Norman Granz – Jazz in Montreux


Good Lord, they gave me the complete series on DVD!

And Now Ladies And Gentlemen! And now Ladies and Gentlemen, AND NOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! (Pause). »The great, the inimitable, the wealthy, the dark and deep though extremely funny … « (applause). (silence). (obviously pause again). »And now … welcome Mister Norman Granz!« (tedious semi standing-ovation then re-pause). The musicians are now coming on stage, fix their axes, eventually tune themselves or discretely and quietly warm up, big applause, coughings and … Now Ladies and Gentleman we’d like to introduce the probably complete »Norman Granz’s Jazz in Montreux«-DVD series! (God, they gave it to me, the whole bloody thing! And I was even prepared to buy some!).

Do you like Jazz personally? Do you sometime watch some on DVD Dolby surround at home? You will. When I was a child I remember two things about Jazz (actually more but let’s take it down to Norman Granz’s bones for now). I remember the »Jazz á Juans«-programs on French TV by famous Alfred Jarry and Jabbo Smith fan director Jean-Christophe Averty. And Pablo Records. What was all that then? Well Pablo got this great idea to promote big names in Jazz in the mid 70’s for a large audience and again. A little like continuing the Jazz at the Philharmonic productions from the 50’s. So that you ???d see big names and rather old musicians with a mix of accompanists or in some sort of premiere combinations with others, and often mixing styles or jamming on simple tunes that everyone???d knew. You’d get things like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie plus Joe Pass and Milt Jackson.
That sort of mix.

But I should better start with the product now: Roy Eldridge (you remember his complete sessions box set on Mosaic we discussed here already?) – I launch the DVD player: The menu shows up, the concert, the itws, the extra bonus, etc. … The legendary New York critic Nat Hentoff opens up with a pretty weird lecturing of a possible Eldridge biography (he does it on whole DVDs from that series, almost they should edit complete Nat Hentoff lecture intros). And he looks indeed a bit like Ezra Pound’s straight brother. Then comes the show itself, a large view on Montreux and the lake first, shortly followed by a jump into some hot and firmly sustained swing. Here he is! Roy Eldridge himself but dressed like a pimp and wearing sunglasses like you haven’t seen since 1977 nor probably after. Well that is Jazz. It’s seriously cooking behind and just to name the chiefs let’s watch carefully: NHOP the Viking on double bass, Canadian MC Oscar Peterson at the piano and Bobby Durham on straight and pure drumming. That’s just loads of pleasure, entertainment but of the best possible crafted hands. Possibly child souvenirs too but maybe adults and teenagers discovery as well. Chapter after chapter, piece after piece ( »Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea«, »I Surrender Dear«, »Bye Bye Blackbird«, »Perdido«) you reach the end, happy and full of sounds and pictures to dream to. I could watch Eldridge twice but we have got much more to go with: Oscar Peterson Trio ???77 (that’s with two basses, Ray Brown and NHOP), Ray Bryant on solo piano the same year, Benny Carter at his best with a quartet and the same Bryant holding the keys. And you ???d probably laugh at me if I’d tell you: Buy them all! But that’s what I think (yeah, I know … easy living).
And now Ladies and Gentlemen I’d like to pinpoint and introduce three more jewels out of the hat and for us! Ray Brown and Milt Jackson featuring Eddie Lockjaw Davis (the most funky greasy tenor in the world), Clark Terry on trumpet (mister Smooth) and Monty Alexander (the Jamaican prodigy of piano that left his seat to Jackie Mitto down there). Jimmie Smith’s also on drums but that’s written nowhere. If you can’t enjoy that I guess you’re lost for the subject. That’s really hot music and always on the edge. Shall we taste Ella Fitzgerald and our beloved count, Mister Basie, slightly later in ???79 right now? And that’s another smash hit in the face! The whole orchestra as it was then, with Mister Rhythm Freddie Green on Guitar (but for some reason the credits for the Basie orchestra seems nowhere). Ella is here good as ever too but that is not of any news if you have ever seen her live in these days. But the most breathtaking document of all is I guess the Mary Lou Williams solo from ???78. The first picture of Mary Lou at the piano with her blue dress, he strong posture and her white shoes like Minnie can only drew ones mind to halt. God, and when she’s starting an »Over the Rainbow« like you have never ever heard even in your deepest musical fantasy and dreams. How many people know how big her influence has been on the Jazz history? It won’t take you long to recognize all the ideas Cecil Taylor got inspired by her. She is my other Marcel Proust, unless he was her boy. However, I can’t keep you too long for now cause I’d like to carry on watching all these Norman Granz films and yes: I’d like to thank the producer for his trust and cigars, my whole family for their love and help, my cousin for bringing good marmalade when the script was stuck, my dog for bringing the newspaper and my cat for slicing it. AND NOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: they gave me the complete blast with the almost complete »Norman Granz – Jazz in Montreux­«-DVD series. I beg your pardon but God bless the DVDs. (Cheers).

»Norman Granz – Jazz in Montreux« (DVD-Box, Vertrieb: Edel)


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Noël Akchoté



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