Watching this disc, Judge Jim Thomas looked just like the old Maxell tape ads.
Founded in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious annual musical events in the world. The extraordinary list of artists who have played there is drawn from across the musical spectrum and from around the world. Eagle Rock Entertainment continues to bring these concerts to DVD. Before the court is their latest offering, David Sanborn's 1984 headline performance.
Bonus Tracks (1981):
Sanborn is rightly considered a jazz icon, but in 1984, he was just beginning to emerge toward a wider audience. The 1984 concert was part of a tour promoting his then current album, Straight to the Heart, which would go on to win the 1985 Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. The bulk of the concert is drawn from that album, with a few earlier works mixed in.
Rickie Lee Jones makes a guest appearance on "Autumn Leaves." Some people really get into Jones' vocal stylings, but I'm not one of them; I recognize the talent, but there's something about her funky enunciation that is offputting. If you have the same problem, don't even try to interpret the lyrics—listen to her voice as just another instrument. Once I did that, the track took off for me. The disc does not present the entire concert, but just selections-at the end of "Autumn Leaves, "Sanborn comments that Jones will be back for another number, but no such number is present. Tracks of particular note are "Straight to the Heart," one of Sanborn's signature pieces; "Rush Hour," a nice up-tempo number; and "Morning Salsa," a number that's deceptively slow, but still an energetic piece. It would be criminal not to mention the extended solo tracks for both Keyboardist Larry Willis and Guitarist Hiram Bullock; Bullock, who died last year, was not only an amazing jazz and rock guitarist, but he was a real showman on stage, dancing around, sitting in the audience's laps, playing all the while.
Another Montreux disc, another fabulous audio track. I could get used to this. The audio is simply great. The first few times I listened to it at work on my laptop; when I realized how good the disc sounded, I was almost afraid to put the disc on the home system. The sacrifices I make for you people…The 2.0 track is good, the 5.1 surround mix is better, but, God, how I love DTS music tracks. Tight bass, full, rich midranges, no shrillness in the upper registers, and the sound field just spreads out across the wall, even with my totally messed up speaker placements. Video is pretty good for something videotaped in 1984, but there are some problems. Images are clear, but there is a lot of flaring, and in some cases the flares start to look like comets when the light source moves across the screen. Hey, that's what happens when you point the camera in the general direction of a light tower. There is a noticeable hiccup in the playback between tracks 7 and 8, presumably due to the disc-changing layers. It's bad enough that you have to wonder why they didn't work to minimize it more, but at the same time, they may well have placed the layer change between songs precisely so that they wouldn't have to mess with it. There's also a slight video-only hiccup early in the guitar feature in "Rush Hour."
The disc includes three bonus tracks from Sanborn's 1981 Montreux performance, which was his first appearance there as a headline act. You get "Love is Not Enough," "Lotus Blossom," and, interestingly, "Hideaway," the same song that opens the disc. Comparing the two versions is fun, particularly since the 1981 concert featured not just a different band, but some different instruments. The sound isn't quite as clean as the 1984 performance: the sound field is a little flatter, and the lower registers are a touch muted, but it's still some good stuff. There's a more noticeable drop-off in video quality.
If you like jazz fusion in general or David Sanborn in particular, you'll be interested in this disc for the strong performance and the great sound.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Bonus Tracks
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