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Legends of Jazz: Showcase

Other // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted April 26, 2006 | E-mail the Author
According to their website, "LEGENDS OF JAZZ With Ramsey Lewis" marks the first time in over 40 years that jazz has been the focus of a network television show bringing to life America's most masterful art form. Derived from that PBS series, this DVD/CD set is a culmination of 13 performances by musicians that actually live up to legend status.

Listed below is a track listing for both the DVD and accompanying CD:

1. AL JARREAU & KURT ELLING "Take 5"
2. CHRIS BOTTI "My Funny Valentine"
3. MARCUS MILLER, GEORGE DUKE, LEE RITENOUR "The Panther"
4. DAVID SANBORN & PHIL WOODS "Senor Blues"
5. CHICK COREA "Armando's Rhumba"
6. ROBERT CRAY & KEB MO "12 Year Old Boy"
7. BENNY GOLSON "Killer Joe"
8. IVAN LINS "The Island"
9. CLARK TERRY "Mumbles"
10. JANE MONHEIT & JOHN PIZZARELLI "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
11. DAVE VALENTIN "Obsession"
12. DAVE BRUBECK & BILLY TAYLOR "Take The 'A' Train"
13. RAMSEY LEWIS "Dear Lord"


Filmed on the same stage apparently throughout a season, there are some fantastic cuts here with the musicians giving splendid performances throughout; Jarreau and Ellig start the disc off with a fine take. The third track with Miller, Duke and Ritenour is a stellar blending; all three are given their opportunity to solo in one of the better songs Miller has previously showcased during his career. Sanborn and Woods are a new and old- or at this stage in their careers mid-life and old- pairing that mesh well; when Sanborn chooses the right material, he's a hard act to top. Corea's delicate take on "Armando's Rhumba" is a fine choice. Blues fans will find something to satisfy them here as well with a classic Robert Cray take on "12 Year Old Boy".

The second half of the disc is no slouch, either. Pizzarelli and Monheit light up the stage with their wonderful rendition of the standby "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and Brubeck and Taylor breathe a little new life in the tried and true staple tune "Take The 'A' Train". I found the disc as a whole to be slightly spotty as far as the material included is concerned, but to give it proper due, there is something here for just about anyone who enjoys jazz as a genre, be it of the contemporary, classic, Latin, scat or the lite/easy listening variety. In all honesty this is a commendable compilation- jazz fans won't be disappointed.

Video-

Aspect ratio here is 1.85:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions. This disc was mastered in high definition and it shows; the wonderfully lit blues and purples of the performance stage are rich and bright, blacks are deep and the imaging is sharp and clean. This is a great disc to watch as well as listen to.

Audio-

The only track here is 5.1 Dolby Digital Sourround, but its a good one. While I would have liked seeing a DTS option included as well, the 5.1 mix does a great job; music is clean, defined and spacious enough, and the bass is full and deep.

Extras-

In one respect the DVD extras are sparse, only including bios, a still gallery and web links; however, the gem of an extra here is the accompanying audio CD of the DVD performances, which should make for great listening on the go or when it simply isn't convenient to sit down and watch the DVD itself.

Final Thoughts-

A fine assortment of great jazz tunes performed by some true illuminaries of the genre, not only is this DVD fun to experience, it approaches reference quality in both picture and sound quality. Personally I would have rather seen a 2 DVD set instead of a DVD/CD package; total time for the DVD is only about an hour, but it is an hour well spent. For a very nice MSRP you're getting both a great looking DVD plus an audio version of the same; great bang for the buck. If you like jazz you'll enjoy this disc. Recommended.
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