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Behind The Sounds - Brendan McGeehan

Brenden McGeehan

Every time we attend a concert, there are people at work whom we may, or may not know, nor notice. These are people whose job is to make our experience as wonderful as possible. To that group of people who work behind the scenes in the Jazz community here in Philadelphia, we'd like to acknowledge their work and commitment. This series of articles, entitled Behind The Sounds is dedicated to the sound engineers.


Brendan McGeehan is a trained recording engineer and studied musician, equally at home at a rock venue, classical concert hall, or jazz club. Brendan is a staff engineer, producer, arranger, and session musician at Forge Recording in Oreland, PA, where he also teaches audio production. He also works out of Retro City Studios in Germantown, as well as Elm Street Studios in Conshohocken. Brendan helps produce monthly jazz salons @exuberance in South Kensington, where he records every performance. He also teaches sound design at Lebanon Valley College.


As a composer and sound designer, he has scored music for many films over the last few years. His latest documentary, “Dizzy Fingers: the Life of Joe Soprani” was featured on NPR and enjoyed a sold-out premiere. Recent highlights include producing a Brazilian jazz album incorporating over 60 musicians for Philadelphia based group, Minas, working on Aziz Ansari’s comedy special, “Buried Alive,” directing “We Are Music,” a music video that layers the talents of 20 musicians, all performing live at different iconic Philadelphia settings, and producing and engineering jazz records that include performances by Larry Coryell, Mike Clark, Orrin Evans, and more.


PJP Spoke with sound engineer, Brendan McGeehan about his philosphy and his work as a sound engineer.


PJP: Can you tell us a little about your studio, or your business as a sound engineer?


Brendan McGeehan: To me, every project deserves thought and care as to which space would be right for the recording. Not every project is right for every studio, and vice versa. It’s important to me to discuss the project with every artist I work with the determine where we should make the record. If they are comfortable in the studio, the music is better, and the listener is rewarded. To that end, I record every performance @exuberance (monthly jazz salons in South Kensington. I also work out of Retro City Studios in Germantown, Elm Street Studios in Conshohocken, and Forge Recording in Oreland. I also have a home studio that I use mainly for editing and mixing.

PJP: What inspired you to work in sound?


Brendan McGeehan 2Brendan McGeehan: It’s hard to explain, but I think it all started with making demo recordings when I was a kid on a Tascam tape recorder, and doing novice editing and mixing on whatever computer software that I could get my hands on. Being able to encapsulate a performance has always fascinated me. Particularly when it comes to jazz, because due to the improvisatory nature of the music, a recording is often the only way to hear something the same way again.


PJP: How long have you been doing this work?


Brendan McGeehan: I’ve been doing this work in Philadelphia for 10 years.

PJP: What keeps you motivated?


Brendan McGeehan: I’m constantly amazed at the level of talent and diversity of styles within jazz in Philadelphia. There’s always something worth hearing, and I love being a part of making it sound great on a recording. I’m also a musician, so it’s important to me to be able to serve fellow musicians in getting their art out there.

PJP: Can you share a bright moment from your work?


Brendan McGeehan: I have been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible artists. Not to single out any one moment, but in general anytime an artist compliments me on really “getting” their specific sound on a recording, then it’s a bright moment for me. Jazz musicians work so hard on getting a sound and voice that is unique to them, that I take it very seriously when recording them, hoping that I can translate that tailored sound onto a recording.


PJP: We know that audio is a science, but what makes it an art?


Brendan McGeehan 3Brendan McGeehan: I think that the art is to make the science as transparent as possible. Most jazz artists I work with care little about the gear, but they care very much about the sound quality. After all, they are highly talented individuals with great ears. So I find the art in helping communicate their sound with as little technical fuss as possible. I want them to focus on the music completely.


PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?


Brendan McGeehan: The music is its own reward. When players are really connecting, there’s nothing better. At that point my job is to stay out of the way!


Connect With Brendan McGeehan via his WEBSITE or FACEBOOK



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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.


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If it hadn't been for him, there wouldn't have been none of us. I want to thank Mr. Louis Armstrong for my livelihood.
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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.