Judge Ryan Keefer knows a guy that was so big he took up seven seats (naturally).
A cappella voices and instruments, done in stage in front of a few thousand Swiss? I'm there!
There's not too much I knew about the band Naturally 7, and I didn't know what to expect coming into this. But according to the promotional booklet that comes with their performance at the 2007 Montreux Jazz Festival, they've been together since 1999 and have been wowing people at a cappella competitions for several years, which begs the question: there are a cappella competitions?
Seriously though, Dwight Stewart, Jamal Reed, Rod Eldridge, Garfield Buckley, Armand Hutton, and brothers Roger and Warren Thomas have been performing new and original material as Naturally 7 for awhile now and in 2007 took their act to the Montreux Jazz Festival for a slight change of pace from the blues and jazz artists that the crowd has been viewing for years.
When they take the stage, the first thing you notice is that they're a cappella all the way through; aside from harmonizing, they also handle the musical instrument noises too, so you've got a little bit of a Bobby McFerrin kick in things. And their set runs for about an hour, and the music is heavily set in soul and rhythm and blues, but there's also some tinges of pop, rock and folk, aside from their original material, there are imaginative covers of "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister, a Simon and Garfunkel melody, Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."
The boys certainly can belt out the harmonies, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear their interpretations on the remakes, but at the end of the day, a cappella music only really goes so far with me. Watching some of the "guitars" and "drums," I could only think of two things: first, why the hell aren't I doing this and getting the same type of recognition, and two, that's a lot of saliva that's generated from some of those virtual instruments. It's a decent set and starts out good but does get a little tiring after a while, even if the boys in the band seem to be a charming septet. But when it comes to strange sounds emanating from a set of vocal cords, I'll stick with Tuvan throat singing.
Because this is a more recent performance, the film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and as far as performance films go, it's par for the course. The audio options are two 5.1 surround tracks, one of which is in DTS, and a Dolby two channel mix. I went for the DTS mix because, well, ya gotta, and it sounded pretty good. It's a subtly immersive mix of music and audience sounds which serve to be your ambient noise, and the music comes across pretty clearly with just a hint of subwoofer use every so often. The Montreux discs usually come with some form of supplemental material, and what's here is twenty minutes worth of interviews from various members of the band discussing their musical influences, origins, and thrills about Montreux, in between performing in a church.
All in all this wound up being slightly better than I was expecting, though the music at times seems to be just noise, especially from the fake percussionist. But still, for a change of pace from Rick James (which I'm listening to as I write this sentence), Naturally 7 is worth checking out for a cup of coffee.
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