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Music Video Distributors presents
Jazz Collection: The Legends Series (2002)

"The blues are the true facts of life."
- Willie Dixon

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: November 06, 2002

Stars: Kenny Drew, Red Rodney, Dizzy Gillespie, Willie Dixon, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Stan Getz
Other Stars: Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Billy Pierce, Donald Brown
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 02h:27m:27s
Release Date: September 10, 2002
UPC: 022891985396
Genre: jazz

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+C-C- C-

DVD Review

Throw together various footage of some jazz giants, put it on DVD, and you've got yourself a jazz collection. That's sort of the premise under which this two-disc set operates, anyway. It's a pretty random assortment of jazz clips, which I suppose is all right—individually, the performances are fine, but as a collection, it seems to have been assembled more or less haphazardly, and then cut and pasted together with little care. There's no order to it, really—neither chronologically nor by style—so it's a waste of time trying to divine some sort of intention to the editing.

But the up side is that, despite the arbitrary quality to the whole, the pieces are quite good. Kenny Drew kicks it off on the piano fronting a trio, and his gentle version of You Don't Know What Love Is is especially moving. Red Rodney and his trumpet are up next with two songs, on the second of which Rodney trades licks with an unidentified saxophonist.

The great Dizzy Gillespie bats third, in full African regalia—the highlight here is a fine cover of A Night In Tunisia. He and his ensemble are playing outside on a sweltering night, and when it's time for the other musicians to solo, Diz takes a rest and sweetly mists the other players down with a spray bottle. He's followed by Willie Dixon, one of the great blues men, who sounds terrific singing two songs, and playing bass on a third. Dexter Gordon and his sax are up next, with part of a set recorded at the Paul Masson Vineyard. (Dedicated dOc jazz completists will notice that these cuts are from the same set as the one on Cool Summer.) And then it's back to Red Rodney, whose next cut is the final one on the first disc.

Art Blakey kicks off disc two, backed by the young Marsalis brothers, Wynton and Branford. Then it's back to Kenny Drew and his trio for some more tunes from the same set. (They're playing under a neon sign that reads Brewhouse Jazz; what this means and where this is, I do not know.) Willie Dixon is back again, too, first on the bass, then sermonizing about the blues, then cutting into Built For Speed and I'm The One.

Then it's back to Blakey, for a number in which each member of his ensemble gets a solo, and is identified by name. Unfortunately, though, Branford Marsalis is billed as "Bradford Marsalis." Blakey takes a turn, too, after the young folk have done their thing, and though he demonstrates great artistry, for me, anyway, the extended drum solos is the time to go out and get another beer. The saxophone stylings of Stan Getz are on display next, in a venue that may be the same one where Gordon's performance was shot—Getz looks ready to play eighteen holes in a garishly striped cardigan, but no matter, because he sounds great.

Dizzy Gillespie provides the final track, with extended solos from each member of his ensemble. There are a good number of cutaway shots to the audience here; they seem to be having a fine old time, especially the little kids who puff out their cheeks in playful imitation of the master trumpeter on the stage. All in all, as mish mashes go, this is a pretty tuneful one, but it's no jazz primer, that's for sure.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot at different times under various conditions, the picture quality varies from mediocre to very poor. Kenny Drew probably fares best, as he's shot on a traditional theater stage—the black levels there are decent, though the camera moves way too much. The worst is certainly the Dizzy Gillespie footage, which is terribly grainy and shot from several bizarre overhead angles. This is pedestrian footage at its best, and frequently much more problematic.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Live recording always has its problems, and these clips have more than most. Generally the lower registers loom too large, and so Gillespie and his trumpet are nearly drowned out by the bassline; the same dynamic is at work with Kenny Drew's piano and his bass player. Frequent crackle and hiss can be heard on the audio track as well, robbing the disc of much of the immediacy of a live performance. The musicians are going all out, but they're let down by the recording equipment.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Music/Song Access with 21 cues and remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. History of Jazz
  2. lineup of the World's Greatest Jazz Band
Extras Review: Disc one offers brief bios of Drew, Rodney, Gillespie, Dixon and Gordon; disc two repeats the ones for Drew, Gillespie and Dixon, and adds Blakey and Getz. The history of jazz (which appears on both discs) is reasonably thorough, and runs from ragtime to big band to various incarnations, such as bebop, cool, free jazz, fusion, and modern creative. The list of the World's Greatest Jazz Band is sort of a Rotisserie League jazz all-star team—I'm not sure what the point is, though it's remarkable to imagine Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald backed by the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.

The double-sided discs are encoded for Region One on one side, Region Two on the other. Chapter stops are about as peculiar as the assemblage, as sometimes they're pegged to individual songs, sometimes to performers, and sometimes to neither, and frequently they get the song titles just flat out wrong.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

There's no excuse necessary for wanting to see and hear such giants of jazz as Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon, and while they and others are well represented here, it's a pretty random assortment of cuts on these two discs. The music is terrific, but the editorial compilation is not.


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