Oscar Peterson – Unmistakable – Zenph Re-Performance – Sony

by | Oct 4, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews

Oscar Peterson – Unmistakable – Zenph Re-Performance in stereo and binaural sound – Sony Masterworks Jazz 88697743512, 1.3 hours [10/4/11]*****:
This is the fourth release in the ongoing series from Zenph Sound Innovations, consisting of previously unreleased recordings Oscar Peterson had made in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The first in the series was the Glenn Gould Bach Goldbergs, then Art Tatum at the Shrine, and the third was Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff. 
Zenph employs a proprietary process that uses computer software to transform recorded music—no matter how poorly recorded, mono, stereo or whatever—back into live performances, precisely replicating what was originally played but with vastly enhanced sound quality, and a complete absence of all background noise, hiss, scratch, whatever. For the Peterson recording, the Zenph team used a specially-outfitted Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand piano to authentically recreate Peterson’s distinct sounds. (The previous albums used a Yamaha Disklavier Pro piano.) 97 (not the usual 88) special tubular solenoids were installed on the Bösendorfer by British engineer Richard Shepherd, plus an optical system to measure the velocity of the hammers. (You can hear Peterson’s use of the added bass notes in the latter part of track 2.) The recordings were made digitally in stereo, surround sound and binaural, but since Sony no longer issues SACDs in the U.S., the standard CD has only the stereo and binaural tracks. HDtracks has the album in hi-res stereo at their site, and iTrax will provide the hi-res surround sound version, as well as stereo and binaural, at their site.
Peterson, who died in 2007, had been involved in the making of the Zenph album. The Zenph crew set up a Disklavier Pro piano and their computers at Peterson’s home in early 2007 to play him examples of their work. As a lifelong technology buff, he was very interested in their work, and was brought to tears hearing the re-performances of his hero Art Tatum.
The late Canadian musical genius was one of the greatest jazz pianists ever, and one can frequently hear touches of the amazing fingerwork of his hero Tatum in his performances.  Listen to track 6 on this disc – an Ellington medley. It’s absolutely breath-taking!  Peterson had studied with a Hungarian classical pianist who taught him “technique and speedy fingers.”  His career began with an audition for a CBC national amateur contest, which he easily won.
As with the other three albums, it is a most pleasurable experience to hear these pianists crystal clear, without any distracting noises or distortion.  But until you have put on stereo headphones and listened to the binaural tracks (which repeat all eight tracks of the stereo set) you haven’t really had the ultimate experience. Just compare on headphones, for example, the beginning of track 6 with track 14.  With the latter, you are hearing the nearest thing to Peterson actually being at the keyboard of this piano.  In fact YOU are now at the keyboard of the Bösendorfer—the crystalline treble notes are over on the right and down on the left are the bass notes. And the choice of tunes is superb: such classics as The Man I Love, Body and Soul, and Dizzy’s wonderful Con Alma—not to mention the long Ellington medley.
There are rumors of Zenph using their unique technology on the re-performance of instruments other than the piano.  I’m having trouble getting my brain around that one, but stay tuned for further developments. They are also offering special piano instruction software.
TrackList: Body and Soul, Back Home Again in Indiana, The Man I Love, Who Can I Turn To, When I Fall in Love, Duke Ellington Medley: Take the “A” Train/In a Sentimental Mood/C Jam Blues/Lady of the Lavender Mist/My Heart Sings (Rome-Blanvillain.Herpin)/Satin Doll/Caravan; Con Alma, Goodbye
— John Sunier

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure