A priceless look at Bird, Ella, the Hawk and other jazz grea
Steve Emerine | Tucson, AZ United States | 09/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The genius of the late Norman Granz lives on in this two-disk DVD showing some of the greats of jazz performing and relaxing in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. You'll want to see everything on both DVDs, but the real gems are five tunes featuring alto saxman Charlie Parker, pianist Hank Jones, drummer Buddy Rich, bassist Ray Brown, tenor saxmen Lester Young and Flip Phillips, and trombonist Bill Harris in a 1950 session, plus a reissue of "Jammin' the Blues," Granz's 1944 Oscar-nominated movie short featuring Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones, Sid Catlett, Red Callender and others. That's not to say the 1966 Duke Ellington trio session, two tunes apiece in 1979 from guitarist Joe Pass and singer Ella Fitzgerald, and 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival sessions featuring Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Vic Dickenson, Al Grey, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and other stars aren't also good. They are, and you'll want to view all of these several times. Other features like Nat Hentoff's portrait of Granz, Granz's introduction, still photos and silent footage from the jam sessions, jazz portraits by artist David Stone Martin, and interviews with Jones, Edison, Terry, Jay McShann, Phil Woods, Ira Gitler, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Roy Haynes and Jimmy Heath are all fine additions. But the music, appropriately, is the biggest part of these DVDs. It will take you more than three hours to experience it all, but the time will be very well spent. You'll be grateful that Granz collected and preserved these bits of history during his career and that Laser Swing Productions and Eagle Eye Media have put it all together on DVD."
Jazz Person | 11/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a rare privilege to see these great artists playing their music.
I will never understand why Norman Granz opted to film at Mili's studio. The result is that the performance was filmed, but the sound track was dubbed in from another session. The musicians did their best to replicate in sound what they had improvised on film. It seems to me that it would have been worth the effort to film the "Jam Session" tracks in a great hall - like Carnegie. They could have also filmed at any number of sound studios.
The result is a video that is in and out of sync with the sound track. It can be a little disconcerting to see fingers moving or not moving when the notes are heard; breaths occasionally being taken by the artists while the sound of the horns is heard. Why someone didn't film these great artists in a more natural manner is a mystery.
Having said all that, it is very moving to see Charlie Parker the person as well as Charlie Parker the artist.
He is very relaxed and expressive. It is also great to see Prez. All of the musicians are real. They are there to play.
The other musical material is quite interesting.
For me, the other great moment comes when Roy Eldridge performs and scats "Kidney Stew". It is a gem.
This DVD is an absolute must."
MAGNIFICENT and HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT
Nikica Gilic | Zagreb, Croatia | 06/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This essential double dvd is a must have for all serious jazz fans...
"Improvisation", the famous unfinished 1950 sequel to 1944 "Jammin' the Blues" is shown here in all its glory... It is quite obvious that the film isn't finished, but it's priceless to see Hawkins and Parker enjoying each other's company, Lester Young joining Buddy Rich, Hank Jones, Bill Harris, Ella Fitzgerald...
On few occasions you even have alternate camera angles to compare with the "A" version of the film.
And on disk 2 you have great photos, the silent footage of Ella, Bird, Rich, Jones, Young and other 1950 stars, the 1944 great film "Jammin' the blues" (The Pres playing with Illinois Jacquet, Sweets Edison,Jo Jones...), a film that is finished both musically and cinematically... Great stuff!
However, musically speaking, my favorites are actually "Jammin' the blues" (particularly some Lester's licks, Edison's open horn and Jo Jones drumming) as well as some actual improvisation, recorded a bit later... First of all, there is a Duke Ellington's trio performance ("Blues for Joan Miro"; John Lamb-b,Sam Woodyard-dm), Count Basie's magnificent and hillariously funny "Nob's Blues", where he musically chats with Ray Brown's bass and with the history of jazz piano and, last but not least, Oscar Peterson-lead stellar group performing a sort of cutting contest between Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Eddie Lackjaw Davis (with the great Dane Niels Pedersen on bass...)
After the concert, the Peterson-Terry-Gillespie-Davis performance was named "Ali and Frazier", after a famous boxing match, and the godfather of the song was Count Basie.
And, although most of the short aditional interviews (and Nat Hentoff's portrait of Norman Granz) are recorded with something that must have been and inexpensive video camera, it is beautiful to see Roy Haynes explaining the history of (modern) jazz from the drummer's perspective, or to see 82 years young Harry Sweets Edison smoking his cigarette, discussing his glorious past and musing about all the great ones who had passed away, listen to Jimmy Heath's view of Parker and the birth of modern jazz...
And Phil Woods intelligently reminiscing of his first encounters Charlie Parker (and Dizzy)?
Really touching... I have no words to desribe it.
And Norman Granz organized all the great performances on this DVD (I failed to mention Al Grey, Vic Dickenson, Roy Eldridge, Joe Pass...).
Thank You mr. Granz!"