DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Monterey Jazz Festival 1975 (2007)

Mostly single tune samples from the top performers, including some unique combos of artists

Published on August 30, 2007

Monterey Jazz Festival 1975 (2007)
Monterey Jazz Festival 1975 (2007)

Performers: Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band, Paul Desmond Quartet, Bill Evans Trio, Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra with Cal Tjader, Bobby Blue Bland, Etta James and the Outlaws, Marian McPartland, John Lewis, Patrice Rushen, Sven Asmussen, Chuck Mangione Quartet, David Clayton Thomas with Blood, Sweat & Tears
Studio: Storyville Films 26021 [Distr. by Naxos of America]
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or original mono
Length: 59 minutes
Rating: ****(*)

One of the country’s oldest jazz festivals was started in 1958 by radio personality Jimmy Lyons.  The setting on the Monterey California coast is lovely and some of my best memories are of hearing the many giants of jazz performing  there (although I’ll admit that after the Monterey Pop Festival I found the jazz festival a bit lame).

One of the perks of such a festival is the way it can bring together great performers who have never played on the same stage before.  There’s a couple of these included in this short program of highlights from the 1975 Festival. There’s no recordings of Swedish jazz violinist Asmussen playing with John Lewis’ group, and in fact I didn’t know there was a Lewis Sextet – I only knew of the Modern Jazz Quartet.  The two-pianos-eight-hands group improv on Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce is even more of a unique assembly of players.  The lengthy number allows each of the four pianists to get in some sparkling solos of their own, as sometimes the other three get up or move a bit off the piano benches to let their keyboard mate do his or her thing.  I’d forgotten that Tjader had played with Dizzy, and their blues-based bit is a genuine gem. Great also to see in closeup the keyboard work of Bill Evans, who sits hunched over and never looks up from the keys.

The sound is very good, but there’s not much difference between the original mono and the 5.1 mix. There was clearly only a mono original to work from, so you can’t expect much surround ambience. The images are not up to the level of the audio, being a bit blurry and often not well lit (though they are in color), but the music is the thing here, and seeing these stellar jazz performers in action will please many fans.

TrackList: Henpecked Old Man, Emily, Up With the Lark, Improv & Blues, I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog, Woman Shake Your Booty, Afterglow, Billie’s Bounce, One Room Country Shack, When I Die, Lyon’s Head, Ichano.

 – John Henry

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