Welcome to the Comfort Zone

Nick Funk pushes all the right buttons

Duffy Jackson, whose 42-year career as a dynamic jazz drummer and bandleader includes recording stints with the Count Basie Band, guitarist George Benson, the Manhattan Transfer, and many others, is one of those select artists who have experienced the difference of recording in the comfort zone. "I had visited my friend Nick's home many times before he built the studio," Jackson says, "and I always felt that when the studio was finished I would want to record there. Now I've had the opportunity to record several projects there, and it is a very different feeling when you are in Nick's home compared to the usual commercial studios. First of all the atmosphere and ambiance is conducive to spontaneous creativity. I don't feel that pressure and tension that are so much a part of the usual recording sessions…. Nick's attitude and the environment of his studio inspires you to create at your best. A big part of the success of the projects I've done there is the engineering and mixing of Nick's nephew, Josh Rummler. The fact that he's related to Nick just enhances the family feeling in the house."

The Funkadero sound is the result of the setting of the studio, the equipment, and of course, the intangible touch of Funk himself. "You don't think about your signature being on something," he says, "but it does happen because of the choices that you make, the artists that you work with, the way you like to set levels and place microphones, and the ambiance of the session. It's not conscious, it just seems to happen."

One of the key elements of the Funkadero sound is the "live" feel that Funk captures in the studio. "Everybody in jazz wants that live feeling on their CDs," he says. "When they play live in front of an audience, that energy is there, but when they get in the studio and you start recording in layers and isolating tracks, then it can sound overprocessed. So what they really want to get is that live, spontaneous sound and feeling in the studio. Tenor saxophonist Turk Mauro paid me the greatest compliment… when he told me that no one had ever captured his live sound to his satisfaction until he came here."

So how is that live sound achieved? "It's magic," Funk explains. "There is no simple formula. It all has to do with the equipment, the procedures that you follow. But if you want to really get something from an artist, that comfort zone is the number one thing. If that artist is really comfortable, you are going to hear it."

Nick Funk is a man who loves jazz and the creative process. While he might not be a jazz musician, he is a certainly a creative artist in his own right. His area of creativity is the space he has built within his home; his tools are his collection of digital electronic equipment; his medium is the surface of tapes and CDs; and the content of his art is the product of other artists. His is a creativity in service to others.

"It isn't my vision," he says, "it's their vision. My job is to do everything possible to help them document their concept. I don't put my ideas on them; that's not what it's about. If you really want to make it happen for the artists, first you have to create the environment and then it will happen."

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