Al Schmitt, who as a boy watched Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters report music in his uncle’s studio, and who went on to grow to be a Grammy Award-winning engineer for a protracted roster of artists together with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Diana Krall, died on Monday at his house in Bell Canyon, Calif. He was 91.
His dying was confirmed by his spouse, Lisa Schmitt.
For greater than 60 years, Mr. Schmitt introduced deft engineering expertise and a sixth sense about what made a tune nice to his collaborations with dozens of musicians and singers. He was famend for his capability to make delicate however important adjustments throughout a recording session.
Mr. Schmitt’s light, knowledgeable steering from behind the recording console was an important, if unseen, aspect in 15 of Ms. Krall’s studio albums.
“It’s how he heard things,” she mentioned by telephone. “Sometimes he’d adjust the mic a bit or put his hand on my shoulder and say, ‘It’s OK.’ I don’t know if he was adjusting the mic or me.”
While recording at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, she added, “Al would say, ‘Why don’t we bring out the Frank Sinatra stool?’ And you’d do the best take in your life.”
Mr. Schmitt, whose engineering credit additionally included Sinatra’s standard “Duets” albums within the 1990s, won 20 Grammys, probably the most ever for an engineer, and two Latin Grammys. He additionally received a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement from the Recording Academy in 2006.
In 2005, Mr. Schmitt’s contributions to Ray Charles’s personal duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” introduced him 5 Grammys. (He shared 4 — for album of the 12 months, report of the 12 months, greatest pop vocal album and greatest engineered album — with others; one — for greatest surround-sound album — he received on his personal.)
As an occasional producer, his credit embody albums by Sam Cooke, Eddie Fisher, Al Jarreau, Jackson Browne, and, most notably, Jefferson Airplane. In his autobiography, “Al Schmitt on the Record: The Magic Behind the Music” (2018), he described the zoolike ambiance in the course of the recording of the Airplane’s album “After Bathing at Baxter’s” in 1967.
“They would come riding into the studio on motorcycles,” he wrote, “and they were getting high all the time. They had a nitrous oxide tank set up in the studio, they’d be rolling joints all night, and there was a lot of cocaine.” In spite of these obstacles, “After Bathing at Baxter’s” was effectively acquired, and Mr. Schmitt went on to supply the group’s subsequent three albums.
A tamer ambiance existed in 2015, when Mr. Schmitt engineered “Shadows in the Night,” Mr. Dylan’s album of songs related to Frank Sinatra. Between classes over three weeks, they listened on Mr. Dylan’s small participant to Sinatra’s renditions of the songs they have been about to report.
Mr. Schmitt recalled that they have been making an attempt to not method every tune “in the same way” that Sinatra did “but to get an idea of the interpretation,” he told Sound on Sound journal in 2015. “We then would talk for maybe a couple of hours about how we were going to do the song.”
He mentioned that he had initially been unsure that Mr. Dylan, who produced the album below the identify Jack Frost, might sing the Sinatra requirements, however that he was thrilled by what emerged from the audio system from the beginning.
“If there was something slightly off-pitch, it didn’t matter because his soul was there and he laid the songs open and bare the way they are,” he instructed Sound on Sound. “He also wanted people to experience exactly what was recorded, hence no studio magic or fixing or turning things or moving things around and so on.”
Albert Harry Schmitt was born in Brooklyn on April 17, 1930. His father, additionally named Albert, made PT boats on the Brooklyn Navy Yard and later labored for a printing firm and for a report processing plant. His mom, Abigail (Clark) Schmitt, was a homemaker.
In his Uncle Harry Smith’s recording studio in Manhattan, Al found his future.
“I loved my mother and father, but life with Uncle Harry was glamorous,” Mr. Schmitt wrote in his autobiography. (His uncle had modified his surname from Schmitt.)
At first his father escorted him on weekends to the studio. But by age 8, Al was taking the subway on his personal. He reveled in listening to Crosby, being requested by Orson Welles if he believed in Martians (quickly after Welles’s nation-rattling radio broadcast of a Martian invasion in “The War of the Worlds”) and being taken to bars by his uncle and his shut buddy Les Paul.
His uncle put Al to work — establishing chairs for an enormous band, cleansing cables. And Al discovered from being there concerning the correct placement of musicians in a one-microphone studio.
After Mr. Schmitt was discharged from the Navy in 1950, his uncle helped him get a job as an apprentice engineer at Apex Studios in Manhattan. He had been working there for 3 months, nonetheless not sure of his capabilities, when he was left alone within the studio on a Saturday. He was shocked when the members of Mercer Ellington’s huge band arrived, together with Mr. Ellington’s father, Duke.
Fearful of fouling up the session, he fetched a pocket book with diagrams about the right way to arrange the seating and place the microphones. He apologized to Duke Ellington.
“I’m sorry, this is a big mistake,” he recalled telling him. “I’m not qualified to do this.”
“Well,” Ellington mentioned, “don’t worry, son. The setup looks fine and the musicians are out there.”
Over three hours, Mr. Schmitt mentioned, he efficiently recorded 4 songs.
Mr. Schmitt labored at different studios in Manhattan earlier than transferring west in 1958 to hitch Radio Recorders in Los Angeles, the place Elvis Presley had recorded “Jailhouse Rock” and the place Mr. Schmitt in 1961 was the engineer for each the celebrated album “Ray Charles and Betty Carter” and Henry Mancini’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” soundtrack.
Mr. Schmitt was nominated for a Grammy for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” however he didn’t win. His first Grammy got here the subsequent 12 months, for his work on Mancini’s rating for the movie “Hatari.” (He was additionally nominated that 12 months for “The Chipmunk Songbook,” by Alvin and the Chipmunks.)
After 5 years at Radio Recorders, Mr. Schmitt was employed by RCA Studios, the place he moved into manufacturing. He left RCA after three years to grow to be an impartial engineer and producer.
Those years have been amongst his busiest as an engineer. In 2018, throughout an interview on “Pensado’s Place,” a web-based collection about audio engineering, he remembered one two-day interval.
“From 9 to 12 I did Ike and Tina and the Ikettes; we’d take a break, and from 2 to 5 I’d be doing Gogi Grant, a singer with a big band, and that night I’d be doing Henry Mancini with a big orchestra. The next day, Bobby Bare, a country record, and then a polka record.
“I hated polka music,” he added, “but what I’d concentrate on was getting the best accordion sound anybody ever heard.”
Mr. Schmitt stored working till lately, serving to to form artists’ sound effectively into the digital period. His most up-to-date Grammy, in 2014, was for Mr. McCartney’s DVD “Live Kisses.”
In addition to his spouse, Mr. Schmitt is survived by his daughter, Karen Schmitt; his sons, Al Jr., Christopher, Stephen and Nick; eight grandchildren; 5 great-grandchildren; his sister, Doris Metz; and his brothers, Russell and Richy. His earlier three marriages resulted in divorce.
In 2015, Mr. Schmitt acquired a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“I listened for a minute and I said, ‘Did Al Schmitt record this?’” Mr. Was mentioned. “He was taken aback and said, ‘Yes, how did you know?’ I said, ‘Because your vocals sound better than I ever heard them before.’”