DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Quincy Jones, Live in ’60
Published on November 28, 2006
Studio: Jazz Icons/Reelin’ in the Years DVWW-JIQJ
Video: 4:3, B&W
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Extras: 24-page illustrated booklet
Length: 80 min.
Where was I in 1959-1961 that I didn’t know about this fabulous big band? At least I get to make its acquaintance now courtesy of these two fantastic video concerts shot in first Belgium and then Switzerland, both in l960. Young arranger Quincy Jones, who later went on to be one of the prime movers and shakers in the world of recorded jazz and pop, had studied compositions with no less than Nadia Boulanger and was music director for the French record label Barclay. He had twice toured internationally in 1956 with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band – playing trumpet and being music director.
Producer John Hammond commissioned Jones to assemble an orchestra of top jazz players to appear in costume while playing and acting in the new Harold Arlen musical Free and Easy, which would tour Europe. Quincy put together one of the greatest bands ever. His bassist Buddy Catlett observed, “I played with Basie for five years…in terms of tightness, Quincy’s band was as tight as Basie’s… We were one big note.” Among his sidemen were Phil Woods, Julius Watkins on French horn, Clark Terry, Jerome Richardson and Jimmy Cleveland. The musical opened successfully in Amsterdam and also played in Brussels, but when it moved to Paris the city was in the throes of protests to the Algerian War and people were afraid to leave their homes to attend.
Rather than flying his 18 musicians back to New York, Quincy carried on and worked with promoters to set up big band gigs around Europe. They toured 11 countries in ten months and were a sensation, though they were usually broke. They finally returned to NYC and also played in Chicago, but a big band just couldn’t make it here and they had to break up. Ira Gitler reports that their European stint led directly to the Clarke/Boland band – one of the best European big bands – and the German radio bands began to hire American players and arrangers.
Never mind these concerts are mono and black & white – the sound is excellent and the band is so colorful and exciting that you’ll hardly notice. Neither should it bother that the Swiss portion is a bit fuzzy around the edges – it’s evidently a kinescope and still much better than most kinescopes. It doesn’t suffer any of the awful contrasty or washed-out quality of American kinescopes nor is there any distortion/bending of the images towards the top or sides. The physical setup of the band is unusual in both situations: When someone like Phil Woods takes a solo he is often all by himself sitting on a stairway or elsewhere.
The band was not only integrated racially but gender-wise as well. Ace trombonist and arranger Melba Liston takes some great solos, and Quincy’s pianist is Patti Brown. Plus the band had two flutes and even piccolo plus French horn. All the tunes are winners – terrific arrangements and superb playing. Basie pro Ernie Wilkins was brought to do many of the arrangements. I think Quincy’s band just about destroys every filmed big band ever! Clark Terry sits on the steps to wail on Moanin’, great piccolo and flute bit on Lester Leaps In, Watkins plays a subtle and beautiful horn solo on Everybody’s Blues. The Swiss section gets underway with Birth of a Band again – one of two repeats from the Belgian concert. Clifford Brown had died in 1956 and I Remember Clifford has great warmth, with Benny Bailey the main solo; many of these players knew Brown. Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare is an appropriate selection, and features Les Spann’s flute solo. The very classical arrangement of Debussy’s Ma Reverie is quite a surprise, with a lovely Melba Liston solo.
I’m going to burn a CD of this fantastic concert to listen to in my car. Even if you only have a couple Basie and Ellington albums in your collection, you gotta have this DVD! The enclosed booklet’s great reading, by the way.
Tracklist: Birth of a Band, Moanin’, Lester Leaps In, The Gypsy, Tickle Toe, Everybody’s Blues, Big Red, Birth of a Band, I Remember Clifford, Walkin’, Parisian Thoroughfare, The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, Everybody’s Blues, Stockholm Sweetnin’, My Reverie, Ghana, Big Red
- John Henry