What a fantastic project this has been! Violinist Merel Vercammen set out to record fully free improvisations with eight other classical and jazz artists. After listening to the final tracks, all sorts of animals came to mind, hence calling it “The Zoo”. The recording was divided over five days with two major sessions, one in a small 15th-century church in Batenburg, the other session was recorded at the Orgelpark in Amsterdam, with a great selection of organs and (historical) pianos to choose from.
The people Merel chose to improvise with are (in chronological order of recording):
- Maya Fridman (cello)
- Bernadeta Astari (voice)
- Vincent Houdijk (vibraphone & singing bowls)
- Ties Mellema (baritone saxophone)
- Wilco Oomkes (accordion)
- Tobias Borsboom (piano)
- Rembrandt Frerichs (Érard piano)
- Jaap Zwart (organ)
Session One – Old St. Victor Church, Batenburg
In this beautiful little church, all the non-keyboard instrumentalists were recorded. The church has an incredible reverb to it, much longer and more diffuse than you’d assume by the looks of it. Especially for the surround masters, we wanted to put this special reverb on display as well as possible, which resulted in us choosing the DPA d:dicate 4006A omnidirectional microphones in a 5-channel surround configuration. Merel and her improvisation partners were each given their own spot microphone, a DPA d:dicate 4015 sub-cardioid microphone. Everything was connected through custom-made Furutech microphone cables, into the Merging Technologies HAPI. No additional equalization, compression or limiting was applied – even to the massive-sounding baritone sax of Ties Mellema!
Session Two – Orgelpark, Amsterdam
For the second session, with pianists Tobias Borsboom and Rembrandt Frerichs, as well as organist Jaap Zwart, the famous Orgelpark in Amsterdam was chosen as recording location. This because of its great organs and its historical Érard grand piano, on which Rembrandt Frerichs played. Here, we also used the DPA 4006A microphones in conjunction with the 4015A sub-cardioids as spot mics. The result is the beautiful, lush reverb of the Orgelpark, but with enough directivity on the instruments. No EQ or compression applied whatsoever.
When we got to record Jaap Zwart on the organ, the immediate problem of height difference was noticable – the organ is high up on the walls of the venue. We therefore had to adjust our microphone height by almost two meters. To compensate for that, we had to build Merel a 1.2-meter tall platform to play on, to get back into the stereo image in much the same way that she had been for the other session, as to not shift the sound stage too much between tracks on the album.
Well, let the pictures speak for themselves!