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  Audio Ideas: AM On New Blu-ray Releases - Montreux To Monty From Eagle Rock

      Date posted: November 30, 2009

Diana Krall in Rio (blu-ray)
Diana Krall Live In Rio

Verve/Eagle Rock Entertainment; dts-HD, Dolby Digital; 149 Minutes

I’ll start off by saying I’m not much of a Diana Krall fan, not fond of her vocal twists and turns, and rather meandering piano style. Her music is to me the essence of that recent genre called “Smooth Jazz”, ie; Jazz for those who hate it. Krall’s sound is more lush MOR, and best heard with strings, which it is in much of this performance.

That out of the way, this concert is a feast for fans, for eyes and ears. The production is immaculate and beautiful, scenes of Rio intercut with the music (Diana on the beach, etc), with utterly superb picture quality. Once you’ve seen this, you’ll never watch VHS again, and think before you put a DVD into your player. I selected the dts Master-HD in the opening menu, and what I heard was very clean and dynamic sound, with great detail and depth.

But, bearing in mind my opening comments, I found Diana’s singing bland and mannered, except when bending notes waayyy out of shape, and her piano playing somewhat chaotic and clinky. When the lady starts to rise off her seat, cover your ears!
Return To Forever (blu-ray)

Return To Forever Returns  Live At Montreux 2008
Chick Corea, piano, keyboards; Al DiMeola, guitars; Stanley Clarke, bass; Lenny White, drums
Eagle Rock Entertainment; DTS-HD; Dolby Digital; 149 minutes

This is not Smooth Jazz! It ranges from very articulate Rock to quite experimental Jazz, these veteran virtuoso players led by Corea’s improvisational nature and prolific keyboards. The rock side of the equation is, of course, Al DiMeola, who plays a mean guitar, even a classical acoustic instrument at times in this bravura performance. And Corea’s numerous keyboards and different sounds (not to mention musical ideas) keep things both audibly and visually interesting, while Clarke’s very interesting bass lines work with White’s varied drumwork to provide a framework for all this innovative music making.

Again, the production of this Montreux concert is first rate, with vivid colours, lots of stage detail and great camera work. This concert is followed by some US tour footage from a performance in Florida, also visually gorgeous and musically interesting. The sound is outstanding and definitely more amenable to these ears than Krall.

Quincy Jones - The 75th Birthday Celebration Live At Montreux 2008
Herbie Hancock, keyboards, and many other players and singers
Eagle Rock Entertainment; dts-HD Dolby Digital; 178 minutes

A bevy of Jazz, Pop, and even Rock artists gathered together for this concert at the 2008 Montreux Festival. These included many whose records were produced or arranged by the very versatile Mr. Jones. Patti Austin and Petula Clark suggest the range of these artists whose careers were helped by Quincy. The former is a fixture throughout, providing some great soulful vocals, the other great vocalist from the Rock era being Freda Payne, now a much matured artist and singer. Just a few of the great musicians featured in this concert (that took a year to put together) are Al Jarreau, Chaka Kahn, James Moody, Toots Thielmans, Nana Mouskouri, Lee Ritenour, Joe Sample, Monty Alexander, and Nils Lindgren.
Quincy Jones, Live at Montreux - Blu-ray
There are two instrumental ensembles, the smaller being The Montreux In The House Band, and the larger The Swiss Army Big Band, the latter bringing back memories of a Summer Night at Crystal Beach on Lake Erie long ago, when I let the sound of the Stan Kenton Band wash over me for a couple of hours. What a sound, etched in my memory, and heard again from this Blu-ray disc from this assemblage of many of the best brass and horn players in Europe! Here we have three hours of fabulous playing and singing (maybe a little too much of the latter for me), with a camaraderie and spirit that is more than infectious.

All of this is captured in glorious Blu-Ray sight and sound, and I highly recommend this disc to lovers of all types of music, especially the kind that swings! All of these Eagle Rock Blu-ray discs, and many more (including those listed below) can be ordered through www.audiobasics.com.

More Montreux Blu-rays From Eagle Rock

B. B. King Live At Montreux 1993
Jamiroquai Live At Montreux 2007
Santana - Blues At Montreux 2004
Earth, Wind & Fire Live At Montreux 1997
Staus Quo Live At Montreux 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different
Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut)
6-Part Series on 2 Blu-ray discs, 7 hrs 43 mins

What a feast for Python fans! Starting with a contextual look at the Python origins, and followed by interviews with members, this series is utterly riveting, even going right back to my undergraduate idols, The Goons, led by Peter Sellers. It was the wild and surreal radio antics of The Goon Show that inspired the first Pythons. They bridged the gap from the unseen and imagined to the visual craziness that amazed and entertained British viewers while mystifying and enraging BBC programming executives.
Monty Python on Blu-ray
The following famous skits are also included: The Dead Parrot, The Spanish Inquisition, Fish Slapping Dance, Ministry Of Silly Walks, The Lumberjack Song, The Cheese Shop, and SPAM. Though the Circus did not come to us till years later via PBS and CBC, it started on the Beeb in 1969 with little fanfare, and snuck up on British viewers, becoming very popular quickly via word of mouth.

The three films, (Holy Grail, Life Of Brian, and Meaning Of Life)  are also covered herein, with lots of clips and anecdotes. All in all, it’s an engaging exercise that should be watched in hour (or two) segments (lest they wear you out laughing), stitched together with interview segments with Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam (the American animator), Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and “archival footage” of the late Graham Chapman. You’ll even meet the beautiful woman who bared her breasts (often) for the cause!

Very well shot and edited, The Truth  is presented in excellent HD, showing the participants and the sketches themselves in a fidelity never before seen except in a theatre. This is a highly recommended set even for those new to the Monty Python experience. Where else could you find so much fun for the cost of just two discs?

 Andrew Marshall

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