Jazz A Vienne (Mid Valley MVR 384-385)
Theatre Romain, Vienne, France – July 5, 1997
Disc 1. Intro – Full House – Marcus #1 – Ruthie – Snakes – Going Down Slow – Peeper – Suggestions – Third Degree
Disc 2. First Song/Tango – Put it Where You Want It – Jelly Roll – Sentimental – Layla – Every Day I Have the Blues
Mid Valley treat us to an excellent audience recording of the third live show ever put out by “Legends”, but it most likely is the very same source the “EC IS HERE” label used for his release “Jazz A Vienne” (DJ Copy 24/25) which was issued 10+ years ago. I am not an expert but even sharing the same title, I would say Mid Valley used “EC IS HERE”‘s source and maybe they remastered it in some way? If anyone knows, I will be grateful if he/she lets me know.
I was fortunate enough to attend the last show of this tour in Vitoria, Spain and comparing performances it is easy to tell the band still needed some assembling by this time…. or maybe it was not the band but just EC needing that. Either way, “Full House” is a good opener and long at 10+ minutes it gives all musicians an excellent opportunity to warm up. “Marcus #1” sees a great David Sanborn on saxophone but for me it has got to EC the one sho steals the song by playing a brilliant solo on the outro. “Ruthie” is a beautiful slow track that EC wrote and was probably named after EC’s daughter Ruth. “Snakes” is another long song which gives every band member the opportunity to show off. At this point it is Steve Gadd the song stealer, with some impressive drum work. “Going Down Slow” is the first non-instrumental song of the night. Being an old blues number I remember the arrangment of this song sounding strange to me at that time, but EC would decide to keep playing this on his solo Tours until 2001, which made me get used to this arrangement by now. Still, EC never made this song sound the way it sounded with “Legends”. David Sanborn’s great saxophone work is the responsible for that. “Peeper” is another extended song mainly featuring David Sanborn, EC and Joe Sample. “Suggestions” sees EC on acoustic guitar but it is Joe Sample the one who shines here. “Third Degree” is the second non-instrumental song of the show and being another old blues number like “Going Down Slow”, it is another song that was clearly tailored for EC.
I find “First Song/Tango” particularly good… because I can listen to EC to a tango beat which is something I had never heard before and I just love! The 16+ minute rendition of “Put It Where You Want It” from Joe Sample’s Crusaders’ days shows the intensity of the band and is a joy to listen to. “Jelly Roll” is a 3-minute song exclusively featuring Joe Sample on piano and “Sentimental” is used as the introduction to “Layla”, both of them seeing Marcus Miller on bass clarinet. I prefer the electric “Layla”, but “Legends” make this jazzy version much more moving, even without any guitar solos! A smoking “Everyday I Have The Blues” is the last song of the night and for me is the end of a wonderful experience.
EC does not reinvent jazz guitar. He is just willing to try something different and it indeed is worth a listen. These “Legends” shows are good opportunities for us to hear him jamming his heart out with a group of jazz musicians such as Marcus Miller and Joe Sample with whom he would not probably be associated otherwise. Joe Sample would later join EC’s band for his Japan Tour of 1997 and it is a shame he left after that.
Most of the “Legends” performances have surfaced by this time, but I don’t think I have ever come accross a recording from the Molde Jazz Festival, which took place on July 12, 1997 in Molde, a city on the western coast of Norway. Finding that recording should be an absolute challenge for “Mid Valley”, “ARMS”, “Tarantura” and/or any other EC-dedicated label. I hope they surface that someday…
“Jazz A Vienne” comes with a bonus 2CD set covering the Legends’ show at the Crossing Over Jazz Festival on July 8, 1997 in great soundboard sound. These discs are numbered as 9 and 10 and they add to the “Flawless” 8CD set also issued by Mid Valley.
An official release on DVD of the Legends’ show at the Montreux Jazz Festival which took place just the day before exists, so if you are not a completist, you might want to pass on “Jazz A Vienne”, no matter how excellent the audience quality is. The thing is that if you’re reading this you’re a completist, I’m afraid…If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)