RIP Teo Macero

More knowledgeable and skilled writers than I will have much better to say about the passing of Macero after a full life lived, but he’s one of those folks without whom the history of recorded music would not be what it was. I emphasize recorded because he’s one of those people who took the possibilities of the studio — of non-‘live’ recording — to the full, and in doing so helped anyone who listened understand more of what could be done. It’s no stretch to say that he’s one of the most mesmerizing producers of all time, thanks to that run of albums he did with a mesmerizing musician — Miles Davis:

Helping to build Miles Davis albums like “Bitches Brew,” “In a Silent Way” and “Get Up With It,” Mr. Macero (pronounced TEE-oh mah-SEH-roh) used techniques partly inspired by composers like Edgard Varèse, who had been using tape-editing and electronic effects to help shape the music.

Davis’s routine in the late 1960s was to record a lot of music in the studio with a band, much of it improvised and based on themes and even mere chords that he would introduce on the spot. Later Mr. Macero, with Davis’s help, would splice together vamps and bits and pieces of improvisation.

For example, Mr. Macero isolated a little melodic improvisation Davis played on the trumpet for “Shhh/Peaceful” on “In a Silent Way” and used it as the theme, placing it at the beginning and the end of the piece. Even live recordings he sometimes treated as drafts; the first track of Davis’s “Live at Fillmore East,” from 1970, contains a snippet pasted in from a different song.

Mr. Macero strongly believed that the finished versions of Davis’s LPs, with all their intricate splices and sequencing — done on tape with a razor blade, in the days before digital editing — were the work of art, the entire point of the exercise.

The ILM thread on his passing suggests many pieces that are being listened to in tribute, so if you’d like a starter kit, there’s where to go. You’ll be well-rewarded. RIP, sir.

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