What? You mean jazz isn't just the name of a cartoon robot voiced by Scatman Crothers?
I thought about my life and all the musical relationships I've made around the world…I though about the great players I've played with in the past, and the new kids on the block that I play with now. I thought it would be great to gather some of them together to hang out and jam. I knew this thing would kill. Welcome to The Hang!—Don Grusin
Don Grusin's long and varied career would be enough to fill up the resumes of two or three regular people. His academic credentials are impressive and include a doctorate in economics and teaching stints at several universities. In an odd twist, Grusin is also an accomplished jazz keyboard artist. He may not be a household name to most people, but he is well-known and respected among those who follow the contemporary jazz scene. In addition to his solo career, Grusin has played in several bands with some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz. He has also been heavily involved in producing and composing, including a film score credit for 1986's Lucas, which he co-scored with his older brother Dave Grusin (The Firm, The Fabulous Baker Boys, St. Elsewhere).
For his most recent album, The Hang, Grusin teamed with several of the jazz icons he has worked and played with over the years. Nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, the live set CD that emerged from their collaboration has the lighthearted feel of a group of old friends getting together for a jam session, but also the polished quality one expects from seasoned professional musicians. Grusin's collection of friends includes musicians from several continents, and the resulting collaboration reflects their eclectic styles and roots.
This DVD delivers the original live set, apparently performed for a fairly small, select audience, in a Dolby 5.1 mix. The sound is very crisp and clear, and very well mixed. There is some channel distinction, but not overt channel separation, i.e. a viewer can tell that a particular instrument or voice favors one side of the stage or the other, but does not emanate exclusively from that side. The result is a very full, enveloping sound environment that replicates very well the feeling of seeing the set live. There are only a couple of weaknesses in the audio mix. First, the low-end bass sound seems to lack adequate punch. Second, there are some instances where the sounds of the audience have been mixed in to fully replicate the live performance feel. However, this noise seems to cut in and out abruptly, lending an unnatural note to an otherwise very immersive concert experience.
Image quality is better than expected for a live performance video. Shot on high definition digital video, the picture is amazingly sharp and lifelike. It is not completely clear of digital gremlins, however; some grain/noise pops up, as well as some detail fuzziness, but these only become noticeable in darker shots, or wide shots that attempt to take in the whole stage.
In short, this DVD is a winner both in terms of technical presentation and content. It looks and sounds great, and Grusin's music is a delight. I'm not much of a jazz enthusiast, but I know what I like, and I certainly enjoyed Grusin and his friends coming into my living room and making some good music for an hour or so.
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