AES PNW Section Meeting Report
Anatomy of a Session
Frank Laico, CBS staff engineer (retired)
Emceed by Dan Mortensen and Bob Smith

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Frank Laico
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(L-R) Frank Laico, Dan Mortensen, Bob Smith
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Frank Laico
Photos by Gary Louie and others. Clicking on an image displays it at full resolution.
Audio Recordings of the Meeting

Part 1 (38MB)  
Part 2 (34MB)  

Photo Gallery (not recommended unless you have a fast connection) 

Video Recordings of the meeting (on YouTube)  

The PNW Section took the unusual step of presenting nearly the same meeting twice in a season. Despite the title, a presentation that was part retrospective, part interview, part tutorial, and perhaps part "This Is Your Life", featured retired CBS Records staff engineer Frank Laico and his career and techniques through a magic time in the recording business in New York. From the 1940s to the 70s, Frank recorded some of the most famous musicians and songs ever, such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Carmen McCrae, Andy Williams and many others.

First presented in a frigid December at Mouse Recording in Seattle, 18 AES members and 24 non-members attended, a good figure. However, it was so much fun, it was decided to repeat the presentation with an eye for the Art Institute of Seattle AES Student Section in April. 11 members and 29 non-members attended the reprise.

Long retired and a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest, Frank recently celebrated his 90th birthday and 65th wedding anniversary in December 2008.

Extensive research and interviews by PNW Section Committeemen/Emcees Dan Mortensen and Bob Smith provided historic photos, classic sound recordings, session diagrams and modern analysis to accompany the interview of Frank.

A lot of stories were related as the photos were shown and recordings played. Frank described how he got into the business after WWII, and how CBS managed to acquire the famous 30th street studios. He told about how the recording business worked back then, with union requirements dictating doing four songs in under 3 hours, with 90-minutes setup. Photos of various microphones and equipment in use at the studio by these famous clients revealed Frank's favorites and his way of using them, and a lot of stories were told about the sessions with these musicians. Our emcees had figured out the layouts for many sessions,   and so had diagrams for placement of musicians and mikes for Frank to comment on. Many music examples were played to hear the results, such as Tony Bennett and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and Frank Sinatra singing, "New York, New York." For comparison, Bob Smith had constructed a composite audio track of two versions of NY, NY to compare the original to a modern remastering with a different vocal track.

At the December presentation, the PNW Committee presented Frank with (an early) 90th birthday cake and a computer gift.

Reported by Gary Louie.