On Tuesday we filmed a session video with the Brass-A-Holics.
Charlie lined it up with the band’s manager just a few days before. The Brass-A-Holics are a nine-piece band, with a full horn section, tuba, drum set, amped instruments…Up to this point, we have only done sessions with acoustic bands, and only up to four people. We knew we would be pushing our limits with this one.
“They want to do it in the penthouse [Juneau Residence] of the Ritz Carlton!” said Charlie, reading his computer screen. We rolled up to the Ritz at 6:30. Turns out, the shoot would be on the roof! We made our way straight to the top. Equipment-laden, we found a huge piano-shaped stage up there, glistening in the sunset. I knew this was going to be good.
We started to set up our audio interface and all of our mics. As members of the band arrived, it seemed like the job would be impossible with the limited resources we had available. We needed power, more mics, wind screens, more lights, and more inputs. Thankfully, the sax player was a calm and helpful force, and had brought along a mixing board and a plethora of mics, cables and stands. Charlie ran across the street to buy all of Walgreen’s extension cords (with the hope of returning them afterwards) and I raced home to gather our windscreens. I had Bob Marley’s song stuck in my head – “We, can make it WORK!”
We reconvened on the roof and hurriedly improvised a complex and fragile production as the sun set on New Orleans. Six inputs went through Charlie’s board: two condensers set up in an X-Y stereo configuration for a full mix, a condenser above the drum kit on stage, a vocal mic for the lead rapper, another vocal mic for the horn players to share, and one mic placed deep within the tuba. Two more mics through Sam’s mixer into protools – the kick drum and the snare. Lastly, we set up the Zoom in four-channel mode to record the keys, percussion, and the guitar amp. We also set up our lights, and happened to find additional work lights in a nearby closet. We used every last extension cord that Walgreens had. Phew. Somehow, it was all working great!
The band was professional and fun to work with. Between takes we were all laughing, jamming, drinking beer and eating pizza. They didn’t seem to mind that we were figuring things out on the fly. There was electric energy in the air, and they really got into it. It was a beautiful breezy night, up there on top of the city. Their brassy song rang loud & true.
After a bunch of takes, each better than the last, we wrapped things up at 11:00. That was the music curfew, besides, one of our camera batteries died at the end of our final take. People were cheering from balconies all around the building. The band dispersed into the night as Charlie, Marie & I broke broke everything down, satisfied with the incredible job we just pulled off. The opportunity seemed to materialize out of nowhere, stemming from one little email. It will take a while to edit the audio and video, but be on the lookout for this session video – it was a giant leap for the American Music Project.
From New Orleans,
American Music Project