There's Having a Producer and Then There's Having Ralph Farris!
Written by Adam Morrison
When Jeff Adler, composer for all of Hevreh Ensemble’s music, told me we would be making our next CD I was excited. I am particularly fond of much of Jeff’s newer material and have been anxious to record it. When he told me we would be using a producer I was happy about that too. Having an objective ear is an excellent idea-someone who has not been intimately involved with the material for the preceding months or even years can sometimes give a fresh perspective. As the saying goes in the legal profession “any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”.
The role of producer can mean many things, ranging from on the one hand, someone who makes sure the musicians arrive on time and sober to the recording session and that the studio is paid for, to the other extreme- I think of George Martin, producer of the Beatles- someone who actually writes musical arrangements and plays some of the instruments on the session and ends up functioning like an additional member of the band.
I had met Ralph briefly (violist for the string quartet Ethel) in a recording session a few years earlier and was aware of his reputation and was sure that he was a good choice for this project. This turned out to be far more true than I had imagined.
When I wrote to Ralph after the session, to thank him and tell him how positive of an experience it was for all of us, I talked about his depth and width as a musician and producer.
Depth as in seeing deeply into the intention of a composer and helping to bring the important ideas to the foreground.
Width as in a wide skill set.
Think of a second grade teacher, who can simultaneously convey the material at hand, manage a classroom filled with many different kinds of personalities and needs, and do all this while taking everybody’s sensitivities into account.
Ralph can hear subtleties in intonation, read a score, talk about improvisation, and navigate the world of digital technology.
It is this wide and rare skill set that we all benefited from and I believe the forthcoming album will demonstrate that beautifully.