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Michael Cuscuna Remembers Rudy Van Gelder

11.2.24 – 8.25.16

Rudy Van Gelder (photo by Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images)
Rudy Van Gelder (photo by Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images)

Rudy Van Gelder always struck me as the kid who was comfortable in his own skin, kept to himself and won the science-fair prize every year. And yes, he was idiosyncratic and eccentric. If you’ve heard anecdotes about Rudy, chances are they are at least partially true.

He was also a man of contrasts. He meticulously donned gloves for years when handling microphones, yet he allowed musicians to smoke cigarettes inches from those same mics, depositing ash on them in the process. He was cautious enough to maintain a fallback career in optometry until he was 35, but bold enough to start his own recording operation and invest every cent he made for years into gear for it. He was gracious and generous with his recording talent, but obsessively secretive about his methods. He kept people at arm’s length until they gained his trust; then he was a warm, faithful friend.

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