Al Schmitt


One the finest recording engineers the world has known, Al Schmitt, has passed. Over a lifetime he worked with countless composers, arrangers, songwriters and recording artists. In fact, it would be hard to find someone in the civilized world who has not heard an Al Schmitt recording.    

His longtime friend and colleague, Chris Walden, has offered a personal tribute.

Rest in peace Al.

Ashley Irwin
SCL President

One of the most accomplished recording engineers of all time died on Monday at the age of 91. In his lifetime, Al Schmitt won 20 Grammys, a few Latin Grammys, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received countless other honors.

His career as a recording engineer began in the 1950’s in New York where, as a rookie, he recorded Duke Ellington’s band. During his career that spanned 70 years, he has worked with Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Toto, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, and many more. He also worked with film composers Henry Mancini, Alex North, and Elmer Bernstein.

But to me he was more than just a legendary engineer, he was a collaborator on most of my recordings for the past 25 years, a father figure, a friend, and a champion of my work. After the first few recording sessions we did together in the late 90’s, he recommended me as an arranger wherever there was an opportunity. I owe a good part of my career to him.

At one time, we were mixing one of my big band albums at Capitol Studio C, where Al often left the studio door open, so the music would bleed into the hallway. Suddenly someone came into the studio and asked: “Who wrote that music?” Al pointed at me. The person asking was Rickey Minor, and that started a long working relationship between me and Rickey that spanned from “American Idol” to the “Kennedy Center Honors” and the “Oscars”.

As for many people, Al Schmitt had a great impact on my life, and I’m truly grateful to have known him. 

I will miss him forever.

– Chris Walden

Read more about Al Schmitt’s career in this tribute by Chris Willman in Variety.