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Baldwin Grand Piano (Model Unknown)
It is likely that Rudy Van Gelder did not always have a grand piano in his Hackensack studio. Maureen Sickler recalls Rudy saying there was an upright piano in the living room for the first several years. Photographic evidence confirms this, and our earliest evidence of a piano being used in the studio comes in the form of a 1950 recording from the private collection of jazz archivist Drew Techner:
It’s possible that the piano used for this session is the same Baldwin grand piano in the photograph below of Kenny Drew dated April 16, 1953.
Steinway Model B Grand Piano
Rudy Van Gelder acquired his now-famous Steinway Model B through a classified ad in the New York Times. The previous owners were forced to sell the nearly-new piano for a loss, and Van Gelder was in the fortunate position to take advantage of the circumstances (Sickler et al., 2011). With a serial number suggesting it was manufactured in late 1954, it was in the Hackensack living room no later than May 1955 and is still being utilized for sessions at the Englewood Cliffs studio today.
Just about every legendary jazz pianist has played this piano, from Herbie Hancock to McCoy Tyner — save Cecil Taylor, who Van Gelder refused to let play this piano out of fear that he would damage it. The piano’s cover has light engravings on it from the Hackensack years. One day, Thelonious Monk was writing a letter on top of the piano, and he was pressing so hard that his handwriting became forever engraved into the top of the piano — Rudy was furious at Monk for the oversight.
Hammond C3 Organ with Matching Leslie Speaker
Also legendary, Van Gelder acquired this organ from Savoy producer Ozzie Cadena around the time he moved to Englewood Cliffs. Again, just about every legendary jazz organist has played it, from Jimmy Smith to Larry Young.
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