Judge Clark Douglas is a very talented Blu-ray reviewer who somehow never earned the fame and fortune of his peers.
Our review of Jeff Beck: Performing This Week... Live At Ronnie Scott's, published March 30th, 2009, is also available.
"Yeah, performing at Ronnie Scott's is really something."
At first, the idea of Jeff Beck performing at the famous Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London might seem a bit unusual. While some of Beck's work would certainly qualify as jazz material, it spans a much too broad array of styles and genres to be confined to merely being described as "jazz." Nonetheless, Beck was asked to provide a full week of performances at Ronnie Scott's in 2008. The performances won raves from critics who witnessed the performance, and this led to CD release featuring the performances, quickly followed by a DVD and Blu-ray release.
I have to say, I didn't quite know what to expect from this concert, as I hadn't heard the CD before viewing this disc. My expectations were exceeded and then some. This Blu-ray disc offers an absolutely magnificent 100 minutes of music. Beck and his tremendous band (young bassist Tal Wilkenfield, veteran drummer Vinnie Coulaiuta, and gifted keyboardist Jason Rebello) provide a lively and very diverse array of stuff here, from the gloriously energetic opening tune "Beck's Bolero" to the reggae-influenced "Behind the Veil" to the silky-sweet "Angel (Footsteps)" to the frantic "Scatterbrain." There's not a misfire in the entire set, with the material always managing to seem engaging and fresh. Some of these tunes have evolved a bit over the years, and Beck claims in the interview presented on the disc that he used what he felt to be the very best arrangement for each tune performed at Ronnie Scott's. Beck's guitar work is as brilliant as ever here, but near-equal credit really must be given to the other performers, all of whom are in superb form.
Several guest stars jump into the mix and provide valuable contributions to the performance. Joss Stone turns in the first lyric of the set with a deeply soulful cover of "People Get Ready," which the audience responds to with great enthusiasm. The ethereal Imogen Heap adds her distinct voice to the "Blanket" and "Rollin' and Tumbling," and does quite a solid job with both of them (particularly her unusual take on the latter). However, the greatest guest turn comes from Eric Clapton (who, like Beck, was a guitarist for the Yardbirds). Clapton and Beck rock out together on "Little Brown Bird" and "You Need Love," two soaring highlights of the show. Other noted artists get covered by Beck and friends here, such as Stevie Wonder (whose "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" gets a pleasant version here) and The Beatles (whose incomparable classic "A Day in the Life" receives a rather strong cover with blisteringly good guitar work from Beck).
Here's the complete set:
• Beck's Bolero
The quiet jazz club setting really does work wonders for this performance, giving the viewer a real sense of intimacy that adds immensely to the "you are there" experience that the Blu-ray format aims to provide. It really does feel like getting to watch Jeff Beck and his pals experiment and have a good time up on stage, and at the end of the performance I imagine it would be very hard for any viewer to not come away with an immense respect for Beck's gifts as a musician. He goes out on a limb here with some pretty wild improvisational riffs, and they all work remarkably well. Just look at the performance of "A Day in the Life" and consider the way Beck manages to summarize the general feelings and memories of the song while simultaneously wandering off in his own unique direction. Great stuff.
The concert Blu-ray discs I have seen as of writing this review have been presented in 1080i, and this one is no exception. Even so, it looks quite strong, which is fortunate when one considers the almost-cinematic nature in which this performance is shot. Lots of intimate close-ups and interesting camera angles are present throughout, and there's a vibrance in the visual style that seems lacking on many concert discs. Blacks are deep, facial detail is solid, and flesh tones are accurate. It's not quite a knockout by any stretch of the imagination, but I have no real complaints to make. The DTS HD audio track is excellent throughout. The music is well-distributed and immersive, and the intimate acoustics at Ronnie Scott's almost make some of these tracks sound more like studio recordings at times. All of your speakers will be given a generous portion of work to do here, as this is a very rich and detailed mix.
Some 90 minutes or so of bonus material is presented on the disc (accounting for the 191-minute runtime provided on the back of the case). The first item is a half-hour interview with the self-deprecating Jeff Beck, who hems and haws about potential flaws and problems with the performance before finally admitting that it was a pretty darn fantastic week. We're also treated to a quick batch of interviews with the other band members. Another substantial bonus is a set of seven rockabilly songs performed by Jeff Beck and the Big Town Playboys. Very entertaining old-fashioned rock n' roll, though vastly different from anything in the main performance. This is followed by an 8-minute interview with Beck on why he decided to do the rockabilly set that one evening. Finally, there's a 5-minute interview with the Big Town Playboys. A great batch of supplements for a concert disc. Great image, great sound, great concert, and great supplements. This one easily earns a recommendation.
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