Thursday, March 18, 2010

Norman Granz' Improvisation

Last night I decided to rewatch (for at least the twentieth time) Improvisation, which was intended to be a follow-up to Norman Granz' Academy Award nominated Jammin' The Blues. The earlier video is included in its entirety on Disc #2 of the Improvisation set. For more about Norman Granz, listen to Nancy Wilson's Jazz Profiles spotlight on Granz, as well as the 18-Part series from a BBC broadcast titled, Out of the Norm.

Disc #1 contains a significant amount of footage that was never made into the follow-on to Jammin' The Blues, so you are seeing a lot of unedited, raw history. The first session is interesting for a number of reasons: it captures the first session that Bird and Coleman Hawkins played together, and that session was pre-recorded in a studio, then shot in a different location requiring the musicians to mime their playing to the recording - something that they pulled off very nicely. Here is a clip from that session:

Another clip that is early into the DVD is this remarkable session:

In my last post, Basie (and Bass) I expressed my admiration for Ellington, while stating that it was Basie who touched my soul. In that post the clip titled, Nob's Blues, is from Disc #1, as well as this great clip of Ellington in a trio setting. Here the Duke plays off John Lamb in much the same way Basie played off Ray Brown, and I love Sam Woodyard's brushwork:

Disc #2 contains Jammin' The Blues, and with two of my favorite drummers - Papa Jo Jones and Big Sid Catlett - you can be assured that this video will please any drummer. Check the spot where Jo Jones takes over the drum chair from Big Sid.

This chip contains a few remaining seconds from a smoking performance, then segues into one of the most beautiful events in which Lady Day and the Prez reunite for what was to be their last session together. This one touches me on a number of levels, not the least of which is how wonderful Billie Holiday and Lester Young are together.

The bottom line is Improvisation contains some great music, made by some of the greatest musicians in our history. If you love jazz this DVD set should be in your collection.

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