Judge Adam Arseneau has an orchestra. Well, a kazoo. It still counts!
It's one o'clock—time to jump.
In the world of jazz and big band music, few names carry as much weight and respect as Count Basie, legendary musician and bandleader. Live in Berlin & Stockholm 1968 feature Count Basie & His Orchestra performing live, jazzing out an eclectic blend of standbys, hits, and covers from his European tour in 1968, appearing here for the first time on DVD:
Berlin, Germany, November 9, 1968:
• "All Of Me"
Stockholm, Sweden, November 12, 1968:
Both performances do a good job showcasing the size, diversity, and sheer musical chops of Count Basie & His Orchestra, an ever-changing revolving door of regulars and newcomers (especially in these later years of touring where the turnover was high). Normally, repetition on a concert DVD is a bad thing, but in the case of improvisational jazz, it is a moot point. Watching the band work in subtle nuances and variations in songs like "Blues For Ilean" and "Cherokee" between the two sets is part of the fun. Notable members of the Orchestra present during these recordings are tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, longtime guitarist Freddie Green, trombonist Richard Boone, flue/alto Bobby Plater, clarinetist Marhsall Royal, as well as future Orchestra front men Eric Dixon, Grover Mitchell, and Bill Hughes.
This is Count Basie in his later years, but he still has a talent that puts other jazz bandleaders to shame. One would be hard pressed to find fault with either recorded performance featured on this DVD in terms of energy, vibrancy, or performance—the band is on point, with rock solid rhythm, powerful horn stabs, and swinging horn solos. They sizzle, pure and simple. This is the first time this performance has made it on DVD, and it is nice to see it preserved for posterity in the annals of musical history. Ah, but now for the downside.
As for the technical specs, this is where this DVD falls into the gutter and passes out in a pool of its own vomit. Recorded on black-and-white video with 1960s technology, the fidelity is egregiously poor, a wash of grainy, distorted grays, static, and snow. The picture distorts, breaks up, and at times is utterly unwatchable. We're talking worse than YouTube video quality here—this is rough stuff. The audio fares mildly better; a simple stereo presentation captures the orchestra with reasonable fidelity for how old the recording is, with sharp highs and adequate detail. The sound hisses, crackles, and distorts (and even cuts out entirely) but it is miles above the level of the video. Jazz enthusiasts will no doubt have heard worse live Count Basie recordings. As for the rest of the DVD, it is a strict barebones affair; a "play all" and a track select feature are all the supplements available.
So what to do with this DVD? It is an excellent musical performance by Count Basie and his orchestra, well worth preserving and sharing to fans, but the quality of the recording is so poor that DVD simply makes a bad picture look worse. Part of me thinks this performance would have done the Count better simply released as a live CD. Plus, the running time is relatively short—barely an hour's worth of music combined for both sets.
Count Basie rocks the house on a good day, but the fidelity of these performances simply aren't up to DVD standards. Despite the excellent set by Basie and his men, the technical presentation is guilty of being sufficiently poor to limit the appeal of this title to all but the most diehard jazz fans.
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