Legends of Jazz Showcase Review (Blu-ray)

Independent home video publisher LRSmedia wasted no time jumping into the high definition arena by whipping up jazz’s triumphant return to national network television Legends of Jazz Showcase on Blu-ray Disc. Since jazz music is meant to be heard before seen, LRMmedia has stepped up and included 24-bit Dolby TrueHD audio ” the first sighting of this coveted audio format on Blu-ray. Too bad the only two currently available Blu-ray players are unable to support this next-generation lossless audio format.

Legends of Jazz Showcase originally began airing on PBS in April and simultaneously debuted on home video in a lavish two-disc DVD/CD set. All 13 performances from the series have made their way to this Blu-ray Disc version, kicked off by Al Jarreau and Kurt Elling belting out the duet “Take 5” and concluded by soothing Ramsey Lewis, who also happens to be on the LRSmedia board. The remaining performances are a medley of styles and combinations ranging from saxophones to guitars, flutes to pianos, and a trio of trumpets perfectly in sync. These classic performances are the perfect relaxation medicine after a hard days work.

The complete song listing is as follows:

  • Take Five – Al Jarreau and Kurt Elling
  • My Funny Valentine – Chris Botti
  • The Panther – Marcus Miller, George Duke, Lee Ritenour
  • Señor Blues – David Sanborn and Phil Woods
  • Armando’s Rhumba – Chick Corea
  • 12 Year Old Boy – Robert Cray and Keb” Mo”
  • Killer Joe – Benny Golson
  • The Island – Ivan Lins
  • Mumbles ” Clark Terry
  • They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli
  • Obsession – Dave Valentin
  • Take the “A” Train – Dave Brubeck and Billy Taylor
  • Dear Lord ” Ramsey Lewis

The previous DVD release was cut from the same high definition master used for Blu-ray and the quality afforded by high definition is clearly beyond what 480p DVD can properly reproduce. To take advantage of 1080i high definition resolution, the set designers created a colorful and dynamically lit stage that comes alive through swirling rainbow colors and a small army of strategically placed cameras. Precise lighting placements highlight brass instruments best, and a capable transfer adds just enough depth and detail expected from a high definition presentation.

We’ll have to wait to fully appreciate what the Dolby TrueHD audio track brings to the table until either Playstation 3 comes out or Samsung and/or Panasonic’s players are updated via firmware. In the meantime, the secondary Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio track is more than capable of standing in. Horn timber is high and tight, the bass drum and guitars strike the right chord, and other instruments like cymbals and piano are sharp and enveloping. With the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track this satisfying, I expect the TrueHD track should be nothing short of perfection; like sitting in the studio while the songs were performed.

Token extra features including Artist Biographies for every performer and a trio of Trailers round out what is a successful entrance into Blu-ray Disc home video by LRSmedia. While it is annoying not to be able to take advantage of the Dolby TrueHD audio track yet, this small temporary hindrance shouldn’t deter either casual or deep-seated jazz fans from gobbling this title up.

– Dan Bradley

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