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Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis: Season 1 Volume 1

Other // Unrated // June 27, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted July 4, 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. The series debuted nationally on PBS in April 2006 and will continue a weekly run throughout the summer. Derived from that PBS series, this DVD/CD set is a culmination of 4 episodes of the show, with performances by musicians that actually live up to legendary status.

This DVD release is in much the same vein of the last based on the show, Legends Of Jazz: Showcase but differs by way of giving the viewer the entire recorded episode rather than simply highlights from throughout the season. I loved the last release and this one falls right in line with it. The premise is simple but effective. Sit down with the artists who are showcased and individually talk to each about their careers, backgrounds and current releases. As a result you get a feel for the guest here more apparent than one could have in watching the Showcase release. While some of the performances on this release mirror their previous one, there are enough great additional numbers on this DVD to warrant owning them both.

Running at 120 minutes, the episodes here are broken down into four, each with a separate category unique unto itself and afforded its well deserved significance to the genre of jazz as a whole. They are:

The Golden Horns- With the common thread of the trumpet, Lewis talks to and showcases numbers performed by horn players Clark Terry playing and singing "Mumbles", Roy Hargrove performing "Invitation",and Chris Botti
doing "My Funny Valentine".

The Jazz Singers- Here a bit of background is given to the fine crooners in the history of jazz, and Lewis talks with the great Al Jarreau, who sings "Cold Duck Time", and Kurt Elling singing "She's Funny That Way".

Contemporary Jazz- brings some heavy hitters to the stage, the guests being keyboardist George Duke performing "It's On", jazz guitar virtuoso Lee Ritenour playing "Wes Bound" and bass player and producer Marcus Miller doing a wonderful take of "The Panther".

The Altos- covers two incredible sax players, Phil Woods covering "Star Eyes" and one of my favorites, David Sanborn who plays "Smile."

From all I have read, this is the first of a three disc series, so there are more episodes on DVD for the viewer to look forward to in the months to come. Ramsey Lewis makes a great host for this series; as well as being relaxed and personable, he plays one mean piano. Also of note is the fine playing of what I presume is the Legends Of Jazz house band- each guest artist seems well at ease and in their element playing with the accompaniment of some great musicians behind them.

Video-

According to the back of the case this disc has been encoded from HD masters and is presented in 16 x 9 widescreen, so I assume the aspect ratio is 1.78:1. As with the prior release, picture quality here is stellar; blacks are deep and colors are rich, clean and well represented. Sharpness is very good; one would be hard pressed to ask much more of standard DVD.

Audio-

The two tracks offered are PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Both tracks are fine and very listenable; the majority of the sound comes from the front. While I would have liked to see a DTS track added, the choices here are accurate with a decent degree of spaciousness.

Extras-

As has been the case with the last Legends Of Jazz release as well as several other recent concert DVDs, included here is an extra definitely worth having- an audio CD of 12 performances taken from the four DVD episodes.

Listed here are the CD tracks-

Mumbles
Invitation
My Funny Valentine
Cold Duck Time
She's Funny That Way
Take Five
It's On
Wes Bound
The Panther
Star Eyes
Smile
Senor Blues

Other extras include bonus performances with the artists as well as interviews with the host and producers.

Final Thoughts-

I reviewed the last disc in the Legends Of Jazz series and was quite impressed with it, having only wished for the disc to run a bit longer; happily this one does with its 2 hour run time. As a result there is more variety, better insight into the great artists individually showcased and some additional performances one would miss by not owning both Legends Of Jazz DVD entries to date. I find very little for the jazz aficionado to fault here, and am looking forward to more great discs taken from the PBS show.Recommended.
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