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Norman Granz at Montreux Jazz: Improvisation - Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and More

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Please note: Disc 2 of this set contains some "film rushes" which do not have any sound. This is not a defect. These clips were added to enhance the archival nature of this DVD set. Page 6 of the booklet gives you information about these clips.
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Editorial Reviews

In 1944 Norman Granz and Gjon Mili collaborated on a film about jazz music called Jammin The Blues. Highly
successful, it was nominated for the Oscar for Best Short Film and is described on the IMDB as Maybe the greatest film ever about jazz. In 1950 they collaborated again on a film about jazz improvisation that was never completed. This footage has now been combined with other film of jazz improvisation shot by Norman Granz at different times and locations to create this new film simply titled Improvisation . / Tracklisting:
Mili's Studio Sequence 1950 -
1) Opening Title 2) Ballade 3) Celebrity 4) Ad Lib
5) Pennies From Heaven 6) Blues For Greasy /
Duke Ellington at the Cote D'Azur -
7) Blues For Joan Miro
Count Basie At Montreux Jazz Festival 1977 - 8) Nob's Blues 9) Kidney Stew 10) These Foolish Things / Joe Pass 1979 - 11) Ain't Misbehavin 12) Prelude To A Kiss / Ella Fitzgerald 1979-
13) Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me 14) I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good /
Oscar Peterson At Montreux Jazz Festival 1977 -
15) Ali & Frazier /
Bonus Features:
Disc One: Portrait of Norman Granz narrated by Nat Hentoff /
Portraits by David Stone Martin -
Disc Two: Extra rushes / Interviews about the Mili session / Interviews
about Charlie Parker / Photo gallery of Paul Nodler's pictures of the Mili
session / The original 1944 film Jammin The Blues

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Lester Young, George 'Red' Callender, Harry Edison, Marlowe Morris, Sidney Catlett
  • Directors: Gjon Mili
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 4, 2007
  • Run Time: 280 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ADKY4Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,261 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Norman Granz at Montreux Jazz: Improvisation - Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and More" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The genius of the late Norman Granz lives on in this two-disk DVD showing some of the greats of jazz performing and relaxing in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. You'll want to see everything on both DVDs, but the real gems are five tunes featuring alto saxman Charlie Parker, pianist Hank Jones, drummer Buddy Rich, bassist Ray Brown, tenor saxmen Lester Young and Flip Phillips, and trombonist Bill Harris in a 1950 session, plus a reissue of "Jammin' the Blues," Granz's 1944 Oscar-nominated movie short featuring Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones, Sid Catlett, Red Callender and others. That's not to say the 1966 Duke Ellington trio session, two tunes apiece in 1979 from guitarist Joe Pass and singer Ella Fitzgerald, and 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival sessions featuring Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Vic Dickenson, Al Grey, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and other stars aren't also good. They are, and you'll want to view all of these several times. Other features like Nat Hentoff's portrait of Granz, Granz's introduction, still photos and silent footage from the jam sessions, jazz portraits by artist David Stone Martin, and interviews with Jones, Edison, Terry, Jay McShann, Phil Woods, Ira Gitler, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Roy Haynes and Jimmy Heath are all fine additions. But the music, appropriately, is the biggest part of these DVDs. It will take you more than three hours to experience it all, but the time will be very well spent. You'll be grateful that Granz collected and preserved these bits of history during his career and that Laser Swing Productions and Eagle Eye Media have put it all together on DVD.
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Format: DVD
It is a rare privilege to see these great artists playing their music.
I will never understand why Norman Granz opted to film at Mili's studio. The result is that the performance was filmed, but the sound track was dubbed in from another session. The musicians did their best to replicate in sound what they had improvised on film. It seems to me that it would have been worth the effort to film the "Jam Session" tracks in a great hall - like Carnegie. They could have also filmed at any number of sound studios.
The result is a video that is in and out of sync with the sound track. It can be a little disconcerting to see fingers moving or not moving when the notes are heard; breaths occasionally being taken by the artists while the sound of the horns is heard. Why someone didn't film these great artists in a more natural manner is a mystery.

Having said all that, it is very moving to see Charlie Parker the person as well as Charlie Parker the artist.
He is very relaxed and expressive. It is also great to see Prez. All of the musicians are real. They are there to play.

The other musical material is quite interesting.
For me, the other great moment comes when Roy Eldridge performs and scats "Kidney Stew". It is a gem.

This DVD is an absolute must.
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Format: DVD
This essential double dvd is a must have for all serious jazz fans...

"Improvisation", the famous unfinished 1950 sequel to 1944 "Jammin' the Blues" is shown here in all its glory... It is quite obvious that the film isn't finished, but it's priceless to see Hawkins and Parker enjoying each other's company, Lester Young joining Buddy Rich, Hank Jones, Bill Harris, Ella Fitzgerald...
On few occasions you even have alternate camera angles to compare with the "A" version of the film.

And on disk 2 you have great photos, the silent footage of Ella, Bird, Rich, Jones, Young and other 1950 stars, the 1944 great film "Jammin' the blues" (The Pres playing with Illinois Jacquet, Sweets Edison,Jo Jones...), a film that is finished both musically and cinematically... Great stuff!

However, musically speaking, my favorites are actually "Jammin' the blues" (particularly some Lester's licks, Edison's open horn and Jo Jones drumming) as well as some actual improvisation, recorded a bit later... First of all, there is a Duke Ellington's trio performance ("Blues for Joan Miro"; John Lamb-b,Sam Woodyard-dm), Count Basie's magnificent and hillariously funny "Nob's Blues", where he musically chats with Ray Brown's bass and with the history of jazz piano and, last but not least, Oscar Peterson-lead stellar group performing a sort of cutting contest between Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Eddie Lackjaw Davis (with the great Dane Niels Pedersen on bass...)
After the concert, the Peterson-Terry-Gillespie-Davis performance was named "Ali and Frazier", after a famous boxing match, and the godfather of the song was Count Basie.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD
From a strictly historical perspective this set is valuable in that it contains footage of Charlie Parker. There is a dearth of that, so having Bird captured on this 1950 short film is a treat. Especially his facial expressions when he was messing with Coleman Hawkins in the first part of Disc One.

The back story is the audio was recorded in a studio prior to the video sequence, which was mimed and intended to be synched. The synching was a little rough and Bird apparently was attempting to throw Hawkins off. The photography and cinematography were the work of Gjon Mili.

The other invaluable part of this set, another film by Mili titled Jammin' the Blues. This 1944 short is exquisitely shot in black and white and its importance is evidenced by the fact that the Library of Congress chose to preserve it in the National Film Registry.

The aforementioned highlights have been well described by other reviews, so I will spare you further detail. I have favorite sections of this compilation, especially the interviews about Bird and some performances. However, to me, the best part is the voiceover throughout major segments that add a lot of context to the performances and other shots. One of my passions is jazz history and this set of DVDs provide a treasure trove of information.
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