Much of the audio engineering work that I did at On Line Audio recording studio wasn’t much to write home about. I often think of it as “my studio,” but it really wasn’t mine. Robert Graves was the owner and I was the studio manager, and the way things evolved was that Robert did most of the nighttime sessions, while I ran the audio for the 6 and 11 news at WCBD, and I ran the daytime sessions. Even after I resigned at the station, that’s mostly the way we continued to do things.
Many of the really serious clients preferred to work at night. I mixed everything else. Some of my sessions included folks with amazing talent, but others, well… not so much. This story is from the amazing column.
Once we got a call from a client who was really pressed for time, and only had one day before he had to fly back to California. I think it was a Saturday, and Robert was unable to do the session. I remember him telling me that this Steve Bailey guy (I’d never heard of him) was a phenomenal bassist, and you should have a really good session. So I was assigned to engineer for him.
I met Steve early one morning, and I was immediately impressed. Very personable and down-to-earth, yet clearly the best bassist I’d ever met. He had some reels of 2″ tape with him that contained backing tracks recorded at a studio in California. There was something wrong with his bass tracks, though I can’t remember what it was… either there was something technically wrong, or he was rushed during the session and didn’t like the performance. We were going to re-cut all of the bass parts.
But Steve was having some sort of dispute with the record label over this, and they didn’t want him to re-record the parts. THAT’S why he was recording at a (comparatively) small, out-of-the-way studio in Charleston, SC. If the label got wind of what he was doing, they’d have a fit. So the deal was there were to be NO extra copies of the music made- no cassettes, rough mixes, etc.
Steve set up his pedal board in the control room and we started to work. I believe we set up an amp out in the studio, and also cut a direct box track, but can’t remember exactly. He and I sat in the control room, I ran the recorder while he played. I do remember exactly the length of the session, though… sixteen hours, longest session I’d ever done before or since. The whole time, Steve played like a machine, never slowing down or tiring. I remember feeling exhausted, but the music was so good that I didn’t notice the time as much as I would’ve otherwise.
Then just like that, it was over. Steve made his flight and we never saw him again. The album was never released… I guess the dispute was never resolved… and I spent years kicking myself for doing the right thing, and not keeping some kind of copy of the songs.
Remember that this all happened around 1992- before the internet. So a few years ago I started doing some web- related research. I spoke with Robert Graves, and I found Steve Bailey’s website and tried sending an email, but never heard anything. Then this came in my inbox:
Brian, sorry for the delay here.. the album you mention is out of print, although it may be re released at some point soon. It is called Dichotomy and you may be able to find it online.. you can certainly use some stuf from it. there were two releases in asia and europe.. the asian release has much more recording details… good luck, steve
Copies of the album are occasionally available on eBay at very high prices… for example this one at $125
The very elusive Steve Bailey Dichotomy CD
But if you’re patient, you can find one for $45… still really expensive, but I bought one because of the history. It took forever to arrive (it came in from Japan), but it’s every bit as good as I remember. One of the tracks even has the great Dizzy Gillespie playing on it. Be sure to check out Steve Bailey’s website, stevebaileybass.com.
So what does this record sound like? Have a listen:
The tracking and mix on this project is great. Good jazz drums have always impressed me, and the panning and tone here is especially nice… clear and well defined, not “overdone,” and very well played by Joel Taylor. The liner notes don’t say who the mix engineer was, but it was mixed at Slam Shack and Room 335. Guitarist Larry Carlton owned Room 335 in Hollywood, CA, and while he’s not listed in the engineering credits, he probably had a hand in it.
Here’s another snippet from a song called Surf’s Up… reminds me of Weather Report:
I couldn’t close this post without this song called Dizzy’s Tizzy. On trumpet is Dizzie Gillespie (yes, THAT Dizzie Gillespie). Even though I only played a very small role in producing this track, its pretty cool to say that I worked on a song with Dizzie Gillespie on it. If you’re really into jazz bass, check Steve’s website or keep an eye on eBay for this CD. Like I said, it’s crazy expensive, but it’s really good music… enjoy!