December 2008


Jazz Icons, Series 3
Naxos/Reelin’ In the Years Productions 2.108002
Format: DVD-V
Originally broadcast: 1963-1975
DVD released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstage.com

Musical Performance *****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Image Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Reelin’ in the Years Productions has already performed an invaluable service by releasing the first two Jazz Icons DVD sets in 2006 and 2007. Each DVD in the multidisc sets was devoted to a particular musician and contained, on average, 90 minutes of jazz performances originally filmed for European television and never released on home video. The DVDs were available individually or in a boxed set, and the Series 2 box included an otherwise unavailable bonus disc with additional material.

Series 3 includes music from Sonny Rollins, Oscar Peterson, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. That’s a pretty broad spectrum, and the depth and variety of musicians collected here should satisfy any jazz fan. Adderley’s sets were filmed in 1963 in Switzerland and Germany, with Yusef Lateef augmenting the leader’s well-established quintet. Both sets contain brilliant work by Cannonball, his brother Nat, Lateef, and Joe Zawinul, whose gospel-influenced solos belie his Austrian roots. Adderley’s music conveys a great sense of joy, and Lateef often smiles broadly in obvious enjoyment of the other musicians on the bandstand.

The five Bill Evans segments were filmed for broadcast in Sweden, France, and Denmark between 1964 and 1975. Evans is accompanied by three great bassists, Chuck Israels, Niels-Henning ěrsted Pedersen, and Eddie Gomez, all of whom are crucial in helping the pianist create the drama, complexity, and beauty that were so unique to his music. Evans is consistently moving and imaginative, even in the later performances, when years of drug use had taken their toll on his health. Lee Konitz joins Evans’ trio for one tune in the French performance from 1965. Oscar Peterson’s DVD offers an interesting contrast in style with Evans; watching both DVDs lets you compare two masters. Peterson’s three hard-swinging sets include an appearance with Clark Terry in Finland, but the show belongs to the pianist and his great trio.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk often played three reed instruments at once, but his three spirited performances, two in 1963 and one in 1967, prove he was not a jazz novelty act but a true virtuoso. Sonny Rollins is, not surprisingly, stunningly inventive in his two appearances on Belgian television, Lionel Hampton is great, swinging fun, and Nina Simone is profoundly affecting and intense -- her reading of Bob Dylan’s "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" might be worth the price of the entire set.

The sound on all the DVDs is mono and often quite good. The film sources, black and white but for two on the Bill Evans disc, vary in quality but are clear and enjoyable to watch. As with the previous sets, each DVD in Jazz Icons Series 3 is available individually, but the set includes a bonus disc. Jazz Icons Series 3 is attractively packaged, and each disc includes an informative booklet.


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