Jazz Icons [Import]
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From the Contributor
JAZZ ICONS(tm) is an ongoing DVD series featuring full-length concerts and in-studio performances by the greatest legends of jazz, filmed all over the world from the 1950s through the 1970s. Beautifully transferred from the riginal masters, none of these concerts has ever been officially released on home video, and in many cases, the material was never broadcast. Each DVD is produced with the full support and cooperation of the artists or their estates. JAZZ ICONS(tm) comes to you from Reelin' In The Years Productions, GRAMMY Nominated producers of the American Folk Blues Festival DVDs 1962 - 1966.
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The first set on this disc comes from a 1964 concert in Belgium where Baker is backed by saxophonist Jacques Pelzer, with whom he seems to have a lot of sympathetic musical inclinations -- despite his drug habit, Baker seems quite robust and still has his hunky youthful good look (he was a babe) and clearly towers over his European sidemen in terms of musical prowess. That imbalance continues in the later set, a stunning set from 1979, with German vibrophonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid and a loose-limbed, longhaired European ensemble that settles into Chet's mellow vibe with greater ease than their '60s counterparts did in the first half of the DVD. Baker looks totally trashed, but also battled-hardened and tough as leather -- a near-skeletal Nick Nolte comes to mind -- and at least a good dozen years older than his actual age. But, oh! does he sound sweet! After spending a decade rebuilding his career, Baker burns with intensity and purpose, and while he has delved into the light-funk stylishness of the '70s jazz-fusion sound, his work is, if anything, more lyrical and accomplished than his classic recordings of the '50 and '60s, oozing out a hard-won soulfulness and hidebound beauty. Lackerschmid is an able collaborator, providing sensitive backing, as well as a fine original tune, "Five Years Ago," which has a gorgeous chamber-jazz complexity and harmonic richness to it; the set closes with an extended jam, on "Love For Sale," in which Baker plays more aggressively than many folks might expect -- he's still laid-back, but man, is he intense.
The 'Seventies set is the real find of this release -- the first concert provides a good contrast, but Baker's heart is clearly more into it in '79; success is much further away than it was in '64, and he is a much hungrier and wiser performer. In a pre-show interview, added on the disc as well, Baker offers up his appreciation for modern fusion players such as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Michael Brecker; when asked about his own future efforts, Baker preciently repies, "I'll be lucky if I can milk this for another ten years..." And indeed, Baker passed away in 1988, all too young, but having left a beautiful memory. Fans will dig this long-overdue archival release.
I have been watching this DVD series on a 46" Sony Bravia LCD flat screen (sound through Audioquest interconnects to a Creek Classic 5350 SE amp to Audioquest speaker cables to Harbeth 7ES-3 speakers). I have been knocked out by each and every one of them. The video aspect is outstanding, with great clarity, resolution and contrast. The audio is likewise knockout - great clarity and resolution, with excellent dynamic range.
Honesty requires that I tell you that these DVDs are sourced from old film and TV broadcasts, so they are not going to be to modern studio standards - there is only so much that can be done with these sources. That said, I am absolutely floored by what Jazz Icons has been able to do with them. It's not clear from the liner notes (which are excellent by the way) who actually did the transfers and mastering, but they deserve both an Oscar and a Grammy for their hard work and obsessive dedication to quality.
Jazz Icons is THE benchmark for jazz DVDs, the standard by which all others will be judged.
The sound is mono, but Chet's tone is so good it doesn't matter.
Also included is a great biography of Chet.
It really deepened my appreciation for Chet Baker!
A "must have" for any jazz video collection!