R. Clark | Ridley Park, PA United States | 07/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In their first concert together -- before they went into the studio to record the classic "Rite of Strings" album -- three of the icons of the fusion era shed (well, mostly) their electronics and perform a scintillating set that celebrates their virtuosity.
The show includes several pieces that would later appear on the album, but in extended, looser, occasionally rougher forms that reveal the players still learning the limits of their acoustic-trio format. There are occasional fumbles, and DiMeola was having some tuning issues (perhaps from heat; he has two cooling fans on stage with him). But it's still all good, because what these guys are clearly discovering is how easy and natural it was to play together, and just how magnificent it sounds.
And it does sound magnificent, in well-recorded PCM stereo or your choice of Dolby Digital or DTS 6.1 sound (used mostly for ambience). The 4:3 video looks fine, too, very sanely edited to focus on the right musician at the right time, without losing track of the others during extended solos or resorting to fast cutting to try to cover everything. The camerawork is first-rate.
At 103 minutes the program is satisfying, if not overly generous (and one wonders what music may have been left on the cutting-room floor), and there are no bonus features.
Still, since this trio recorded only the one glorious record, having this additional release is a gift for anyone who, like me, treasures "The Rite of Strings" as one of the most evocative and timeless jazz recordings of the 90s.
Rites done Right
Jeff Arenson | Colorado Springs, CO United States | 06/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, if you have any of the electric stuff from any of these 3 from the '70s, don't think that this is anything along those lines. This is an acoustic jazz trio. "The Rites of Strings" CD was merely the tip of the iceberg of what these 3 musicians can do. With the "Live at Montreux" DVD we get a full fledged performance from 3 of the greatest virtuosos of this or any era. The mood is the same as the CD, but Clarke, Dimeola and Ponty unveil their full prowess on their instruments and this is an unhitched performance. There is great playing by each member, unison lines, and a great deal of improvisational interplay. All of these were hinted at on the CD and the musicians take their compositions to new heights live. Oddly enough, this DVD was recorded before the CD. The songs are all from the CD and are reworkings of previously recorded songs from each of the 3 musicians. You'll probably recognize all of them from the other recordings, but in a trio setting, they are given a unique twist. Song highlights are "Song For John" and "Renaissance". Both of these contain a great deal of improv and the playing by each member is unbelievable. In addition to the songs, each member of the band is also given a solo spot. All 3 are good if not great, but Stanley Clarke is unreal. To sum it up, if you like acoustic jazz or like acoustic work by any of these 3, then you'll love this. A DVD that is a must have from the Montreux series."
Jeffry Tischer | Broomfield, CO USA | 04/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just bought this on a whim being an Al Dimeola fan and was quite suprised. From the first song they have great chemistry playing together. They are playing tight, trading off solo spots well, and smiling when something came off well. The songs are interesting and varied. The addition of Monte Alexander on piano for an encore song was a nice addition to the concert.
Sometimes when you get three virtuosos together you get to the point of just saying "shut up already, we know you can play", but I didn't get that affect with this trio. They tastefully use their chops.
The DVD quality is quite good. The sound is lively and recorded correctly for an audiophile 2 speaker system. The camera work is excellent. They show a good balance of closeup and distance shots, and the fades are nice. For instance, they zoom in on Al's hands when he's playing a solo (now if I only could slow it down to 1/4 speed I could figure out what he just played, man is he fast!). They do that in many instances for each musician.
I think if you like any of these guys playing accoustic jazz you would like this DVD."
Unrehearsed concert by three jazz fusion masters
Triniman | Winnipeg, MB | 08/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Filmed in 1994, this Live At Montreux series DVD gives the viewer a taste of three virtuosos performing material for the first time together as a trio. How would they fare, given the unique dynamics and peculiarities of each performer, in an unrehearsed live session?
During the solo performances of Al DiMeola in the the first track, "Song To John," the camera closed in on his hands as if to suggest, "See, this is how easy it is." As if! In an extended solo duel between with Stanely Clarke, each leaned in towards the other, exchanging intense but friendly eye contact. Ponty and DiMeola constantly populated the music with bright, rich and silken notes. Ponty's notes seem almost to sing out on their own, the higher in pitch they climbed. Clarke, head bopping, eyes squinting as if they were squeezing out notes. He plucked his bass frantically, appearing almost as if he was in a trance-like state. This was all in the first track, in which applause erupted as it quieted to a close.
Ponty's solo began with him tapping the strings on his violin with his bow and having it quietly played back over and over again, thanks to the electronics employed. While not revolutionary, it added dimension to his performance and made you wonder, "Is he really playing all that music by himself?" Born in 1942 in Avranches, France, Ponty, came from a family of classical musicians. He began his career as a classical player, often playing jazz late at night in the clubs. The violin initially was a tough sell as a jazz instrument, but eventually, he won them over and released his debut solo album at the age of 22. He released 12 consective albums that reached the top 5 in the Billboard jazz charts in the 70s and established himself as a prime touring artist.
In one one of his quieter solos, DiMeola coaxed out the familiar wailing guitar notes for "Layla." DiMeola sat in the middle, and occaisionally, Clarke and Ponty, both standing would lock eyes and play off of each other.
One of the strongest examples of the group gelling together really well is in the DiMeola-written "Chilean Pipe Song." Everything Ponty plays seems to fit as if it was written specifically with him in mind. It's also very catchy.
In a light moment, after DiMeola introduced Clarke and Ponty, he proceeded to turn his sheet music over and over and upside down, not sure where to begin playing the new song.
In the fusion world, Stanley Clarke (1951)was the first bassist to headline sold out tours and have his albums reach Gold status. He essentially made it just fine to be a bass player, band leader and seller of lots of records and preceded the late, great Jaco Pastorius as the first prominent fusion bass player. Clarke was part of the seminal fusion group, Return To Forever, along with Chick Corea, Al DiMeola and various drummers. He's also an accomplished composer of film soundstracks, such as Boys N the Hood, Passenger 57, Higher Learning, and Poetic Justice. His solo performance piece was his famous "School Days" from his 1976 album of the same name. He is the pre-eminent fusion bass player of our time.
Born in 1954, Al DiMeola was lauded early on for his speed, technical skills, and complicated soloing. He became known for his Latin, flamenco and tango-influenced playing. He joined Return To Forever as the replacement for Bill Connors and helped them to achieve great commercial success. The 1976 album Romantic Warrior was a top 40 album. He went solo in 1976 and released a string of landmark fusion albums, such as Land of the Midnight Sun and Elegant Gypsy. Towards the early part of the 90s, he began to focus more on world-music influenced recordings, such as World Sinfonia Trio and Heart of the Immigrants.
Keyboardist Monty Alexander tickled the ivories for the encore of "Song To John." While he's a fine player, I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed the sound of the electronic piano. It just doesn't as good as a real acoustic piano. Still, Alexander's prescence adds to this number in a positive way. I almost wish the Jamaican-born pianist had been there from the begining.
It's to be expected that you can throw a group of experienced jazz musicians together and have them play as if they had been rehearsing and playing together as a group for years.
Fusion jazz very much flows freely, without the usual tension and counterbalance heard in straight ahead jazz. In many places, the players seem to wander off on their own, creating the lack of a common theme to bind the music together. For this reason, people who generally don't like fusion may find this recording tedious and may not be won over by it. On the other hand, some will appreciate the subtle spontanaiety and the result of putting three players, all dominant on their respective instrument, together to see what transpires.
Far from being a clinical or lifeless concert, the often flawless musicianship left me wanting more and wishing that I was there. Having seen Al DiMeola perform live with his acoustic guitar, in support of the Heart of the Immigrants album from 1993, I can tell you how downright thrilling it was to see him. He's one of the few musicians, as a friend noted, who's better live than he is on album.
In 1995, the trio recorded the Rites of String album, which peaked at #4 on the US jazz charts.
Set list 01. Song To John 02. Memory Canyon 03. Cancion Sofia 04. Summer country - solo DiMeola 05. School daz - solo Clarke 06. Eulogy to Oscar Romero - solo Ponty 07. Renaissance 08. The Chilean Pipe Song 09. Song to John (featuring Monty Alexander) 10. Indigo"
Warning: This performance is addictive!
J. Dietz | Cleveland, OH USA | 08/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been a big fan of Jean Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke for years. I've owned the "Rite of Strings" CD for a couple of years and find it quite unique and enjoyable. The music is very complex both in composition and execution. That is, you wonder how 3 guys can produce all this complex sound. I recently purchased this DVD and have watched it with great delight several times. Seeing the music performed is quite illuminating. I have a new, great appreaciation for Al DiMeola! For all you guitarists, this is a must-see performance! His Ovation guitar has the most beautiful, clear, bright sound and his playing is unbelievable. The sound quality of the DVD is fantastic and the camera work contributes significantly. In fact, I would rate the camera work on this DVD at the top of my list. You are treated to up close fingerwork as well as shots showing the interplay between the performers. This performance DVD will blow you away!"