Al Schmitt, one of the most revered engineers and producers in the annals of the music business, has died at 91, multiple friends and associates have confirmed. No official statement or cause of death has been given.
Schmitt is believed to have received more Grammys for engineering — 20, not including Latin Grammys and a National Trustees Award — than anyone else in his field. In 2015, he received an even more rarefied honor for an engineer-mixer, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Among his most recent projects were Willie Nelson’s “That’s Life,” released in February, and Diana Krall’s fall 2020 release “This Dream of You,” which he and Krall put together from sessions they worked on with the late producer Tommy LiPuma.
Highlights in his discography included Steely Dan’s “Aja” and Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company,” marking just two of the 10 occasions on which he received the Grammy for best engineered recording or best engineered album (non-classical). In the case of “Genius Loves Company,” a duets album that was Charles’ swan song, Schmitt also shared in its Grammy win for album of the year, as well as sharing the record of the year honors that went to Charles’ single, “Here We Go Again.”
Schmitt won 20 Grammys out of 36 nominations, according to the Recording Academy website. His last two Grammy wins, in 2012-13, came for working with Paul McCartney on his album of standards, “Kisses on the Bottom,” and its “Live Kisses” home-video sequel.
The more than 150 gold or platinum records that bore his name in the credits included recordings by Henry Mancini, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Natalie Cole, Thelonious Monk, Elvis Presley, Madonna and Michael Jackson.
“Gonna miss you bad Al Schmitt!” tweeted Steve Lukather of Toto, whose Grammy win for album of the year for “Toto IV” was shared with Schmitt. “Loved you since 1977 and there will never be another… Today sounds a lot less good.:
“Al Schmitt was the guy,” said Alan Elliott, who had been working with Schmitt on preparing a project. “He helped define the sound of Los Angeles — the cool of Mancini and Cal Tjader, the joy of Sam Cooke, the swag of Elvis in Hollywood, the swing of Sinatra, and when Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan wanted to sound like their heroes, they worked with Al Schmitt. He was a joy to be with, always humble and ready, and we all will miss his genius as well as his decency.”
Schmitt was the primary subject of a 2016 documentary, “The Art of Recording a Big Band,” recorded at Capitol Studios, where he did much of his work.
More to come…