DVD Reviews

“A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN” (AvantBass Blu-Ray & CD)

Of all popular music genres, the love song may be the most venerable. A new Blu-Ray/CD concert recording, “A Romantic Evening with Jackie Allen” displays how the brilliant Midwestern songstress brings deeper meaning and great expression to a wide variety of love songs written between the 1930s and the 1980s. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the concert video is currently playing in a shortened version on PBS, but that the 2-disc set is a worthy purchase for its additional music and insights.

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THE BLUE NOTE STORY (ON VIDEO)

Blue Note Records stood apart from nearly every other American label for its dedication to artistic freedom and its disinterest in creating hit records. The company founders, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, shared a deep love for jazz, despite possessing little technical knowledge of the music. After immigrating to the US from Nazi Germany, they […]

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This is Gary McFarland (Century 67)

When Gary McFarland died in 1971, he had been praised as one of the 1960s most innovative jazz arrangers and vilified by the same critics for incorporating rock and Brazilian music into his scores. A new documentary, This is Gary McFarland, attempts to restore McFarland’s lost fame. In his DVD review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the film takes too narrow of an approach to McFarland’s wide musical horizons.

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Charles Lloyd: “Arrows into Infinity” (ECM)

Under the right conditions, jazz–like many other art forms–can take on a spiritual quality that can affect both the creators and audience. Charles Lloyd has communicated that spirit in performances spanning half a decade. A new film co-directed by Lloyd’s wife, Dorothy Darr, examines Lloyd’s career primarily through the effect he has had on fellow musicians and audiences. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD edition, which includes notes from the filmmakers and a full Lloyd/ECM discography.

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Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion)

By 1959, Duke Ellington had appeared in several films with his orchestra, but had never been commissioned to write a film score. So when an offer came from Otto Preminger to score “Anatomy of a Murder”, Ellington accepted the assignment. Thomas Cunniffe reviews Criterion’s new DVD edition which offers an audio option that makes the music stand out.

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Brownie Speaks! (Glanden Productions)

Nearly 60 years after his death, Clifford Brown is still regarded as one of the greatest trumpeters in jazz history. For the past two decades, Don Glanden has researched Brown’s life and music, and interviewed many of Brown’s friends and colleagues. The results have been gathered into a new documentary, Brownie Speaks, and as reviewer (and longtime Brownie fan) Thomas Cunniffe writes, the film is loaded with new information about Brown’s life and career.

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Bill Evans: Time Remembered (Reel House download/DVD)

At the beginning of Bruce Spiegel’s documentary, “Time Remembered”, Chuck Israels says that he is constantly asked “What was Bill Evans really like?” Israels, who spent five years as Evans’ bassist, shakes his head and replies “Damned if I know”. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD, which attempts to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding this iconic musician.

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Erroll Garner: “No One Can Hear You Read” (First Run Features)

In the 1950s, Erroll Garner was ubiquitous: his recordings (on several different labels) were everywhere, and he frequently appeared in concerts and on television. But Garner’s style didn’t fit easily into accepted jazz genres and hardly any pianists played exclusively in his style. Atticus Brady’s new documentary No One Can Hear You Read attempts to revitalize the legacy of this self-taught wonder. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD.

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