DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

David Sanborn Live at Montreux 1984 (2009)

There are some really first rate performances here, and true fans will find this disc indispensable.

Published on May 18, 2009

David Sanborn Live at Montreux 1984 (2009)

David Sanborn Live at Montreux 1984 (2009)

Studio: Eagle Rock Enterprises EE 39179-9
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, DD Stereo
Extras: Bonus tracks
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: ***

I’ve always felt David Sanborn was an incredibly gifted musician, and his stellar examples of his saxophone artistry can be found on countless albums running the gamut from jazz to pop and R&B. That said, I’ve never been particularly enamoured of his solo output, which has hovered in the “smooth jazz” neighborhood for much of his career. And that’s not to take anything away from his stature as a musician – it’s more that so much of that music just isn’t really my cup of tea. This new DVD from Eagle Rock covers his second appearance (in 1984) at the Montreux Jazz Festival as a headliner, and in support of his album Straight To The Heart, which won a Grammy in 1985 for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. I guess “jazz fusion” is what they were calling “smooth jazz” in 1985, because I’ve heard David Sanborn play on a number of other true fusion records (in particular with John McLaughlin) that in my book were much closer to the definition of “fusion” and much less mainstream than what we’re hearing here.

It’s pretty obvious to me why Eagle Rock chose not to offer this release as one of their increasingly excellent collection of Blu-ray concert discs; the image quality is really substandard and probably sourced from standard video origins, which is often the case with so much material of this vintage. While it’s far from the worst video quality I’ve seen, the 1984 footage it’s definitely lacking in image clarity, and the 1981 bonus footage (from Sanborn’s first Montreux appearance) is even worse. That’s not to say that the DVD is a total loss, however; the audio content is uniformly superb, whether you choose from either of the surround choices or the PCM stereo track. I did most of my listening through the DTS 5.1 track and it provided a very satisfying listening experience.

There is some entertaining footage here and some noteworthy performances; the late Hiram Bullock is excellent as always on guitar, and offers a really superb solo and provides a lot of energy onstage with his constant dancing about. And keyboardist Larry Willis provocatively strokes the ivories throughout and is given plenty of room to stretch out on most of the numbers. The crowd really responds when Rickie Lee Jones emerges from the wings to offer her trademark vocalizations on “Autumn Leaves,” and Sanborn provides a very satisfying solo as well. And from the bonus footage, vibist Mike Mainieri offers a remarkable poignant solo on the tune “Lotus Blossum.”

I guess I’m just really spoiled by the uniformly excellent quality of Eagle Rock’s Blu-rays, and maybe that’s colored my overall response to this disc and helped to make its flaws even more obvious. There are some really first rate performances here, and true fans will find this disc indispensable. Recommended.

TrackList: Hideaway; I Told U So; Straight To The Heart; Autumn Leaves; Guitar Solo; Rush Hour; Piano Solo; Morning Salsa; Smile; Love Is Not Enough; Hideaway.

— Tom Gibbs


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