Norman Granz Presents Improvisation

Eagle Eye
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  January 14, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
There’s something ironic about the thought that the musicians in the five-song, previously lost 1950 film that provides the backbone of Improvisation are miming along with their own pre-recorded jamming, but it’s such a goldmine of jazz footage that you’d have to be crazy to mind. Even though it’s barely 15 minutes of black-and-white film shot in a studio, to witness Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins trading riffs along with Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich (whose solo causes Bird to break out in a colossal grin), and Ella scatting as Lester Young, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and Flip Phillips blow, is no minor treat. Impresario Granz, possibly the most powerful non-player on the jazz scene through much of the post-war 20th century, put together the session as a follow-up to a 1944 predecessor (also included here in its entirety), and as always his instinct proved sharp. Working with photographer/director Gjon Mili, Granz captured the fire of the improvisational art during a peak period of jazz’s evolution from big band to bop. But the 1950 footage is only part of the story: the program is fleshed out with equally dazzling later performances. Count Basie’s three 1977 tracks from Montreux — live, not synched — with Benny Carter, Zoot Sims, Roy Eldridge, and more have even the band members complimenting one another. And another piece from the same festival, “Ali & Frazier,” is a riotous meeting of Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Oscar Peterson, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Also featured are Joe Pass, Duke Ellington, and a quarter-century older but still stellar Fitzgerald. A second disc of interview material, still photos, and other extras provides additional drawing power.
Related: In action, Permanent shuffle, Crossword: ''Court case'', More more >
  Topics: New on DVD , Entertainment, Music, Coleman Hawkins,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    The new New York Dolls have now been around longer - and released more albums (three) - than the old New York Dolls, and they're commemorating that new longevity by letting go of any compulsion they may have still harbored to honor their designation as "punk-rock progenitors."
    The soul revival has been going on long enough now that maybe it's a not a bad idea to stop calling it a revival at all.
  •   BRYAN FERRY | OLYMPIA  |  October 19, 2010
    From the Kate Moss cover pic to the A-list of guest stars to the reunion with original Roxy Music members Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Andy Mackay, Olympia screams, "EVENT!"
  •   OLD 97'S | THE GRAND THEATRE  |  October 12, 2010
    When Old 97's are on — which they are most of the time on their eighth studio album — they're very, very on.
  •   DAR WILLIAMS | MANY GREAT COMPANIONS  |  October 05, 2010
    The companions of the title are Dar Williams's songs, which the singer-songwriter revisits here two different ways.

 See all articles by: JEFF TAMARKIN