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Music Video Distributors presents
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1985)

"I believe in this music."
- Art Blakey

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: January 15, 2004

Stars: Art Blakey
Other Stars: Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Jean Toussaint, Mulgrew Miller, Lonnie Plaxico
Director: Rob Lemkin, Steve Cleary

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:56m:30s
Release Date: July 22, 2003
UPC: 022891986096
Genre: jazz

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+CB+ C-

DVD Review

Art Blakey was one of the driving forces of hard bop, with a jazz style less melodious and with more of an edge than that of, say, Dizzie Gillespie or even early Miles Davis—it comes as no surprise, then, that Blakey was a drummer, not a horn player. Blakey is interested in busting up melody, but not in exploding it entirely; and this is still a club gig, after all, not merely an artistic exploration. This DVD offers an hour-long set of Blakey and a quintet backing him up, at a London jazz club, recorded on February 21, 1985. It's a little sloppy and jagged, but does a good job of registering the energy and drive of Blakey's style.

There are only four proper musical numbers in all, giving the musicians an opportunity to improvise and amplify on the house style. The gig opens with a mercifully brief Blakey drum solo, and then the other musicians, all of them young enough to be Blakey's sons, take turns soloing during the first song, On the Ginza. The next number, I Want to Talk About You, features especially good work from Jean Toussaint on tenor sax. Two of a Kind is downbeat, and runs a little longer; in particularly memorable form here is Lonnie Plaxico, on bass. Finally, Dr. Jackle may be the best number in the set, and the most free spirited; pianist Mulgrew Miller is the star here.

The songs are intercut with very brief (less than a minute) interviews with Blakey, which seem to be included not because he has much to say, but as a way to bridge the numbers. (The audio, which is pretty fair during the music, is pretty sorry during this footage; it's frequently very difficult to puzzle out just what Blakey is saying, because he's been so poorly miked.) It's not the most stirring jazz DVD you'll see, or the best concert film, but it captures some of the propulsive energy that you can only get from a live gig. Don't forget to tip your waitresses.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This was a multi-camera shoot, but the direction seems almost arbitrary, with closeups on musicians when they're not playing, many shots out of focus, and just a raggedy, taped live quality. The video isn't of the highest quality, and looks strained and faded with the years.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: What you're here for is the music, and it sounds fair enough on either of the audio track options. The 2.0 is a little rougher around the edges; the 5.1 remix is prettier, but not as true to the mid-80s original. You can't really go wrong either way, though.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 9 cues and remote access
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring Duke Ellington: Memories of Duke, That Old Black Magic, Jazz Collection: The Legends Series, The Sound of Jazz, Cool Summer: Dexter Gordon & McCoy Tyner, Cool Summer: Stan Getz & Alto Madness, Nina Simone: Live at Ronnie Scott's, Ahmad Jamal, Gary Burton Live
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras worth mentioning are brief clips from nine other jazz titles in the MVD catalog.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

A good solid hour of hard driving bebop from one of the best.


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