Sights and Sounds for Your Eyes & Ears

    icon Oct 04, 2007
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While all good things come to an end, there will never be another jazz keyboardist quite like Joe Zawinul. The 75-year-old musician was a former member of Cannonball Adderley's group in the mid-60's and joined Miles Davis later in the decade to start the basis of what became fusion music (rock and jazz) with In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

The mastermind and eventual bandleader passed away Sept. 11, in Vienna, Austria, where he had been treated since last month for Merkel cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. With his impressive résumé early in his career, it was his 15 years leading Weather Report that shot the keyboardist to new heights throughout the '70's. Having led his own Zawinul Syndicate for the recent past 20 years, a DVD was just issued this past April, giving exclamation to the keyboardists' past.

Weather Report Live At Montreux 1976, captured the group in transition just as bassist Jaco Pastorius had just joined the group. Showcasing their most familiar line-up with Zawinul, Pastorius, sax-master Wayne Shorter, drummer Alex Acuna, and percussionist Manolo Badrena, the gig came just before they cut the landmark album Heavy Weather. Between dripping sweat from Shorter's sax attack and percussive vocals from Badrena, Zawinul worked classics from the group including Black Market, Elegant People, Barbary Coast and Cannon Ball’ among others.

The DVD is another impressive mark from a man that will surely see his star shine now more than ever since both he and Pastorius have passed on.

Dreamers take note - ex-Supertramp songwriting genius Roger Hodgson has a brand spanking new DVD available. Take The Long Way Home - Live In Montreal, is the essential singer-songwriter video, capturing the glory and continuing essence of one of the finest song-craftsmen to come out of England, having bloomed throughout the '70s.

Performed nearly entirely solo (covering keyboards, piano, 12 and six string acoustics with his legendary voice), Hodgson is only joined by a wind-player/backing vocalist who absolutely nails the Supertramp horn sounds. Having been away from the legendary band for 23 years, which brought him to household name status, the major portion of Live In Montreal's selections come from his tenure with the first 14 years of Supertramp.

His execution of material and ability to maintain his brilliant voice all these years shows his music in a timeless fashion. With the Goo Goo Dolls having revived his song Give a Little Bit in 2005, Hodgson found it being one of the top 50 songs played for the year, earning him awards and re-engaging his career once again.

One of the more exceptional moments on the DVD comes when Hodgson performs a song he has yet to have recorded, titled Oh Brother, where he proves his career is still on the up and musically adventurous. The DVD is filmed absolutely amazing and sounds incredible - a must for all music lovers.

Carlos Santana has just issued a new release that is a masterpiece for the audience as well as for his career. Not at all catered towards the modern radio sounds like his recent work, Live At Montreux - Santana Presents The Hymns of Peace came out a few months back from an astounding one-night-only gig on July 15, 2004.

This DVD is the jam of jams featuring many master musicians. Santana revisited the staples of music history from Africa to the blues and jazz to soul. Bringing out his finest work in years, the guitarist had his dream come true of friends in on the show, an unprecedented group of musicians spanning music and styles from all over the map: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Steve Winwood, Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane, Patti Austin, Angelique Kidjo, Mahavishnu’ John McLaughlin, Nile Rogers and more join the master of ceremonies as he extends a set of music from the heart to the world.

This DVD is an example of what should be mandatory in college music courses.
Ironically, footage of classic Santana pop up on the new DVD, Ralph J. Gleason Presents A Night At The Family Dog. Filmed Feb. 4, 1970, you can smell the incense and more burning on this spectacular, long bootlegged, hour-long show.

Focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene, the DVD is a time capsule including Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Santana. While each band takes a swing at two or three songs each, the evening ended with everyone in a jam, including members of Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Steve Miller Band. It was originally a huge private party and taped in mono, but the sound is now 5.1 and the footage extremely spectacular to vision some 37 years later.

Heading across the northern border, Canadian Kevin Breit (ex-Norah Jones) guitarist has a brilliant new CD out with mysticsippi’ slide guitar guru Harry Manx. Titled In Good We Trust the disc is a fascinating slide guitar and songwriting workout, breathing in both the individual Manx and Breit's slide guitar and alternate tuning languages. They gel together for one of the best CD's of the year. The Indian sounds of Manx mixing with Breit's unique slide voicing makes for an incredible listen. Available on Stony Plain Records, In Good We Trust should find a market to guitar lovers everywhere. If it isn't available locally, check out to get square with some real earth-y music that won't quit.

Wrapping up this edition of Sights and Sounds, are some blues to be used. Both Tinsley Ellis and JJ Grey & Mofro have put out a pair of outstanding, southern-drenched soul-blues albums that reach above the rest. Grey's Country Ghetto (Alligator Records) has the most stompin’est, in-yer-face sound of anything released this year. A pleasure to spin at parties and a great driving CD, Country Ghetto is the next step in Grey's climb to the top of the swamp-charts.

While you may not hear him on the radio, he is not to be missed. Ellis' Moment Of Truth (also on Alligator) features vocals and guitar tone like no one in the business. Living along the lines of a roadster, much like the Allman Brothers, Ellis has the depth of the three Kings (eh, um--that would be B.B., Albert, and Freddie) and at times the swashbuckling style of Albert Collins. Following a career-spanning live release that brought his stock back up, both Ellis’ songwriting and playing couldn't get much sweeter than this. Not to be missed.

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