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Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom’s Sixteen Sunsets, currently nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for best surround-sound album, was recorded and mixed in 5.1 high resolution surround sound as well as stereo at Avatar Studio B in New York City with engineer and co-producer Jim Anderson, assisted by Mike Bauer & Aki Nishimura. The album was mastered by Alan Silverman for stereo and by Darcy Proper at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands for surround and is available on Pure Audio Records. (Jane plays with Cameron Brown on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, and Dominic Fallacaro on piano).
1. What was the overall concept of the album?
Jane has always been interested in surround sound. She has performed live sets in surround and her music has always reflected a ‘surround aesthetic’ but we always lacked a way to deliver the music. We had been looking for the appropriate project that could be recorded effectively in surround and we made some test recordings about two years ago in Avatar’s studio B. Jane has always felt comfortable in the intimate atmosphere of Studio B and she’s made the majority of her recordings there. We have always been intrigued with the possibilities that surround offered but didn’t have a clear concept of what the album would be. Jane took some time to think about the tunes she might record and the musicians that she would play with. In the spring of 2013 Jane told me that she was ready to record; had the tunes and the musicians in mind and would I help her in the production of the album. The album would be mostly standards from the American Song Book and some original tunes of hers. She’s a very fine composer and I feel that her tunes complement the others on the album. We wanted to create an immersive atmosphere for the recording; a setting that wouldn’t make the listener feel that the use of surround was a gimmick.
2. What was the surround recording set up you used (mics used, etc.)? Where did you place the musicians?
We’ve used Neumann U47’s for recording Jane’s soprano sax for many years and that’s the basis of the sound for her. The soprano is placed in the phantom center of the L/R, leaving the center channel for other duties. Jane was in the main room, the piano was in the piano booth, bass in the left back booth and drums in the back right. I used some Sanken CUB – 100’s on the inside glass of the piano booth and some PZM’s on the floor of the bass and drum booth for some extra ‘atmosphere’
3. What made you decide to use the Hamasaki Square? Did you modify or vary any of the parameters to adjust for the room or match the music? How did this configuration enhance what Jane does?
I’ve been impressed with the Hamasaki Square’s ability to help define a space in surround and felt that adapting the technique would help create a credible surround image of the space that Jane was inhabiting. So there are 4 Brauner VM-1’s (2 matched pairs) in a square and Jane is surrounded by those 4 microphones. They’re high up, physically, in the room and capturing the atmosphere of Jane’s performance space. Those four microphones are each located in the LF/RF/LS/RS channels.
4. Did the recordings give you more options when it came time to do the surround mix? Any special mixing effects you would like to share?
I feel that we’re able to appreciate the communication of the musicians more effectively in surround and intimately hear the inner workings of the band better. I tried to especially make the piano and the drums immersive in the mix. Rather than panning I used different miking to create the front/back relationships. I’ve found that I like to use co-incident pickups in the rears and wider miking in the front, so there’s both m-s and x-y in the back for drums and piano and wide cards and omnis in the front. This gives a natural spread to the instruments and any movement detected is a natural effect. I also created a live chamber in the live room of Studio B using the 4 Brauner microphones and my HD-1’s to excite the room during the mix.
5. What do you think of the resulting Pure Audio Blu-Ray release?
We’re very pleased with the Pure Audio release. The ability to navigate the disc without a screen is a definite plus and the listener’s ability to jump from surround to stereo by use of the red and yellow buttons on the remote.
We both feel that it’s a beautiful album and one that were very proud of and we feel that we’ve created an effective presentation of jazz in surround.