If Paradise, the biggest jewel in British composer, keyboardist and trombonist Tony Haynes' recording career to date, joins a handful of orchestral albums which have not so much crossed genre and cultural boundaries as rendered them meaningless. Off-piste singularities may exclude these discs from mainstream jazz history, but their exalted singularity make them artifacts to be treasured. Other high-carat items are pianist Joachim Kühn and arranger Michael Gibbs's Europeana (ACT, 1995) and pianist Randy Weston's Blue Moses (CTI, 1972).
With "If Paradise," a raga-based suite in eight sections, Haynes and his 19-piece Grand Union Orchestra—formed in 1982 as a vehicle for jazz-based, cross-cultural experiment—blend the music and instruments of Bangladesh and India with the jazz tradition to extraordinary effect. Haynes' genius here, as elsewhere in his corpus of work, has been not merely to bolt colorful ethnic exoticisms onto the exterior bodywork of the jazz tradition; instead, he creates a truly syncretic blend in which, much of the time, it is impossible to say where one culture stops and another starts. Listening to it is like looking through a kaleidoscope with a headful of the finest charas.