Tom Dowd, Music Engineer Extraordinaire

I just saw the movie Tom Dowd and the Language of Music. If you like blues, soul, jazz, and classic rock, you will really enjoy this film. The NPR links below include a MP3 audio interview with the director and video clips from the film.

My favorite part of the film is when Tom, sitting at his mixing console, isolates the guitar tracks of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on the song Layla, just before the solo piano starts. (Layla — from Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs —has been one of my favorite songs since I first heard it.) He shares his joy of the majestic music produced by these two guitar geniuses — we can feel his love and pride for what he captured in that timeless recording.

Here’s a synopsis of the film from NPR:

Tom Dowd & the Language Of Music profiles the extraordinary life and legendary work of music producer/recording engineer Tom Dowd. Historical footage, vintage photographs and interviews with a who’s who list of musical giants from the worlds of jazz, soul and classic rock shine a spotlight on the brilliance of Tom Dowd, whose creative spirit and passion for innovative technology helped shape the course of modern music.

A long-time engineer and producer for Atlantic Record, Tom Dowd was responsible for some of the most important R&B, rock, and jazz records ever made. In his own words, Tom Dowd relates how he went from working on the Manhattan Project, while still high school age, to recording some of the greatest music ever made over the last half of the 20th Century.

A man who seemingly fit many lives into one lifetime, Tom Dowd was born on October 20, 1925 in New York City. At a young age he excelled in mathematics and physics, leading to his work from the ages of 16 to 20 on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University. In 1946, as a sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers, he oversaw a team of radiation detection specialists at the atomic bomb tests in Bikini Atoll. After his discharge from Army, he soon began applying his science background to help revolutionize the process of recording music. While working for Atlantic Records, his pioneering work in binaural stereo recording, and later his design of the eight-track console, modernized the recording industry.

Tom Dowd produced and engineered timeless records for artists including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Cream, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, Dusty Springfield and countless other celebrated musicians. Dowd also formed both strong professional and personal relationships with many of these artists, including Eric Clapton, starting with Cream and leading to their working partnership on Layla and Other Assorted Loves Songs and collaborations on several of Clapton’s finest solo albums. Source: NPR