In Memoriam: Rudy Van Gelder

Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder used his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s. Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images, LLC/via NPR
Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder used his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s. Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images, LLC/via NPR

In Memoriam: Rudy Van Gelder

You may know the names Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins; all giants of the jazz world.

But you may not know the name Rudy Van Gelder. He didn’t play the music — he recorded it, from a small studio built in his parent’s living room in Hackensack, New Jersey. It wasn’t until 1959, when Van Gelder had already engineered some of the greatest records in jazz history, that he was able to make it a full time gig and purchase his own home a few miles away in Englewood Cliffs.

An interviewer in 2012 asked him to describe his style. He said, “To get electronics to accurately capture the human spirit.” Van Gelder’s goal was to make the records he engineered sound “as warm and as realistic as possible.”

The thousands of records he engineered have had a huge cultural impact. If you look on the back of a jazz album from the 50’s or 60’s, chances are good you’ll see the name Rudy Van Gelder.

Mr. Van Gelder died in his home/studio yesterday at the age of 91.