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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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LEGENDS

Live at Montreux

Eagle Vision EREDV 487

 

 

 
1. Full House
2. Groovin'
3. Ruthie
4. Snakes
5. Going Down Slow
6. The Peeper
7. In Case You Hadn't Noticed
8. Third Degree
9. First Song / Tango Blues
10. Put It Where You Want It
11. Shreveport Stomp
12. In A Sentimental Mood / Layla
13. Every Day I Have The Blues
Eric Clapton – Guitar
David Sanborn – Alto sax
Joe Sample – Piano
Marcus Miller – Electric bass, bass clarinet
Steve Gadd - Drums

Eric Clapton? Surely he’s a rock musician, so what’s he doing in the company of four jazz musicians? Put aside any preconceptions, as the mix works perfectly well. Clapton is primarily a blues performer, and the blues is at the core of jazz – one of its essential building-blocks. Eric is a superb guitarist (admittedly owing an obvious debt to B. B. King) and his virtuosity blends seamlessly with the brilliance of the other musicians, who are all masters of their instruments. All four of his colleagues are experienced in jazz and rock fusion. Steve Gadd has played with the likes of Chick Corea, the Brecker Brothers and Herbie Hancock (as well as recording and touring with Eric Clapton); Marcus Miller’s masterful electric bass can handle funky tunes with ease; and Joe Sample has covered all the bases since his work with the Crusaders (originally the Jazz Crusaders). Saxophonist David Sanborn has even recorded with David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen - and he worked with Eric Clapton on the scores for the Lethal Weapon series of films.

Anyway, all five play sympathetically together in this concert, filmed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997. Having recently watched some DVDs of old jazz concerts filmed in black-and-white, I was slightly disappointed to find that this more modern recording suffered from the jumpy camerawork which bedevils many modern filmed performances. The camera hops quickly from one musician to another, seldom allowing us to concentrate on what anyone is doing for more than a brief period. A duet between Clapton and Sample at the start of Ruthie is filmed less restlessly, because only two men are playing, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Bassist Marcus Miller had the idea for this "Legends" quintet, which appeared at eleven European jazz festivals in 1997. It might be compared to the "supergroups" of the 1960s, which included a certain Mr Clapton in a band called Cream. And the ensemble here proves that, however you label them, musicians can make beautiful music together if they are sufficiently skilful and sensitive. Indeed, they feed one another with stimulation and inspiration.

The concert opens in funky blues mode for the first two tracks, where David Sanborn manages to make his alto sound simultaneously sweet and tough. Ruthie brings the temperature down with some gentle interplay between Clapton and Sample. The riff-based Snakes reverts to funk, anchored by Marcus Miller’s solid-as-a-rock bass and featuring an impressive drum solo from Steve Gadd in his clipped style.

Going Down Slow is close to traditional blues territory, in which Clapton dominates the proceedings with authoritative guitar and pleasantly relaxed vocals. The Peeper is a jauntily catchy blues theme. Then Eric switches to acoustic guitar for the delicate In Case You Hadn’t Noticed, with Sanborn’s saxophone wailing plaintively. Eric returns to electric guitar (and vocals) for the outspoken Third Degree. One of the concert’s highlights is a gutsy version of the Crusaders’ Put It Where You Want It, with Joe Sample leading from the electric piano and a heroic bass solo from Marcus Miller.

So what do they do for an encore? Surprisingly, Joe Sample performs a stride piano solo on Shreveport Stomp, after which Marcus Miller brings his bass clarinet on stage for In a Sentimental Mood which segues into Clapton’s trademark Layla. The evening ends appropriately with a good old-fashioned blues – Every Day I Have the Blues.

The sound quality is good and the DVD runs for more than 100 minutes. Well worth buying to watch and hear these legends in their own lifetime.


Tony Augarde

 



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