Also the man behind the A-10 and other ground support aircraft. I hope you all have heard at least one of his pressing in your journey to audio nirvana.
Pierre Sprey, a 1960s Pentagon “whiz kid” who was a formidable intellectual force in military analysis and weapons development, often tangling with top defense officials to improve U.S. military readiness and weapons development, died Aug. 5 at his home in Glenn Dale, Md. He was 83.
The cause appeared to be a sudden heart attack, said his son, John Sprey.
The French-born Mr. Sprey (pronounced “spray”) was a multilingual polymath whose interests encompassed history, engineering and literature. A Baltimore Sun profile declared that he “may well be the most fascinating person you’ve never heard of.”
In later years, he established a recording studio and jazz record label in a tumbledown house and produced dozens of recordings known for their exquisite high-fidelity audio.
He devised a homemade recording system that employed extremely thin wires, battery-powered microphones and a two-track Sony reel-to-reel recorder weighted with lead. He had a restored 1911 Steinway piano in the front parlor of an old country house called Mapleshade in Upper Marlboro, Md. He had made amateur recordings of Washington jazz singer Shirley Horn, who came to Mr. Sprey’s house to play his piano.
“One night she was sitting at my piano and fell in love with it,” he told The Washington Post in 1996. “She said, ‘P. baby, I want to do my next album on this piano and I want you to be my engineer’ … I enjoyed recording Shirley so much, I decided to hang out my shingle.”
Mr. Sprey named his record label Mapleshade and recorded primarily jazz and blues musicians, including saxophonists Clifford Jordan and Hamiet Bluiett and pianists Walter Davis Jr., John Hicks and Larry Willis. He placed rubber baffles on the walls and ceiling and turned off all the lights, refrigerators, furnaces and electronic devices to obtain as pure a sound as possible.
"Something important is happening in Upper Marlboro,” a CD Review critic wrote. “To sit down with a small stack of your very first Mapleshades is a revelation.”
A 1997 recording of New York’s Arc Choir singing the gospel tune “Walk With Me” was sampled on Kanye West’s hit “Jesus Walks.” Mr. Sprey said the royalties were enough “to support 30 of my money-losing jazz albums.”
Mr. Sprey later moved to two other “crumbling old wood and brick farmhouses” in Maryland, his son said, and often cooked for visiting musicians, who were welcome to stay overnight.