Norman Granz’ Jazz In Montreux series
Sound: B- Extras: C- Concerts: B- (B for Ella & Basie)
In the most significant series of single DVD jazz releases
since Rhino issued episodes of the TV series Jazz Casuals (reviewed
elsewhere on this site), Eagle Eye has issued eight titles in the Norman
Granz’ Jazz In Montreux series.
These releases run from 1975 to 1979 and are as follows:
Count Basie Jam ’75 (65 minutes)
Ray Bryant ’77 (July 13th/60
Benny Carter Quartet (July 13th/55
Roy Eldridge [Quartet] ’77 (July
Milt Jackson & Ray Brown ’77 (July
Joe Pass ’75 (July 17th,18th/79
Oscar Peterson Trio ’77 (July 15th/75
Mary Lou Williams ’78 (65 minutes)
Ella & Basie – “The Perfect Match” ’79 (85
Watching all these concerts was amazing to me for the time
they were taped, the mid-to-late 1970s, when R&B gave way to Disco. Here though, the artform of Jazz goes
unchallenged and is in strong form throughout all eight concert segments. The concerts are equal in many ways, with
all the featured artists giving impressive performances. In this case, the longer the better, which
is why the Ella & Basie segment fares the best, but it is no surprise it is
the last chronologically. Usually, we
include all the tracks per DVD concert, but there are sub-segments on some of
them that are just not self-explanatory, and are best left to the experts like
Nat Hentoff, who know the subject better than this critic. I can tell you that what I hear is
impressive, though the footage was not shot on film.
The concerts are all shot on old NTSC professional
videotape and they show their age more than expected, with the softness and
other limits of such tapings of the time.
Color videotape was still in its infancy and product shot under more
controlled circumstances like TV sitcoms and variety shows have survived
better. With that said, this is
presented about as well as it is going to be and the artists captured are so
important, this material is archival.
The sound was derived from the sound captured on those tapes and is
presented here in PCM CD-type 16bit/48kHz Stereo and 5.1 mixes in DTS and
Dolby. In most cases, the PCM fares the
best since the recordings were limited.
The DTS always shows the limits of the old sound, while the Dolby is
weaker than either. The Roy Eldridge
and Joe Pass discs have more limits than expected lowering them to a C+,
while the solo 1975 Basie disc is the oldest and is barely better. Even the Ella/Basie DVD has limits as
these were taped without any consideration for the likes of multi-channel
sound. The remastering and preservation
of the sound is remarkable just the same.
Extras include short segments with music that show
sketches of each performer from each disc they are featured on. Two features that are the same and also very
short on every disc is a “hit sketches” segment and Hentoff’s brief on the
Granz legacy. Hentoff also does
introductions to each concert that are filled with insight and facts that Jazz
fans will consider vital. This is
repeated in the paper foldouts in each DVD case and scholars and historians
will be happy, but you do not have to be either to enjoy what is presented
here. The Norman Granz’ Jazz In
Montreux DVDs are a real find, and their uncovering and release are long
overdue, like the recognition for many of these deeply talented artists.
- Nicholas Sheffo