstones, but Pierre gets a real good sound." Indeed. Downbeat magazine gave five stars to In Walked Thelonious, the late pianist Walter Davis, Jr.'s tribute to Thelonious Monk, recorded at Mapleshade and released on the namesake label. (Davis took his first look at the studio and said, "Ah, Edison's lab.") Under the guidance of owner/sound engineer Sprey, Mapleshade is quickly getting a reputation in national jazz circles, both for quality recordings and for Sprey's idiosyncratic methods of obtaining them.

"Conventional recordings are laid out one track at a time and then mixed -- they are nowhere and no time," says Dick Turner, a salesman at the sound-equipment store Soundscape. Turner says Mapleshade's CDs are excellent tools for selling audio equipment. "At Mapleshade, people perform together at a particular time and place. When the flute player opens his mouth to begin a solo, you can hear him open his mouth. Listeners find that fascinating."

"I hate mixing boards," says Sprey, who records everything live to two-track on analog tape. "With a mixing board, if there was a problem with the way [the soloist] sounded, they would adjust it with the mixing board. Here we adjust it with the microphone itself in front of the musician."

December 25, 1996 - January 1, 1997