The concept is a good one. Take one great record company, Fresh Sound Records (through their Fresh Sound New Talent subsidiary) of Barcelona - Spain, known for featuring the best and brightest young jazz stars in the New York straight-ahead jazz community and have them get together with eight of the best and brightest young straight-ahead jazz arrangers in New York. Have the arrangers write an original composition and pick another tune to arrange for a collective of rotating young jazz artists. Then, release the resulting 16 tunes on a two-CD set with one disc devoted to original music and the other to arrangements. This is truly a great concept and the resulting music is good, varied and above all interesting (only young arrangers could make a hip-hop version of Coltrane’s Giant Steps work and Jason Lindner’s certainly does).
To take the concept one step further, have videographers in the studio with the musicians and the conductor/arrangers to record the proceedings and release the result on a DVD. Not only could this have created a wonderful document of a live-in-the-studio happening, but also as a guide to young musicians and jazz aficionados interested in learning how music is put together. The DVD release of the above is what is reviewed here.
What starts out as a great concept is, unfortunately, lost in the finished product. While labeled as a documentary on the cover, the finished product is more scattered than complete. While there is no narration per se, and none is needed to fulfill the definition of such a movie, there is also no cohesiveness. What we end up with are random events, rehearsals and musician close-ups of what actually transpired during the recording of the 2-disc CD set, The Sound of New York Jazz Underground, from recordings made on September 29-30 and October 1-2, 2003, at Systems Two Recording Studios in Brooklyn - New York.
Arranged into eight sections by directors, each section is not intended to feature a complete musical performance but rather the interaction between musicians during a studio recording. Divided into eight chapters, one for each director, the DVD shows the musicians in the studio during a rarely seen moment of their work. The result is a collection of random and jumbled scenes of rehearsals, musicians fooling around on the piano or practicing their parts on their instruments, practicing music for other events or for the development of their own technique, an occasional director speaking to the camera directly and some scenes of the musicians performing the final product.
One serious fault with the DVD is that because the electric bass was usually run directly into the board and then through the musician’s headphones, there is almost always no bass underneath any of the music. Remarkably there is even a close-up of one electric bass player during one of Jason Lindner’s tunes, and while we hear the other instruments we never hear what he is playing because he’s going directly into the board. In conjunction with this there is a problem with the drums. Because they are recorded in a sound isolation room many times they are only heard indirectly and not at full mix volume.
The lasting and important elements of this DVD include small snippets of great music (it’s obvious the musicians have extremely high levels of musicianship/musical talent and musical instincts) and the manner in which the musicians all relate to each other. They are always loving, caring and supportive. Egos were checked at the door, or at least not put on the final DVD cuts.
The CD set is worth buying, less so this collection of scenes from a large recording session.