There’s a story about Steve Miller sitting down with the producer Don Was and playing him a few works in progress. Was asked if Al Schmitt had made the recording. Miller said yeah—how’d he know? Because he’d never heard Miller’s voice sound better, Was said. Engineer and producer Al Schmitt accidentally kicked off his career with a Duke Ellington session when he was only 19 (Schmitt thought there’d be someone else on hand; always the gentleman, Ellington said Schmitt would do fine). He quickly became known for his balance, naturalism, and incredible sensitivity to the dynamics of capturing sound in a room; Toto guitarist Steve Lukather said Schmitt could move a microphone a half an inch and change the sound entirely. With Grammys in six consecutive decades and a client roster that included Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Diana Krall, and Willie Nelson, Schmitt rode the shifting waves of pop in ways few engineers could, preserving an old-fashioned approach while still making relevant work up until his death in 2021, at the age of 91.