Jazz is virtually nonexistent on network television. Pianist and broadcaster Ramsey Lewis has addressed this vacuum with the PBS program Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis. This Showcase CD/DVD set serves as a sampler of performances from the series. The end result is a patchwork of genres.
Benny Golson captivates on the classic "Killer Joe ; Clark Terry's "Mumbles is hilarious. Seeing Ivan Lins perform his Brazilian hit "The Island is moving. Solo piano pieces by Chick Corea ("Armando's Rhumba) and Lewis (Coltrane's "Dear Lord ) are rendered with verve and tenderness, respectively. Perhaps the most exciting numberand longest at over five minutesis Dave Valentin's "Obsession, on which he plays flute in his inimitable percussive style.
Popular trumpeter Chris Botti evokes Chet Baker on "My Funny Valentine, but his own voice struggles to come through. A showcase for electric bass giant Marcus Miller, joined by George Duke and Lee Ritenour on Miller's "The Panther, seems out of place.
The most interesting aspect of the series is the way it brings together musicians not usually paired on the same instrument or genre. Al Jarreau and Kurt Elling's version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five is exhilarating, yet the coupling of Brubeck and Billy Taylor on the Ellington theme song "Take the 'A' Train is lackluster. Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me brings together sensual vocalist Jane Monheit and guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli, whose scatting guitar solo sounds like George Benson-lite.
The highlights of this high production value set are altoists Phil Woods and David Sanborn. On Horace Silver's "Señor Blues, Sanborn's piercing style is a fine contrast to Woods' flowing virtuosity, infused with blues and bebop, but Woods comes out on top.
Al Jarreau, Kurt Elling: vocals; Chris Botti: trumpet; Marcus Miller: electric bass, George Duke:
piano, Lee Ritenour: piano; Dave Sanborn, Phil Woods: alto sax; Chick Corea: piano; Robert
Cray, Keb Mo': guitar and vocals; Benny Golson: tenor sax; Ivan Lins: piano and vocals; Clark
Terry: trumpet; Jane Monheit: vocals, John Pizzarelli: guitar and vocals; Dave Valentin: flute;
Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, Ramsey Lewis: piano.