Previously seen as an extract on the superb New Morning: 25th Anniversary tribute set, the full concert 1994 featuring Randy Brecker and the Niels Lan Doky Trio makes its debut on inakustic/MVD Visual's DVD, with long, long renditions of many classic jazz standards, starting with Ned Washington and Bronislau Kaper's classic “On Green Dolphin Street.”
One suspects Kaper, a hugely underrated and largely forgotten film composer (penning songs for many of MGM's top musicals, such as Lili ) is smiling from the heavens knowing his creations still live on as classics that give jazz musicians excellent opportunities to explore a melody and test their improv skills.
Kaper's tune still works because it has a lovely intro that economically states the core melody and gracefully provides a launching pad for improvs; equally attractive is the tune's soothing denouement that naturally lets musicians trade the limelight without stopping the tune cold, or creating a stylistic flourish to splice one solo with another.
The version performed Brecker and Lan Doky's trio runs almost 15 mins., but one is never lost in the tune's melodic narrative; Lan Doky often goes back to the tune's main notes before a chunk of improv, and it's fun to watch him re-conceptualize a solo multiple times, trying to find the most satisfying groove, with the band's patient support.
Pierre Boussaguet's short solo is nice and chunky, playing with counter-pointed rhythms against drums, yet he sticks to the tune's melody by closing with a set of descending notes that end on harmonically pleasing sustained tones.
“Star Eyes” also captures Lon Doky's concentration as he repeatedly contrasts the classic melody against long swathes of improv, and the concert video captures the various styles of each member: Lan Doky's personal fury (evidenced by his pinched facial gestures), the cool, almost Zen grooving of bassist Boussaguet, the dynamic thrusts of drummer Alvin Queen, and Brecker's crisp, sharply rendered notes.
Boussaguet gets more room to groove in the catchy “The Target,” a tune that evokes a bit of vintage Bop, with its opening phrase functioning as a question mark to which every musician answers in long, finely detailed solos. The bassist opts for a classically-styled solo in “Softy, as in a Morning,” whose tempo remains taut and high-strung, forcing the band to deliver long and intense solos, of which Queen's drums are given a spectacular spotlight.
It's a marvelous show stopper that makes everyone's heads turn and take notice, and Queen glides through various textures on drums, cymbals, and alternates tempi with an inexhaustible energy. As with some of the prior tunes, Brecker provides melodic bookends, but his own solos are just as potent once the musicians start to explore each song's structure.
The fury between “Softy, as in a Morning” and “That's It” is broken up with Boussaguet's own “Talma, a light jazz/lounge tune that an adequate buffer before the tension of Lan Doky's original “That's It” kicks into gear, with a fast piano intro, establishing the fast tempo, and cascade of notes everyone's expected to follow. Queen gets another solid drum solo, and Boussaguet's own is slow and quite introspective between the high-speed work of his colleagues. The tune closes with some minor dueling between Brecker and Lan Doky, with both men trading improv phrases in an amusing duel to see who can still follow and expand on an idea.
The audience applause and song intros are short and well edited to ensure a smooth flowing concert, and the DVD closes with “Blue Moon,” an encore that appeared on the aforementioned New Morning 2-disc tribute set.
Overall the sound is very clean, and the image is a decent conversion from a PAL master. A nice bonus is Daniel Farhi's lengthy interview featurette with Randy Brecker, filmed in Europe during the tour, with plenty of stills and some performance footage overlaying Brecker's broad recollections of his early years at home (dinnertime with the family, while hard Bebop played on the stereo), early influences, living in New York City, early years of fusion jazz, running a music club, life on the road, and the whole physicality of playing trumpet to get clean, precise sounds like his main idol, Clark Terry.
Another fine addition to one's jazz collection, and radiant gem from the New Morning archives.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan