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Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, Vol. 2

Other // Unrated // August 15, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted September 22, 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 first release based on the show, "Legends Of Jazz: Showcase" but like "Volume One" differs by way of giving the viewer the entire recorded episode rather than simply highlights from throughout the season. I loved both the "Showcase" as well as "Legends Of Jazz With Ramsey Lewis Volume One", and this one falls right in line with them. The premise is simple but effective. Lewis sits down with the artists who are showcased and individually talks 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, which is confined to only musical numbers. While some of the performances on this release mirror what is on the Showcase disc, there are enough good reasons to warrant owning them all.

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 Piano Masters - Dave Brubeck, Billy Taylor Roots: The Blues - Robert Cray, Keb' Mo' American Songbook - John Pizzarelli, Jane Monheit Latin Jazz - Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin

For me, the last disc in the series was more interesting and entertaining, mainly because I was more familiar with the artists; having jazz greats like Al Jarreau and David Sanborn made for a very enjoyable time in front of the home theater setup. Here I'm only familiar with a few of the performers, but I'm an all around music afficionado more than a jazz follower so that isn't suprising. Even so, listening to pianist Dave Brubeck and blues guitarist Cray ply their trade is fun, and Pizzarelli and Monheit do a wonderful duet here, putting in a take of the old standard "They Can't Take That Away From Me". With so many great jazz artists one never seems to see on television available, it will be interesting to see the array of performers the series manages to schedule for the coming season.

Below is a list of the musical numbers performed-

Someday My Prince Will Come- Dave Brubeck
All The Things You Are-- Billy Taylor
Take The 'A' Train-- Dave Brubek, Bully Taylor
Love In Vain-- Keb' Mo'
My Last Regret-- Robert Cray
12 Year Old Boy-- Robert Cray, Keb' Mo'
I Got Rhythm-- John Pizzarelli
I Should Care-- Jane Monheit
They Can't Take That Away From Me-- John Pizzarelli, Jane Monheit
La Libertad-- Eddie Palmieri
Obsession-- Dave Valentin
Just A Little Dream-- Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin


This is the second in a three disc series. There is also a "Showcase" release that covers some of this material as well. 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. If I have any complaints about the series thus far it is the fact that the "Showcase" release came first, which is a culmination of material taken from the entire series run and makes the later releases a bit redundant. It seems to cover the best of the seasons' performances, but not all; by not picking up these individual releases of the show you miss out on many interviews with the artists themselves, so if you're a fan of the series its worth it to have them all.

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 coming 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. Judging from the several PBS discs I've reviewed this past year, this tends to be the norm.

Extras-

As has been the case with the last two Legends Of Jazz releases 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. There are twelve tracks, same as the ones listed above. Other extras include bonus performances with the artists as well as interviews with the host and producers.

Final Thoughts-

I reviewed both the Legends Of Jazz- Showcase DVD as well as Volume One of this series and was quite impressed with both. Volume Two is certainly no exception; 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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