With: Kirk Whalum, sax; Dean Brown, guitar; Gary King, bass; Harvey Mason, drums; Dennis Henderson, percussion
Studio: Koch Records-DV-9699
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DD 5.1 surround, DD stereo
Length: 95 minutes
Keyboardist James observes in the notes that this performance at Montreux remains one of the most memorable of his career. I was a major fan of James’ CTI albums back in LP days but they had some terrific orchestral arrangements, and the sextet onstage at Montreux lacks that. Perhaps I’m not much of a fusion fan but when I saw the guitarist shaking one leg violently around while playing the intro to the first tune I thought I had a premonition of some problems with this video.
My favorite number was the longest one – the 18-minute medley of Westchester Lady and Lucille. James was heavily into electronic keyboards and I find his numbers at the grand piano far superior. The focus seems too strong on maintaining a heavy, funky beat and too little on melody and interesting improvisation. But then if you’re a fan of some of James’ big hits in this video you’ll probably find it right up your alley. There’s a nice color booklet with lots of photos and an interview with the pianist. The videography is serviceable but not a bit impressive; one often sees the various cameramen sneaking around.
Tunes; Touchdown, Ruby Ruby Ruby, Night Crawler, Unicorn, Westchester Lady/Lucille, Zebra Man, Angela (Theme from “Taxi”), Winding River, Spunky/Westchester Lady
– John Henry