Track Selection: Equipe 68 >
Azymuth (Brazil) – Jose Roberto Bertrami (keyboards), Alex Malheiros (bass, guitars), and Ivan Conti (drums, percussion). Formed in 1972, recording on the Jazz label Milestone 1990’s and London-based Far Out Records since. “Before We Forget” (2000)
One hangover from a brief period of listening to jazzy fonky stuff was Azymuth, and I still have eight or so vinyl LP of their Milestone recordings. One which I still play each time I make a Hi Fi upgrade is the track Equipe 68 for its beautiful recording, superb soundstage and use of stereo positioning, and the wide dynamic range, captured by this excellent vinyl pressing. Probably difficult to find on vinyl now as it’s ten years old in a genre known for rapid obsolescence. Cymbals sizzle, shakers shake, electric piano notes hang suspended in mid-air while the bass drum physically punches at floor level and bass harmonics glisten in this atmospheric Brazilian swinger. All-electric apart from the percussion, it still shows a clean pair of heels to a lot of modern fonky stuff, though I am no expert (not that it ever stops me offering an opinion)
In stark contrast to the horrible job done on the Avishai Cohen LP, this modern vinyl record (dating from 2000) is a mastering and pressing beauty. The recording, mixing and mastering is solid professional handiwork (recorded in Rio de Janiero, mixed in London by Roc Hunter and mastered by “Pete” at Heathmans, according to the credits). The dynamic range is perfect, without the loading-up of bass, as I am told is common in records mixed for the club and dub generation.
It is useful to have a few test discs whose sound is well committed to memory, to reveal quickly what a tweak has done to your system, and whether you like what it has done. Any loved recording will suffice, this happens to be one of mine, and its demands are very revealing of what’s going on in the handling of bass and treble.
Sometimes the painful truth is that your first reaction is unfavourable, as a tweak may reveal a weakness elsewhere in the system, or you may have become accustomed to an artefact of your hifi that does not exist in the music itself. From recent experience, this is often in the control or lack of control of bass, and the presentation of the upper freqencies. To anyone with an interest in photography there is an interesting parallel, in the retention of detail in both highlight and shadow areas, from light (treble) to dark (bass), to achieve high dynamic range.
Among HiFi enthusiasts the test record of choice is often the Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. To judge from HiFi Online Forums Dark Side of the Moon may be the entire extent of their music collection, as their predominant interest is hifi, not music. This has a parallel in the motor car, where men are often interested in the car and its performance rather than where they go in the car, which may be just the occasional visit to the in-laws.
I find a correlation between the enjoyment of music and good sound reproduction. I can even listen quite happily to types of music I don’t generally like. But play me a poor recording and it kills my interest immediately, whatever the type of music.