DVD Reviews
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New this month:
"BILL EVANS: TIME REMEMBERED"
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.

Previous reviews:
"ANATOMY OF A MURDER"
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.

BROWNIE SPEAKS!
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.  

RAY CHARLES: LIVE IN FRANCE 1961
Recorded during his first trip to Europe, the Ray Charles DVD  Live In Europe 1961 is an important historical document.  Thomas Cunniffe reviews the disc, which captures revealing glimpses of Charles' emerging status as a polished stage performer.

CHICK COREA/GARY BURTON: "LIVE AT THE MUNICH PHILHARMONIE"
Now approaching the 40th anniversary of their first duo album, "Crystal Silence", Chick Corea and Gary Burton are still making music together, with a new album due in September. Thomas Cunniffe reviews a recently reissued DVD featuring the duo in a 1997 concert from Munich.

"MILES AHEAD"
Don Cheadle's long-awaited Miles Davis film, "Miles Ahead" is far from a typical biopic. It requires its audience to come in with prior knowledge of Davis' life. However, it is a remarkable film, especially for a first-time director like Cheadle. In this DVD review, Thomas Cunniffe marvels at the way Cheadle juxtaposes various time frames from Davis' career into the same scenes. 

ELLA FITZGERALD: "BEST OF THE BBC VAULTS" (CD/DVD)
Ella Fitzgerald was a regular presence on television during the 1950s and 1960s. "Best of the BBC Vaults", a CD/DVD set just issued in the US, but released three years ago in the UK, collects four classic Fitzgerald TV appearances from 1965-1977. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the collection.

ERROLL GARNER: "NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU READ"
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 after his passing, 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.

"THE GIRLS IN THE BAND"
With her new film, "The Girls in the Band", director Judy Chaikin achieves the near-impossible: a comprehensive history of women jazz instrumentalists in under 90 minutes. Thomas Cunniffe reports that the film contains more information about the multi-racial International Sweethearts of Rhythm than many earlier sources, and it offers an admirable survey of current female instrumentalists. Finally released on home video after years of playing only at public screenings, this newly revised review adds information about the new DVD collector's edition.

TUBBY HAYES: A MAN IN A HURRY
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tubby Hayes' birth, there's been several new CD reissues, a long-awaited full-length biography and now a documentary on the British tenor sax giant. Hayes lived a fast and full life before his passing at the age of 38, which makes the documentary's title, "A Man in a Hurry" all the more appropriate. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on the film in this month's DVD review.

WOODY HERMAN: "BLUE FLAME: PORTRAIT OF A JAZZ LEGEND"
In celebration of Woody Herman's upcoming centennial, Graham Carter has produced a 110-minute documentary chronicling the history of the famed bandleader. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD, noting that the film has interviews with many distinguished Herman alumni and several rare film clips.

FRED HERSCH: "MY COMA DREAMS"
Like most people, Fred Hersch doesn't remember his dreams. But the dreams he envisioned while in a medically-induced coma were so vivid, he described them in detail after he regained consciousness. Those dreams, and the story of his illness, are part a of a hybrid jazz/theatre work called "My Coma Dreams". Thomas Cunniffe reviews the newly released DVD of a performance at Columbia University.

ICONS AMONG US: JAZZ IN THE PRESENT TENSE
"It's the quietest revolution I've ever seen" states Terence Blanchard in this award-winning documentary about the current jazz scene. Finally available on DVD in both its feature film version and the original 4-hour broadcast edition, Thomas Cunniffe examines both editions and reports on the strengths and weaknesses of each.


IN GOOD TIME: THE PIANO JAZZ OF MARIAN McPARTLAND
Through her numerous live performances and her award-winning radio series, Piano Jazz, Marian McPartland has steadily built a reputation of one of jazz's great masters. Yet she is not one to trumpet her own accomplishments. Finally, a filmmaker has done it for her (with the help of several other great musicians). Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD.

"JACO"
The flamboyant electric bassist Jaco Pastorius was an anomaly in jazz history. Since his instrument has generally gone out of favor in jazz circles, Pastorius' main influence has been within rock bands. A new documentary, authorized by the Pastorius family, was produced by Metallica's Robert Trujillo, and features an equal number of rock and jazz musicians as interviewees. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the 2-DVD set of "Jaco", noting that the film discusses Jaco as a person well, but gets a few key facts wrong. 

JAZZ AND THE PHILHARMONIC
With contemporary music styles cross-fertilizing before our very ears, the training of young musicians requires instruction in an ever-widening range of genres. A gala concert featuring the talented students, alumni and mentors from three pioneering music education programs has just been released as the CD/DVD set (and PBS special), "Jazz and the Philharmonic". Thomas Cunniffe reviews the discs.   

JAZZ ICONS SERIES 5
After a two-year gap, Reelin’ in the Years has released their long-awaited fifth series of Jazz Icons. The new set features French performances by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (with Lee Morgan & Wayne Shorter), John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Griffin, Freddie Hubbard and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the set.

CHARLES LLOYD: "ARROWS INTO INFINITY"
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 discograph

MASTERS OF AMERICAN MUSIC BOX SET
Released just in time for the holidays is Naxos/EuroArts' 5-DVD box set Masters of American Music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the set which includes profiles of Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday as well as an overview of the music, The Story of Jazz.

THIS IS GARY McFARLAND
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.

THELONIOUS MONK: "PARIS 1969"
Thelonious Monk's tour of Europe in late 1969 was the last time he would travel the Continent with his own group.  Despite a number of setbacks, the quartet was in great form for its appearance at Paris' Salle Pleyel. As Thomas Cunniffe reports, the film of this concert has circulated among collectors for years, but Blue Note's new DVD may be the first legitimate release of this material.

OSCAR PETERSON: "EASTER SUITE"

While his "Easter Suite" was considered one of his major compositions, Oscar Peterson never made a commercial recording of the work. In time for Holy Week, Naxos/Art Haus has issued a DVD featuring Peterson's only recording of the piece, made for "The South Bank Show". Thomas Cunniffe reviews the disc.

SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE
The bright costumes and wild improvisations of Sun Ra and his Arkestra made them a natural for film. Although several documentaries (and one very strange feature film) were made of the group, no filmmaker found the essence of Ra and his sidemen as well as Robert Mugge in his documentary "A Joyful Noise". Thomas Cunniffe reviews a beautifully restored DVD edition of the film in this month's DVD review. 

"SYNCOPATION"
Jazz and the movies are America's two greatest contributions to the arts, but Hollywood rarely gets it right when jazz musicians are portrayed on the silver screen. "Syncopation", a 1942 film directed by William Dieterle has been issued on home video for the first time, and while it's not the classic that the trailer claims, it is considerably better than most Hollywood jazz films. As a bonus, the DVD and Blu-Ray editions contain nine exquisitely restored jazz shorts featuring Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden and Cab Calloway, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe states that these films are more entertaining than the feature. 

THE ZEN OF BENNETT
There have been plenty of documentaries made about Tony Bennett, but the latest film on the singer, "The Zen of Bennett", assumes that the viewers know his biography, and focuses instead on the philosophy that makes him such a compelling artist. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD version.