If you're against sax on television, Appellate Judge James A. Stewart says you should steer clear of this DVD. Violins isn't a factor, though.
"We are the Russians, uh, coming to America. I know. Some kind of crazy people, I mean us, because it was a crazy journey…"
Willis Conover, who hosted jazz programs on Voice of America during the Cold War, saw the free-form music as a symbol of freedom, according to the VOA's Web site. "When people in other countries hear that quality in the music, it stimulates a need for the same freedom in the conduct of their lives," Conover said. In other words, hot jazz might have helped melt the Cold War.
Among the VOA jazz fans was Vladimir Zaremba, who was inspired to form his own group in 1987 as the Cold War's thaw neared. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zaremba's Moscow Sax Quintet went on a "Jazznost Tour" of the United States in 1990, ending up at Northeastern Illinois University, where The Moscow Sax Quintet: The Jazznost Tour was taped.
The five sax players are backed up with bass, piano, drums, and, briefly, the singing of Lyubov Zazulana as they take on classics like "In the Mood," "I Got Rhythm," and "Smooth Sailing."
The DVD does well at making viewers feel like they're on hand for the concert, from the opening shot of a musician cleaning his reed to the final shots that track the performers as they leave. Close ups, panoramic angles, and audience shots all add to that feeling.
The quality of the video is far from perfect, though: the stage background looks muddy, the saxophones in motion leave trails at times, and there are some obvious glitches in the transfer from video to DVD. The lighting often has an annoying glare. The Dolby Digital stereo fares much better, thankfully.
As for extras, you get a text bio and a photo gallery set to music. I was disappointed in the text bio because it didn't say anything about what the quintet and its musicians are doing today, and I didn't find any current information on the Moscow Sax Quintet or Vladimir Zaremba in a Google check.
The music acquits itself excellently, but the video quality might make you
want to stick with a concert album.
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Scales of Justice
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• Text Bio of The Moscow Sax Quintet
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