A giant of jazz recording, architect of the Blue Note sound and the engineer on hundreds of classic jazz albums in the 1960s and beyond, Rudy Van Gelder has died. He was 91.

Van Gelder’s nephew drummer Todd Van Gelder confirmed the news on Facebook: “Just got word that my uncle, legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder died. From the time I started playing drums at 9, through my days at Berklee College of Music and beyond, his work touched every part of my life. More importantly, so many others too. It’s still surreal seeing the pictures taken in my grandparent’s living room in Hackensack that graced so many early Blue Note albums.”

Beginning by recording friends in his parents’ New Jersey house in the 1940s Van Gelder was introduced to Blue Note records chief Alfred Lion in 1952 and quickly began recording for the label as well as other indies particularly Prestige and Impulse.

An optometrist in his early career, his heyday began when he opened a larger studio in Englewood Cliffs. 

During his lifetime he recorded such classics as A Love Supreme for John Coltrane for Impulse and other classics he worked on include Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure, Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, and Roland Kirk’s Rip, Rig and Panic.

It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that Van Gelder’s idea of studio sound became and remains the definitive model for all modern jazz. Tributes are pouring in on social media, many saluting a man who for many was the greatest studio engineer jazz has ever known. RIP