The first Jazz Icons DVD series, released last year by Reelin In the Years Productions and TDK, brought back into circulation excellent, lengthy television performances by jazz legends, including Art Blakey, Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie. Those nine DVDs are now joined by seven additional releases, each featuring a jazz great in shows originally broadcast on European television. All seven DVDs, along with a bonus disc of performances not included on the other discs, have been released as a nicely packaged boxed set. The discs vary in length from a little over an hour (Sarah Vaughan, Dave Brubeck, and Dexter Gordon) to two hours (Charles Mingus). The remaining DVDs feature Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, and John Coltrane.
While many of us have heard these amazing musicians, few of us have had the chance to see them. The television footage contained in these discs dates from 1958 through 1966, and the quality varies, but even the worst of it is watchable and some of it is very good. Ellingtons performance for Dutch television in 1958 lets us see a formidable band filmed with taste and intelligence. Coltranes performances, from 1960, 61, and 65, chart his astonishing changes over that brief period. The Mingus disc is composed of three fiery performances from 1964 and features Eric Dolphy (who also appears on the Coltrane disc), Clifford Jordan, and Johnny Coles. Sarah Vaughan, elegant and swinging, shows such command and control of her voice that most current jazz singers should simply watch her three performances, from 1958 and 1964, to see how its done.
As might be expected from film derived from so many sources, the sound isnt always up to the standards a CD or LP release might demand. Coltranes 1961 appearance for German television, to use one example, is a bit distorted. Still, the mono recordings on these discs dont sound compressed, and good equipment will bring out the best in them. On some of the discs, such as the Ellington, the sonics are surprisingly strong, given their age.
I cant imagine any jazz lover who wouldnt be very pleased to receive this set as a holiday gift.
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