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Various Artists Jazz Icons Series 2 Box Set Reelin' in the Years
No matter how often you've listened to John Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things," there's nothing quite like watching him work his magic in a live performance that gives an entire new life to that Richard Rodgers melody. In crisp, glorious black and white, Coltrane's musical exploration is just one of dozens of thrilling moments in the new Jazz Icons series. These Coltrane sets from Germany and Belgium in 1960, 1961 and 1965 are especially valuable as markers in a landmark recording career that lasted only a mere 12 years. The 1960 performances capture moments when his tenure with Miles Davis was ending. Plus Stan Getz makes a guest appearance, making for a bit of friendly dueling on "Hackensack."
Duke Ellington has been well-documented on film, but the footage here is notable for catching his great band just after their widely publicized success at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. Duke is at his suave best as he casually remarks, "The kids in the band want you to know we all love you madly. Those "kids, of course, include giants like Johnny Hodges delivering a medley of "Black and Tan Fantasy , "Creole Love Call and "The Mooche that's as enduringly seductive as it is hypnotic
The Dexter Gordon trio of sessions from 1963 and 1964 captures the saxophonist early on into aproductive, lengthy period living in Europe. Radiantly handsome and possessed of movie star looks, at 40 he's seen at the peak of his powers. His tone is complex and beautiful, and ideas flow abundantly and seamlessly. Among his cohorts is George Gray at the piano on one set and a very swinging Kenny Drew Trio on another.
The Wes Montgomery and Charles Mingus sets are each fascinating and especially striking as studies in totally contrasting, brilliant musical personalities. In a trio of 1965 performances, Montgomery radiates an easy camaraderie with his fellow musicians. By contrast, even when bantering during a rehearsal, Mingus is intense with a capital "I." Like Coltrane, Montgomery's recording career under his own name was short only nine years; yet he remains an enduring influence today, perhaps unrivaled by other guitarists and especially notable for the magnitude of his improvisational skills as well as for rhythmic abilities which drive the music so authoritatively.
The Mingus performances include rehearsals, which afford a fascinating view into works-in-progress, as well as complete performances of masterworks such as "Meditations On Integration and "So Long Eric." It's compelling documentation of the oceanic talent of this complex artist. Legends now in their own right, side men Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan play with such magnitude and artistry that sometimes it's hard to take their presence in fully.
Dave Brubeck has called the 1964 and 1966 sessions on view here "the best footage of the Classic Quartet that I've ever seen. Along with his peerless cohortsPaul Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wrightthis is Brubeck's now legendary quartet at the height of its powers and popularity. There are two versions of their mega-hit, "Take Five," as well as two unique interpretations of "Koto Song, which capture them reveling in a high-spirited collaboration. The camera work is especially skillful in these sessions.
The sole vocalist in this series is "The Divine One," Sarah Vaughan circa 1958 and 1964. The sets reveal her evolving from gifted young woman into a sophisticated, assured artist. The voice is traffic-stopping: lustrous, creamy, lyrically faultless and endlessly imaginative. Whether it's a luscious "Lover Man," an a capella "I Got Rhythm or a cathedral-like "Maria," she summons up thoughts of Divinity indeed.
Lavishly illustrated booklets accompany each DVD, with informative essays by the likes of Ashley Kahn, Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny and Dexter Gordon's widow, Maxine Gordon. A rewarding series, it vibrantly documents why all of featured artists have become legends.
Wes Montgomery - Live in '65
Tracks: Holland 1965: I Love Blues; Nica's Dream; Love Affair Rehearsal; The End of a Love Affair. Belgium 1965: Impressions; Twisted Blues; Here's That Rainy Day; Jingles; Boy Next Door. England 1965: Four on Six; Full House; Here's That Rainy Day; Twisted Blues; West Coast Blues.
Personnel: Wes Montgomery: guitar; Pim Jacobs: piano (Holland); Ruud Jacobs: bass (Holland); Han Bennink: drums (Holland); Harold Mabern: piano (Belgium); Arthur Harper: bass (Belgium); Jimmy Lovelace: drums (Belgium); Stan Tracey: piano (England); Rick Laird: bass (England); Jackie Dougan: drums (England).
DVD Feature: B&W. Running time: 78 minutes. Liner notes by Pat Metheny. Forward by Montgomery's family. Afterward by Carlos Santana. Rare photographs and memorabilia collage.
Charles Mingus - Live in '64