OK, I admit it up front, I'm a cynic. I stayed away as much as possible from what I saw as the completely overhyped "news" coverage (which continues more or less unabated to the day I'm writing this review) of the death of Michael Jackson. I have to wonder if similar coverage will be granted to the man who in my estimation not only was largely responsible for Jackson's own preeminence as an adult performer (in the "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" years, arguably Michael's high points, career wise), but also a man who has indelibly shaped popular and jazz music for well over half a century. It makes me a little sad to realize that when Quincy Jones passes, yes, he'll get acclaim and some passing recognition, but probably none of the hoopla that surrounded Jackson's death. I have a feeling Mr. Jones wouldn't want it any other way.
This incredible musical genius, whose middle name Delight sums up not only his personality but his accomplishments, was the subject of another Montreux Jazz Festival review I offered here at DVD Talk quite some time ago. I stated that that disc was one of the finest Montreux outings I had ever had the pleasure to watch and listen to. Well as incredible as that DVD was, it pales in comparison to this unbelievably spectacular 75th Birthday Celebration on Blu-ray. I'm not going to bore you with superficial analysis or a career retrospective of Quincy's massive oeuvre. Instead, simply let a playlist suffice to sum up what this man has meant to our culture for so many years. Every song and artist contained on this disc (save for one or two) either has worked personally with Quincy, or is here recreating some of Quincy's epochal charts for artists like themselves or as diverse as Dinah Washington and, yes, Michael Jackson.
Percussionist Paulinho da Costa opens the show with the sort of showcase (in this case, tambourine flourishes) he used to bring to the "halftime" percussion breaks that would regularly fill his longtime live performances with Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77. From that moment on we get:
• The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Herbie Hancock and Patti Austin
• Let The Good Times Roll with James Moody and Rahsaan Patterson
• Makin' Whoopee with Patti Austin
• Moody's Mood and The Television Song with James Moody
• Honeysuckle Rose and Shiny Stockings with Freda Payne and Joe Sample
• I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town/In the Heat of the Night with Mick Hucknall
• If I Ever Lose This Heaven with Ledisi
• Midnight Sun with Al Jarreau and Larry Williams
• One Mint Julep with Petula Clark and Paul Jackson, Jr.
• Goin' to Chicago Blues with Petula Clark and Paolo Nutini
• My Ship/Summertime with Franco Ambrosetti
• Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Almost Like Being in Love with Nana Mouskouri
• Miss Celie's Blues with Patti Austin and Chaka Khan
• What's Goin' On with Patrice Rushen, Ledisi and Tobias Preisig
• Eyes of Love/Bluesette with Toots Thielemans
• Walking in Space with Chaka Khan and Lee Ritenour
• Strawberry Letter 23 with Paolo Nutini and Lee Ritenour
• How Do You Keep The Music Playing with Patti Austin
• The Dude with Al Jarreau
• Billie Jean and Wall of Sound with Naturally 7
• Mama Aifambeni and State of Independence with Angelique Kidjo
• Everything Must Change with Curtis Stigers
• Cool Joe/Mean Joe (Killer Joe) with Herbie Hancock
• Ai No Corrido with Patti Austin and Billy Cobham
• Stuff Like That with Monty Alexander and the whole megillah
The fact that I haven't even listed a host of other, "minor" musicians should give you some indication of the aural treats in store for you on this one of a kind birthday celebration. Quincy sits in the front row and watches star after star, all of whom he has some personal connection with, basically recount his career with everything from his big band days to his work with the best of the popular singers from the late 1950s on. Augmenting these incredible artists is the absolutely top notch Swiss Army Big Band, and this particular concert's "house band," including the phenomenal Greg Phillinganes on keyboards (Greg also produced and hosted), David Delhomme on keyboards, Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitar, Nathan East on bass, John Robinson on drums and Paulinho on percussion. Some may have passing quibbles about some of the artists (for example, Mouskouri isn't my particular cup of tea and doesn't sound great compared to some of the other, spryer vocalists here), but the variety of acts and styles featured here is simply mind (and ear) boggling.
Quincy Jones: The 75th Birthday Celebration is the sort of thing I'd like to see a media frenzy over. Let's spend some quality broadcast time celebrating the real heroes of American popular music, men who have spent a lifetime practicing their craft and having a wealth of recorded music in a huge variety of genres to show for it. Of course that's probably expecting too much from the very popular culture men like Quincy Jones have helped to elevate. Those of you who, like me, may be cynics but who still hold out hope for the future and for art in general, should waste no time getting theirs hands on this magnificent BD. It will lift your spirits and Delight you. It's no fluke that that's Quincy's middle name.
This 1.78:1 BD, with an AVC codec, is as sharp as any concert footage I've seen, from Montreux or elsewhere. A well lit stage and superb camera placement help get you up close and personal with all of these great artists (and I mean like staring up the nasal cavities of some of them--that up close and personal). Colors are excellent and well saturated and black levels are completely consistent.
Three soundtracks are included, a PCM Stereo, a DD 5.1 and a DTS Master Audio 5.1. All of them, even the PCM 2.0, offer extreme range and superb fidelity. Both the DD 5.1 and especially the DTS MA 5.1 offer incredible separation that make Quincy's swingin' big band charts spill into your ears with brilliant clarity. This is one of the sharpest sounding BDs I've had the pleasure of listening to. No subtitles are available.
A 25 minute "Thank Q" featurette is included, showing some of the backstage shenanigans leading up to the concert, and featuring a host of heartfelt tributes to "Q" from the artists involved in the concert. There's also a fat (and phat) little illustrated booklet included as an insert filled with remembrances and personal thanks to Quincy from many artists.
For anyone with even a passing interest in exceptional music, this is a DVD Talk Collector's Series Title. Cynic that I am, I'm slightly downgrading it, due to its perhaps potential niche clientele. That said, this is about as Highly Recommended as they come, probably the best all around concert piece I've seen in the last ten years.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet