Leslie Ann Jones is a multiple Grammy-award winning recording engineer and Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound. If that’s not enough pedigree, her father is bandleader Spike Jones. She shares a set of songs that have influenced her work – from an early Barbra Streisand recording to Supertramp. Her latest project is a release from piano prodigy Conrad Tao.
For More: http://www.skysound.com/bio/lajones.html
1. Barbra Streisand - Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home
2. Simon & Garfunkel - America
3. Supertramp - Bloody Well Right
4. Cris Williamson - Live Wire
5. San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Testimony
EJL: Hi, I'm Eric J Lawrence, and I am here with Leslie Ann Jones, multiple Grammy award-winning recording engineer, who's the director of music recording and scoring at Skywalker Sound, founded by George Lucas. Today we're going to talk about some of the songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Leslie Ann, thank you so much for coming down.
LAJ: Thanks for having me, it's great to be here.
EJL: You have such and interesting job, describe a little bit of what that's about.
LAJ: Part of the work I do is running the scoring stage, which is a big recording studio built for scoring music for feature films, although we do all kinds of recording work. And then the creative part of my job is that I get to record most of the music that gets done there. So just when I'm tired of being in the studio, I can go up to my office and take phone calls and when I'm tired of that I can go downstairs and make records.
EJL: Well, very cool. Well what's the first song you got for us.
LAJ: I have something that is probably the first thing I remember making an impression on me. I was 12 years old when this first came out. And it's Barbra Streisand's "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home"
And my mother, who was also a wonderful singer -- Helen Grayko, she sang in my father's band, my father was Spike Jones – she had a lot of wonderful tapes of singers in her car the days of the Earl Muntz 8-track. Every time Streisand came on, it's just really it's all I could pay attention to.
Song: Barbra Streisand - Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home
LAJ: And one of the things I remember about this particular song was the arrangement done by someone who I later got a chance to work with named Peter Matz. And Peter arranged and produced this record of Streisand's that was her second full album. And it's just a fantastic piece and I think it really influenced my work later on with singers and big bands in terms of how to mix things and really how to kind of position the vocals so that that's what you pay attention to.
EJL: That was Barbra Streisand with "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home". What's the next song you got for us?
LAJ: Well, the next song I have is a song by Simon and Garfunkel called "America" from Bookends, which came out in 1968. This was my first introduction to the genius of an engineer named Roy Halley, who produced and engineered for Simon and Garfunkel. It kind of began the serendipitous path my career has taken by admiring people and then getting to work with them later. And, of course, Roy became one of my mentors when I got my first studio job
at ABC recording studios in 1973 and this is, I think, such a great example not only of Roy's wonderful work in terms of the acoustic expression he creates, but also just the way Paul Simon delivers the lyrics that he wrote that you… it's like reading from a book it's really quite amazing and Roy just surrounds it with sounds that allow you to completely envelope yourself in with Paul is trying to say.
Song: Simon and Garfunkel – “America”
EJL: That was America from Simon and Garfunkel as selected by our guest Leslie Ann Jones. Well, what's the next song you got for us?
LAJ: Well, you know, rather than people think I'm just a softie with a bunch of folk stuff, this is a cut by Supertramp from “Crisis? What Crisis?” and it is "Bloody Well Right." This came out in 1974. I had just started at ABC recording studios. I mean I could have picked Supertramp, I could have picked 10CC I could have picked Pink Floyd, but when I went back and listened to this, this whole record was sonically just so incredible. It had such a tough direct sound to it. It was, I think, the first really preeminent use of the wurlitzer?In a rock way that wasn't just sort of a background sound. And there was a concept to the record. To me it was much more specific than something like Pink Floyd, but it also brought up to me the incredible music that was coming out of the UK at that time.
Song: Supertramp – “Bloody Well Right”
EJL: That was "Bloody Well Right" by Supertramp. What's the next track you got for us?
LAJ: The next track I have is a track by singer songwriter Cris Williamson from the first record I did with her called “Strange Paradise”, and this is a cut called "Live Wire".
When I moved from LA to Northern California in 1978, I worked at the Automat recording studios. I got a chance to work with Herbie Hancock and Carlos Santana, did a lot of R&B records with Maze and ConFunkShun, did my first feature film, Apocalypse Now, but it was also the first time that I worked on women's music projects. It was, I think, a bit different for both of us because I was coming to it from having become a professional recording engineer and they were coming to it from wanting all women to work on their projects, but never having perhaps the benefit of someone that came from the outside that had the wealth of experience I had.
But I think that this cut of Cris' really exemplifies kind of what was going on at that period, not only with the musicianship -- let me stop to think that everything I've played so far has been done on nothing more than 24 tracks and all of these things sound so full and so beautiful and I think when you listen to the harmonies
on this and just the way the instrumentation came together this, for me, is very indicative of what people were trying to do then and started off my career in that era of music.
Song: Chris Williamson – “Live Wire”
EJL: That was "Live Wire" from Cris Williamson. What's the last track you got for us?
LAJ: The last track is something that I'm really quite proud of. It was recorded last year and when I was sitting in my office doing the admin part of my job I got a call from the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus asking about a recording project that they wanted to do. The chorus had done several records at Skywalker many years ago, but I had never had the good fortune of working with them. This was a particularly important project to them because Stephen Schwartz, the wonderful Broadway producer of Wicked, Godspell, etc, had written a piece just for them based on the It Gets Better project, which is the Dan Savage project, and Steven Schwartz had carte blanche to all of the words that were used in any of those videos or voicemails or anything that people sent about their lives as gay and lesbian youth and he wrote an original song for the gay men's chorus to sing. They asked me to record it and I ended up ultimately producing it along with their music director Tim Seelig. I never had a chance to participate when LucasFilm did their contribution to It Gets Better, so I was very happy to be able to do this.
EJL: Leslie Ann, thank you so much for coming dow,n we really appreciate that.
EJL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through Itunes.