DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Savion Glover – Fours (2012)

America’s premier tap dancer creates a vivid history lesson.

Published on November 28, 2012

Savion Glover – Fours (2012)

Featuring the tap-dancing of Savion Glover with McCoy Tyner – piano; Eddie Palmieri – piano : Roy Haynes – drums ; Jack DeJohnette – drums; Patience Higgins – saxophone; Marcus Strickland – saxophone; Kurt Fausette – piano; Andy McCloud – bass; Brian Grice – drums
TrackList: Jam #1 (McCoy Tyner); Jam #2 (Eddie Palmieri); Jam #3 (Roy Haynes); Jam #4 (Jack DeJohnette)
Studio: Half Note Records HN4553 [11/13/2012]
Producer/Director: Chuck & Sharon Fishbein
Audio: English PCM stereo
Video: 16×9 Color 
Length: 65:09
Rating: ***1/2

Tap dancing has a unique relationship to jazz. Some dancers have always considered themselves to be jazz artists. The similarity can be traced to its evolution in 19th century African-American culture. Starting with minstrel shows, tap became a part of vaudeville. At the beginning, duos were prevalent, including “Buck & Bubbles” (John Sublett and Ford Washington). One of the early stars on the circuit was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who teamed with Shirley Temple in classic movies. Other influential tap dancers included The Step Brothers, Greg and Maurice Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Modern jazz dance has taken its roots from tap. However, there is a current practitioner who has preserved the historical sanctity of this art form. His name is Savion Glover.

Glover learned his craft from the likes of Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis. He emphasizes African-American influences as well as “heavy” footwork. A celebrated performer since his debut on Broadway as a ten-year-old, Glover is a respected choreographer and teacher. He is the most celebrated American dancer of his era, with a distinguished resume in theatre, television, movies and books.

Savion GloverFours is a collaboration with four jazz legends. Recorded at The Blue Note in New York, Glover “jams” with some of his musical heroes. The thirty-nine year old dance master introduces each piece with a personal commentary on the personal connection to the music. The opening number with McCoy Tyner (and a great quartet) underscores the inherent, syncopated rhythms that permeate jazz and tap. From a musical standpoint alone, listening to Tyner’s melodic flourishes and cascading tempo riffs are uplifting. Glover interacts with Tyner as a percussive sideman. He improvises with assured strength and creativity. Prominent metallic tap sounds feed the musicians and vice versa. Eddie Palmieri breaks into an explosive salsa concoction that shows Glover’s diverse fluency.

A pair of veteran drummers summons additional intensity. Roy Haynes’ masterful technique is matched beat for beat. There are a plethora of highly sophisticated and complicated dance moves (including what appears to be a “sideways” moonwalk). Perhaps the most compelling performance is the duet with Jack DeJohnette. Each performer assumes both lead and counterpoint, balancing freewheeling dynamics and basic tempo cadence in an impressive display. Glover’s athletic stamina is amazing.

The stereo audio quality is adequate, and allows the clinking tap noises to be heard within the instrumental mix. The video footage is straightforward and doesn’t utilize any special effects. Savion GloverFours resembles an historical document…a necessary one!

—Robbie Gerson

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