Al Schmitt has been in recording studios since he was seven years old, starting in his uncle’s recording studio in New York City. At nineteen, after serving in the U.S. Navy, Al got his first engineering job at Apex studio in New York working with his mentor, engineer Tommy Dowd. He was responsible for recording simple demos, but that changed when a presumed demo booked under the name, Mercer, turned out to be Duke Ellington and his band. Al went on to record sessions for Atlantic Records, Prestige Records, and Bobby Shad’s “Sittin In” Records.
With encouragement from Dick Bach of World Pacific Jazz, Al moved to California to work at Radio Recorders, where together with Bones Howe, he engineered the first Peter Gunn album for RCA Victor. Al engineered several RCA Victor sessions, and when they opened their own studio at Sunset and Vine he was the first engineer they hired. He won his first GRAMMY award in 1962 for Mancini’s “Hatari.” In 1963, he became a staff producer at RCA, producing the Jefferson Airplane, Eddie Fisher, Sam Cooke, Gale Garnett, and the Limelighters. He left RCA to become an independent producer in 1967 and went on to produce for the Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, and Jackson Browne.
Because of strict union regulation at RCA, while Al was producing he could not engineer. When Tommy LiPuma asked him to engineer Dave Mason’s album, “Alone Together,” Al realized how much he’d missed using his skills in recording and mixing. Al’s second GRAMMY came working with Tommy LiPuma on George Benson’s album, “Breezin,” in 1976.
Al loves producing and engineering and has been privileged to work with the best and the brightest in the recording industry, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Usher and Dr. Dre, to name a few. During his career, he has recorded and mixed over 150 gold and platinum records and has gone on to receive a total of 20 GRAMMY wins and 2 Latin GRAMMY awards for engineering albums by such artists as Steely Dan, Toto, Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, Luis Miguel, Ray Charles, Chick Corea, DeeDee Bridgewater and finally, Paul McCartney ( in 2013, his most recent GRAMMY win).
Al served five years as an elected National Trustee of NARAS beginning in 1998. In 1997, he was inducted into to the TEC (Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards) Hall of Fame. Al was awarded the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Trustees Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. He was granted an honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music in 2014. During the same year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Al would be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (the first engineer to be so honored) in front of the Capitol Records building in 2015.