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Volume 1, Number 9, December 2003
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UAD-1 Feature: Tom Scott– Arrangements with Technology

"Old School jazz funkster workaholic with a couple of Grammys" Tom Scott
Say you’re an Old School jazz funkster workaholic with a couple of Grammys and a dozen more nominations, 500-plus studio sessions (and counting), and matching arm-long lists of movie and TV credits under your belt. Between scoring sessions, L.A. Express tours, and twenty-six solo albums, you’ve squeezed in a few hundred performances and the odd arrangement for good pals like Quincy and Frank, Monk and Ravi, Barbra, Joni, Aretha, George and Sir Paul. So……what do you do in your spare time?

If you’re Tom Scott, you redo your home studio. The loft studio in his Tehachapi mountain A-frame, overlooking an expanse of the Sierra Madre from a nosebleed altitude of around 5000 feet, has undergone a major evolutionary process. To sum it briefly, Tom’s Gone Small.

“It’s great that it [UAD-1 DSP Card] takes the load of the CPU, but beyond that, this one card has such a comprehensive collection of production gear, it’s added tremendously to my creativity.”

“This whole room used to be jammed full of so much gear, it blocked out half the view,” he recalls. Having recently come through a divorce, Scott’s been channeling a lot of newfound inspiration into his own music, as well as several other projects, including the reformed and revitalized L.A. Express, and projects with the Los Angeles Jazz Symphony Orchestra. Redoing the room and clearing out creative space was part of the whole cathartic process for Scott. So out went the two inch machine, multiple keyboards, three towering racks and more snakes than a reptile shop, to be replaced by a Mac G4 tower, a single Ultimate Support stand, and lots more scenery.

The dual 1.4 GHz G4 is equipped with M-Audio’s Delta1010 and Quattro. Scott is a long-time Logic user, though for composing he’s also a fan of Ableton’s Live and Propellerheads’ Reason. “I love the way you can turn the rack around on screen and virtually patch modules together. Working with loops has really done a lot for inspiration.”

The best part of his new, more compact approach, is its flexibility. “I have a G4 Powerbook too, and both machines’ setups are nearly identical, so I can take projects with me on the road.” Audio and MIDI on the Powerbook is provided by an M-Audio FW-410. “When I’m on the road I pack the M-Audio box and my laptop, and I’ve got my whole studio between my shirts and socks,” he quips.

One recent addition to the setup that has quickly become a major component of Scott’s creative palette is the Universal Audio UAD-1 card. “I initially got the UAD-1 because I needed a good sounding reverb,” he explains. “And both DreamVerb and RealVerb still get the most workout of any of the plugins – they’re really the cornerstone of my work here at home. But every time I sit down and play around with the UAD-1 I discover something new – some new way to use one of the plugins.”

Lately, he’s been discovering the joys of the classic Pultec EQ and LA-2A limiter plugins. “Someone asked me if I thought it sounded like the originals. I don’t know how you can judge that – no two vintage Pultecs sounded the same either. At the end of the day it’s all about how it sounds, and this stuff sounds great. How it compares to a particular piece of vintage gear, I can’t tell you. That’s like chasing a moving target. But they serve the same purpose, and they’re a lot easier to program.”

He’s recently begun experimenting with the Nigel plugin on his horn parts as well, the results of which will likely find their way into his arsenal soon enough. “It’s delightful to have a piece of equipment that not only works as soon as you plug it in, but works so well. It’s great that it takes the load of the CPU, but beyond that, this one card has such a comprehensive collection of production gear, it’s added tremendously to my creativity.”

And much of this inspiration and creativity is reflected in Newfound Freedom, solo album number 26 for Scott, recently released on the Higher Octave label. The disc features an eclectic range of collaborators, from Marcus Miller and Gerald McCauley to Craig Chaquico and Daniel Rodriquez, the New York City “singing policeman” who gained national recognition after his Scott-produced 9/11 tribute album topped the Billboard charts last year. Scott mines a diverse trove of influences as the disc interweaves jazz, funk, R&B and Indian rhythms, smooth textures and exotic percussion into something uniquely his own.

As any artist will tell you, adversity and change can be great fuel for stoking the creative flames. In Scott’s case, the resulting outpouring of inspiration shows no sign of letting up. As he settles in to this new phase in his life with his teenage sons and his treasured view of the Sierra Madre, his date book is as full as ever – proof that, the more some things change, the more they stay the same.

--Daniel Keller

Tom Scott Links:
Verve Music Group

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