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Norman Granz Presents: Improvisation by Charlie Parker Coleman Hawkins Lester Young and

The footage presented here emanates from fabled jazz impresario Norman Granz’ affiliation and subsequent working relationship with French Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili. And as the story goes, Mili was in Los Angeles to execute a test run at being a film director. So, in 1944 he produced the jazz flick titled "Jammin The Blues," featuring artsy footage of Lester Young and more jazz icons performing bluesy-swing pieces in a cigarette-smoke shrouded studio. This short film is featured on the second disc amid a candid interview with the ever-affable piano great Hank Jones and his remembrances of the filming.

Disc one features Young, Jones, Buddy Rich and Coleman Hawkins amid previously unseen footage of Charlie Parker performing in Mili’s photography studio. But one of the interesting anecdotes − other than the fabulous music − pertains to the fact that Gili only used one camera for the shoot, while asking to musicians to synch up and playback to the recorded music. A difficult task indeed! Nonetheless, these historic snippets do communicate the art of jazz improvisation set-down in classic fashion by the true greats.

Additional items of note on this production are a 1966 Duke Ellington led trio featuring bassist John Lamb and drummer Sam Woodyard performing at a French museum along with painter Joan Miro looking on. And then there’s the amazing guitarist Joe Pass wooing the audience during a solo spot captured from a 1979 performance. Moreover, Granz provides a few narratives while citing how Pass’ craft is steeped in reformulating a given melody or harmonic component into his own musical persona.

Oscar Peterson’s 1977 gig at the Montreux Jazz Festival was an uplifting, and energized set. Check out the appropriately titled piece "Ali & Frazier," where the explosive frontline of trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry tear the roof down along with saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Here, the band engages in a torrid swing vamp, marked by recently departed bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson’s extremely fast and fluid walking bass lines. Simply stated, modern mainstream jazz doesn’t get much better than what is conveyed during the Peterson session.

No doubt about it, this is an essential acquisition for jazz aficionados. Bonus goodies include a photo gallery of 54 previously unseen shots of the Mili session by Paul Nodler and interviews about Charlie Parker. 2-DVDs: Running Time; 183 mins approx.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Charlie Parker Coleman Hawkins Lester Young and
  • CD Title: Norman Granz Presents: Improvisation
  • Genre: Jazz DVD / Video
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Eagle Rock
  • Rating: Five Stars
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