Choice Cuts: Tony Dawsey on Urban Knights

Tony Dawsey mastering jazz

Choice Cuts is a blog series where we ask the question all music obsessives love to answer: “What is your essential music?” This time it’s Tony Dawsey’s turn.

He’s well known for mastering hip-hop classics, but not as many music fans know about Tony Dawsey mastering jazz. So the title Tony selected for his first “Choice Cut” might surprise some readers: Urban Knights‘ self-titled album, released on CD by the GRP label in 1995.

“That’s my favorite album of all time I’ve worked on,” Tony says. “Maybe it has something to do with it being jazz; it’s upbeat and it puts a smile on my face.”

Tony Dawsey mastering jazzThe album, which has instrumentals and vocal tunes, features a core group of Ramsey Lewis (piano), Grover Washington Jr. (saxophone), Victor Bailey (bass), and Omar Hakim (drums).

Ramsey Lewis started his career in the 50s, playing straight-ahead piano trio jazz, and scored his first hit in 1965 with the iconic soul-jazz album “The In Crowd”.

Grover Washington, Jr. started in the soul-jazz field in the 60s, and started making records under his own name in the early 70s for Motown and Verve. Like Ramsey, Grover eventually had “crossover” hits in R&B.

Victor Bailey got his first big break replacing Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report. Talk about having some shoes to fill! He’s gone on to be an extremely in-demand sideman in jazz, fusion, funk and R&B as well as a leader of his own projects.

Drummer Omar Hakim also spent some time in Weather Report, but he got his first break with Carly Simon. He made serious waves playing with David Bowie on “Let’s Dance,” and Sting on “Dream of the Blue Turtles” and has been on many hit records since, while still keeping up his fusion chops.

So “Urban Knights” is a sort of soul-jazz / R&B / pop supergroup.

“I can listen to it any time,” Tony says. “I’ll listen to it when I’m home — I can sit down and listen or it’s something that’s nice to have on when I’m doing stuff in the yard or whatever. I’ll play it in the car — though it depends on what kind of driving I’m doing. Sometimes it’s Biggie Smalls in the car! But probably not a month goes by that I don’t listen to Urban Knights. Some people will probably be surprised at that, thinking I listen to hip-hop all the time or something. I do listen to hip-hop, but I listen to a lot of other stuff too.”

Check out Tony’s profile at the Masterdisk website.

Masterdisk Presents Choice Cuts with Andy VanDette

Masterdisk Choice Cuts Logo

Choice Cuts is a new blog series where we ask the question all music obsessives love to answer: “What is your essential music?” We kick off the series with our music-obsessed and ever affable Chief Engineer: Andy VanDette.

Gretchen Goes To Nebraska
King’s X – Gretchen goes to Nebraska
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Go Radio album cover
Go Radio – Close The Distance
Because who wouldn’t love to sing “Go To Hell” to a former loved one at one time or another. A great melodic rock record.

Metallica album cover
Metallica – Metallica
I have seen them live soooo many times. Nothing grabs me like this pre-loudness-wars album, although I wonder where in the production chain the first note of “Enter Sandman” got clipped.

Tony C and the Truth album cover
Tony C and the Truth – Demonophonic Blues
My biggest hit album, that never was. 🙁 But I still love it!

Metric Live It Out album cover
Metric – Live It Out
I love the way Emily Haines goes from calm to crazed. She is one of the sexiest women alive today — besides my wife, of course.

Porcupine Tree In Absentia album cover
Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
What can I say? Hands down the best sounding album I have ever mastered. Tim Palmer is a mix god.

Seal album cover
Seal – “Kiss from a Rose”
Not the album that it came from — JUST “Kiss From A Rose.” I think it is one of the most perfect recordings of all time. Great song. Great arrangement, Great recording and production. It is soooo compressed but still musical. It was on the 1996 Grammy nominees CD, and they had to turn it down -4dB just so it didn’t obliterate all the other tracks. I use this and Porcupine Tree to check out different studios and monitoring environments.

Toto Farenheit album cover
Toto – Farenheit
Great songs; great production. I sing along with it when driving home late at night to help keep me awake…. Because you’ve never fallen asleep while singing, have you?

Rush Moving Pictures album cover
Rush – Moving Pictures
High school favorite (showing my age here) that always brings back momories of selling everything I owned to buy an Electro Harmonix Bass Microsynth pedal so I could make a WOOOOOSH at the beginning of “Tom Sawyer.” Richard Chycki did an awesome job on the surround mix. You MUST hear it.

Max Webster Universal Juveniles album cover
Max Webster – Universal Juveniles
Saw them open for Rush in high school, and I must say I didn’t “get” Kim Mitchell jumping around on stage in a gold spandex jumpsuit yelling “Check! Check this out!”. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized what killer players they were and how cool “CHECK!” really is. “In The Land of Giants” is my ringtone.

Tubes Completion Backward Principle album cover
Tubes – The Completion Backward Principle
Fee Waybill is God.

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