Just in time for the summer 2004 jazz festival season, Concord Records is releasing a CD and DVD of its vocalists' performances at the 2003 Montreux Jazz Festival, where the label's thirtieth anniversary was celebrated. Having been born of the success of the Concord Jazz Festival in California, after which Carl Jefferson founded the business that released a long stream of straight-ahead jazz recordings, Concord Records continues to feature the work of some long-time artists like Marian McPartland and Gary Burton while funding the promotional firepower behind some of its broadly popular performers like Karrin Allyson (the first female singer signed by Concord) and Curtis Stigers.
Fortunately, Concord was prepared for the reception it received in Montreux's Stravinsky Hall as the performances were recorded sonically and videogrpahically. The Two-CD set includes two or three tracks by each of the featured singers, giving the audience a sampler of the music they released last year on Concord. Initially, the singers (Peter Cincotti and Karrin Allyson) are backed by small groups that suggest nuance and intimacy. While Cincotti's group mainly backs him up, both when he sings and when he plays extended piano improvisations, Allyson sets up a more democratic situation wherein she allows the sidemen to take their own solos or even to trade fours. The remainder of the concert, both on CD and DVD, features the Concord singers backed by the WDR Big Band led by Tom Scott. Even with the 18-piece band behind them, the vocalists remain forceful and expressive, no doubt due to the fact that the arrangements seem to have been written to feature the singers' strengths, such as the Pow! accents immediately following Diane Schuur's blasts on "Deedle's Blues," as if a ricochet, or the luxuriant fabric that the WDR Big Band lays down beneath the unpredictability of Nnenna Freelon's phrasing on "Lady Sings The Blues."
Many of the set-ups for the songs sung at Montreux reflect the versions heard on the Concord releases of 2003. Karrin Allyson and Diane Schuur, for instance, reprise "Stay Away From Bill," their duet from Schuur's album, Midnight.
And then there's Monica Mancini's duet with Curtis Stigers on "Dreamsville," the song written by her father, Henry, that appears on Mancini's new CD, Ultimate Mancini.
Stigers' "Swingin' Down At 10th And Main," complete with his rousing tenor sax solo, recall his album, Secret Heart,
as does Cincotti's version of "I Changed The Rules" from, naturally," Peter Cincotti.
While the CD and DVD serve two different purposes, even though they contain the same music, the DVD does
include the benefit of satisfying curiosity about the visual appeal of the city of Montreux, the size of the audience at the jazz festival, its atmosphere as immortalized by Eddie Harris and Les McCann, the stage presence of the artists and the feeling of being a part of an important event. Nonetheless, the CD's as well capture the spirit of the music in an important event that was memorable for Concord, the performances and the audience.