RIP: Jason Corsaro – Mixer, Engineer, Innovator and Inspiration

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SonicScoop and members of the professional audio community everywhere were saddened to learn of the passing on Wednesday, August 16th, of the mixer and engineer Jason Corsaro at age 58. The cause was complications due to cancer.

My primary memory of Jason is simply sharing a laugh, something I’m sure was not uncommon in conversation with him. Outgoing and gregarious, Jason was fun to be with.

Jason Corsaro’s unique approach to recording and mixing made a big impact on modern music. (photo courtesy of Roy Hendrickson)

Perhaps that positivity was reinforced by the confidence accompanying his accomplishments, an incredible discography that included engineering and/or mixing for all-time greats including Madonna, The Power Station, Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Paul Simon, Chic, Soundgarden, Bill Laswell, and countless others.

The first time we met was over lunch at a café in Tribeca. Jason told me about his fascinating background, rising up as an audio engineering student from New Jersey to work at Todd Rundgren’s Secret Sound Studio, followed by Power Station (which would go on to become Avatar).

Then he told me a lot of stories from the studio. I listened slack-jawed as he recounted mixing The Power Station’s seminal self-titled 1985 album, especially that record’s unforgettable single “Some Like It Hot.” In some sections, he had performed intricate, precisely-timed punch ins and outs of reverb on every single hit of drummer Tony Thompson’s parts, leading to the huge but totally controlled rhythmic drivetrain. It was a firestorm of artistry, athleticism and commitment that resulted in one of the most distinctive recorded drum sounds of all time.

NYC-based mixer Roy Hendrickson’s own credits include B.B. King, Missy Elliott, Blondie, Cheap Trick, P.O.D., Gavin DeGraw, Miles Davis, Peter Paul & Mary, Richie Havens, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, Gato Barbieri, and Pat Metheny, among many others. Trained himself by Tony Bongiovi, Hendrickson recognized a massive talent in Corsaro when their careers converged starting in 1985 at Power Station.

“Jason was a true artist and pioneer,” says Hendrickson. “He always had fresh ideas that were so incredible. I so loved his sound and his intrinsic musical sensibility. I still use many techniques and ideas he showed me. He was a wonderful person, and he was always excited about making records.”

Corsaro went on to become a key part of The Barber Shop Studios in Lake Heptacong, NJ for several years, until early 2016 when he began mixing out of his home in Blairstown, NJ due to deteriorating health. Engineer Robert Farren of Manhattan-based RLF Recording first worked with Corsaro on a record in 2012, and helped him assemble his home setup later on. “The sounds he came up with, within a very limited rig were incredible,” Farren says. “Jason took an interest in me, took me under his wing, and taught me a lot. He was my mentor.”

For Farren, Corsaro standout recordings are many, headlined by a couple of especial personal favorites. “The drum sound he got on Soundgarden’s Superunknown is probably my favorite drum sound of all time,” he notes. “But The Power Station’s eponymous debut album, that was Jason saying, ‘There are no rules. I’m doing what I want to do.’ That record is all about who he was.”

Another of the myriad fans that Corsaro accrued was none other than Nile Rodgers. The legendary super-producer and musician knew him well from collaborating on landmark albums like Madonna’s Like A Virgin, which Rodgers co-produced while Corsaro both engineered and mixed. (Read an in-depth article on the album’s production here, by Richard Buskin of Sound on Sound.)

Upon hearing of Corsaro’s passing, Rodgers penned his prolific friend a personal goodbye:

“Dearest Jason,

You were one of the most talented people I’ve ever known. On some level you changed the world. Whatever you’re doing in heaven, I know it’s loud as hell!

Love,

Nile Rodgers”

  • David Weiss