Thursday, February 28, 2008

RIP Teo Macero and Joe Gibbs

All those with an interest in the creation and manipulation of sound may well feel saddened by the recent deaths of Teo Macero and Joe Gibbs, two of the most influential producers in popular music.

Macero’s work with Miles Davis was genuinely pioneering, introducing techniques of cut-and-paste editing to a form of music that had formerly assumed the primacy of the live recording. It would have been enough for Macero to have produced Kind of Blue or Sketches of Spain but his later work on the likes of In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Tribute To Jack Johnson and On The Corner helped revolutionise the music for a second time. For ‘In A Silent Way’, still my personal favourite Miles Davis album, Teo collaborated with Miles to edit together two meticulously crafted tracks from hours of recordings. The recent box sets with their various out-takes give a fascinating insight into this highly creative process. Macero also worked with a fascinating variety of other Columbia Recording artists, including Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, helping craft some of the most significant and influential albums in contemporary music history. Macero is generally believed to be one of the few figures prepared to stand up to Miles Davis over creative decisions, and a man capable of eliciting compromise and conciliation from a notoriously intense control-freak. Brian Eno claims that Macero did something that was ‘extremely modern’, a statement supported by the fact that those extraordinary, spatial, haunting records with Miles still sound remarkably fresh even now.

Joe Gibbs was one of the legends of rocksteady and reggae, but has generally garnered less attention than those wild pioneers of dub such as Lee Perry or Keith Hudson. Perhaps this is merely because their creative use of the studio was frequently more obvious and pivotal. Yet Gibbs was responsible for some of the very finest reggae albums – particularly Culture’s astounding ‘Two Sevens Clash’ and its righteous fury. He also worked his magic with The Heptones, The Mighty Diamonds, The Ethiopians, Johnny Clarke and many others, and scored a massive hit with Nicky Thomas’ ‘Love of the Common People’. I’ve always admired the great sound of the drums on his recordings.

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