Paraiso (UltraHD CD review)

Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, with Jane Duboc, vocals; Jazz Brazil. FIM Lim UHD 074 LE.

Before actually sitting down to listen to this album critically, I probably heard it all the way through about half dozen times as background music. You see, around Christmas time the Wife-O-Meter discovered it sitting on the audio cabinet among a dozen other things waiting for review, and she thought it might be perfect dinner music for guests we had coming over. She fell in love with the Brazilian jazz album Paraiso and played it again and again whenever we had company. So, by the time I did got to listen to it attentively, it already felt like an old friend.

Legendary jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) seemed like an old friend, too. He was playing “cool” jazz when I was a kid growing up in the Fifties. He made Paraiso in 1993, near the end of his career, for Telarc Records, and it became one of his most-popular albums (although I admit  I had never heard it until the present remaster). According to jazz critic and broadcaster Neil Tesser in a booklet note, “Gerry Mulligan discovers Brazil? That might seem an appropriate title for this, his first recording devoted to the richly flavored, intoxicating music that came stateside three decades ago and decided to stay. In the spirit of that most famous Brazilian-U.S. collaboration--between Jobim and Stan Getz--this one finds at its heart a surprising singer and a saxophonist of uncommon invention. Yet on Paraiso (Portuguese for Paradise), the partnership extends even to the compositions themselves: true American hybrids of North and South, for which the legendary jazz man himself wrote the melodies and Brazilian vocalist Jane Duboc concocted the lyrics.”

In addition to Ms. Duboc, a number of others join Mulligan to make the album come to life: Emanuel Moreira, guitar; Waltinho Anastaeio, percussion; Charlie Ernst, piano; Leo Traversa, bass; Peter Grant, drums; Norberta Goldberg, percussion; Cliff Korman, piano; Rogerio Maio, bass; and Duduka DaFonseea, drums. Together, they make beautiful music.

The songs all have a fine Brazilian atmosphere to them, with persuasive elements of bossa nova, samba, and chorinho (“little lament”), and while I couldn't understand the Portuguese lyrics, it didn't matter; the music's the thing. (The booklet notes do provide translations, but then they qualify the translations by saying they didn’t intend them as English lyrics. I guess the words don't translate well or go with the music or something.)

Anyway, the merging of Mulligan's soft, mellow sax, Ms. Duboc's fluid, honeyed voice, and the music's sweet, lyrical rhythms is hard to resist. Interestingly, even when the music is upbeat and swinging, there's a touch of melancholy one cannot miss (perhaps that “little lament” influence). It gives the tunes a slightly nostalgic, though never sentimental air, tinged with a warm, golden, nuanced glow. It's no wonder the Wife-O-Meter fell in love with the disc.

Incidentally, I had meant to point out a few numbers I liked best, but ultimately I couldn't make up my mind; they were all impressive. There are eleven tracks on the album, each selection lasting from about four minutes to a little over eight, some sixty minutes’ worth in all. It makes for a great hour.

As always, FIM do up the package in a hard-cardboard foldout container, with bound notes and an inner bound sleeve for the disc, which gets further protection via a static-proof, dust-proof liner.

Producers John Snyder and Gerry Mulligan, recording engineer Jack Renner, mix engineer Michael Bishop, and executive producer Robert Woods originally made the recording for Telarc Records in July 1993 at Clinton Recording Studios, Studio A, New York, NY.  Producer Winston Ma, mastering engineer Michael Bishop, and Five/Four Productions combined to remaster the recording in 2013 using 32-bit UltraHD technology and FIM’s PureFlection replication process.

The relatively small size of the various instrumental groupings participating in the music making lends itself to a fairly transparent sound, yet one with plenty of ambient bloom to provide a realistic feeling of being there with the musicians. What's more, there is a genuine sense of dimensionality involved, with air and space around the instruments. The sax sounds always mellifluous and sometimes mournful; the vocals are perfectly natural at all times; and the percussion, especially, appear vivid and taut. Factor in a smooth overall response, wide frequency extremes, and a strong dynamic impact, and you get a vivid, lifelike sonic experience.

More good news, especially for audiophiles who enjoy the sound of vinyl: Producer Winston Ma and First Impression Music have made Paraiso available on LP, mastered by the same award-winning engineer, Michael Bishop, who did the original recording. Knowing FIM, the sound cannot be anything but terrific.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa