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Wrapup of Montreux Jazz Festival 2001: Part 2
MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND – For nearly three weeks this summer, audiences at the 35th Annual Montreux Jazz Festival heard the golden sound of Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers in concerts by top artists from all over the world.
"Thank You for the Golden Sound of the Festival" is the phrase inscribed on an ornately decorated Swiss cowbell that was presented to John and Helen Meyer on July 16 by Claude Nobs, founder and director of the Festival, just before a concert in Stravinski Auditorium. Other recipients of this traditional Swiss honor included renowned jazz bassist Ray Brown, versatile producer and keyboardist George Duke, and blues legend B.B. King.
By recognizing John and Helen Meyer along with these other festival luminaries, Mr. Nobs highlighted the crucial role that sound reinforcement plays in the success of the Festival. This year, concertgoers heard everything from aggressive hard rock and multi-layered hip-hop to solo acoustic guitar and a capella vocals through Meyer loudspeakers. Judging by the positive reaction from artists, audio engineers and audiences alike, Meyer Sound products are world-class performers in their own right.
The largest Festival venue, Stravinski Auditorium, was a showcase for the capabilities of Meyer Sound's newest loudspeaker system, the M3D Line Array. The tight vertical control afforded by the M3Ds allowed for remarkably uniform coverage throughout the hall. Six M3Ds were flown on either side, with the top three of each array dedicated to the hall's balcony area. A high-frequency rolloff was applied to the third cabinet for precise control of the lows in the balcony. All this was achieved with very little overlap onto the main floor.
The remaining three M3Ds in the array served the bottom half of the house, and three M3D-Subs were stacked below each flown array. In addition to the M3Ds, three CQ-2s were hung below the arrays on each side and two CQ-2s were flown above center stage for near fill; side fill was covered by two MSL-4s and two DS-4Ps on each side, and seven UPM-1Ps were used for front fill.
Lightning-fast Setup and Tuning
Dave Dennison, Crew Chief and SIM System II Engineer for Stravinski Auditorium, supervised the load-in and covered the SIM duties for the hall. "Rigging and system setup was a breeze. It only took us about a half hour to rig and fly the arrays on each side," Dennison said.
"From a SIM perspective, tuning the M3D line array was a piece of cake. In years past, we used an array of different types of Meyer speakers, each with its own sonic characteristics such as acoustic center, frequency response, and coverage," he recalled. "The SIM approach for a system like that was to first get the array to work together cohesively, and then tune it to the concert hall environment. With M3Ds, the first step is done at the factory, so to speak. It took very little to get the array sounding good as a whole, and once that was done, it simply required some subtle amplitude tapering to create a uniform SPL and frequency response throughout the hall." The M3D system in Stravinski Auditorium also garnered rave reviews from the mixing engineers who encountered it.
Plenty of Dynamic Range
Beck turned in what was in all respects a dynamic performance on July 9; his show ranged from his full band with backup vocals and horn section to voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica. Beck himself was all over the stage and, to the surprise of his sound crew, brought about fifty audience members on the bandstand at one point. To add to the confusion, Beck and his bassist were changing instruments with just about every song.
Jon Lemon, Beck's front-of-house mixer, had to handle all these variables while getting sufficient level to keep the sound he and the artists wanted. "I was looking forward to coming here today because just in the last week, I've used a number of the other new line array systems," Lemon said. "I'd love to give the M3D another go because I found it more responsive than the others. I was shocked tonight because I could just keep turning the system up, and there was no sign of any feedback. It really impressed me."
Clean Low End
Mark Newman was the front-of-house mixer for the Black Crowes, a Southern Rock group with a retro approach and edgy sound that shared the bill with Neil Young on July 10. Mark has worked with Meyer systems on many occasions, but the Montreux Festival was his first opportunity to use the M3Ds. His first impression was a good one. "The sound was real smooth in the high end and the low end was real punchy," he remarked. With the band's drummer hitting hard and the bass player going for a big sound, there was certainly a lot of low- and mid-range on the stage. "For the Black Crowes or any rock band, that's so important to get a nice tight low end without any weird overtones," Newman concluded.
A Feel for the Sound
Brazil Night at Montreux has a history of spirited audiences, to say the least. With multiple drum kits and all kinds of percussion, there's also a lot going on onstage, which adds up to a complex sonic environment. Lecco Possollo, the front-of-house mixer for duo act Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil on July 13, was impressed with the flexibility of the M3D system. "I found it easier to set up and get going with this system. It required less customization than other systems I've used," he said. Possollo was able to move around the hall during the sound check and found the coverage very even. "When you have the same sound all over the Hall, it's great. You don't have to push very much. You can have the punch without the volume," he related. In the end, he pointed out, the goal of all the technical activity is to serve the music. "Meyer is not just about the scientific side of things. They clearly have a feel for the sound."
Looking to the Future
On July 15, Funky Jazz night, Herbie Hancock's Future 2 Future Band played a show that was especially interesting from the mixing engineer's perspective. In addition to two keyboards, bass, drums and trumpet, the band included a DJ, and on top of the instrumental mix coming from the house system, an additional set of speakers was added to accommodate a special surround effects feed from the band. Two CQ-2s per side for the center of the main floor, one CQ-2 per side for the back, and two UPA-2Ps per side in the balcony provided surround coverage, effectively creating a 4-channel surround field in the hall.
The front-of-house mixer sent eight channels of stage effects, including one feed from each of the instruments and the DJ, plus two vocal mics to the surround channels. The output of the surround channels was then controlled in real time by a surround mixer. Two panner joysticks were used for positioning the effects sounds within a quad (LF, RF, LR, RR) surround field. In addition, the effects channels were split and added to the feed that was being sent to a multi-track recording truck in the basement of the facility.
The entire mixing team was very happy with the results. "We've tried this surround arrangement at a number of venues lately, and with this setup, Meyer has definitely taken the most scientific approach to what we're trying to do," said Dave Hampton, surround mixer. "Too often the surround setup is underpowered or just not matched with the main system, but this one really sounded good out in the center of the house."