Legends – Flawless (Midvalley Records 355-362)
(Eric Clapton, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, David Sanborn, Joe Sample)
Disc 355 & 356 (59:54), (29:51) European Jazz Festival Tour Rehearsal – S.I.R. Rehearsal Studio, Hollywood, CA, 1997 (355)1.Snakes, 2. Marcus #1 (Version 1), 3. Marcus #1 (Version 2), 4. Full House (Version 1), 5. Full House (Version 2), 6. Ruthie (Version1), 7. Ruthie (Version 2), 8. Put It Where You Want, 9. Suggestions, 10. Peeper (356) 1. Going Down Slow, 2. I Got You I Feel Good, 3. Silver Rain, 4. Layla, 5. Rock Me Baby, 6. Jerry Roll
Disc 357 & 358 (63:48), (42:28) Montreux Jazz Festival – Auditorium Stravinsky, Montreux, Switzerland 1997-07-04 (357) 1. Introduction, 2. Full House, 3. Marcus #1, 4. Ruthie, 5. Snakes, 6. Going Down Slow, 7. Peeper, 8. Suggestions, 9. Third Degree (358) 1. 1st Song Tango, 2. Put It Where You Want, 3. Jerry Roll, 4. In A Sentimental Mood, 5. Layla, 6. Everyday I Have The Blues
Disc 359 & 360 (64:39), (47:26) North Sea Jazz Festival – Statenhal, Den Haag, Netherlands 1997-07-11 (359) Same as 357 (360) Tracks 1-5 Same as 358 6. Right Next Door (w/ Robert Cray), 7. You Gotta Change (w/ Robert Cray)
Disc 361 & 362 (64:41), (45:33) Gasteiz Jazz Festival – Polideportiro de Mendizorroza, Vitoria, Spain 1997-07-17 (361) Same as 357 (362) Same as 358
This project put together in 1997 features Marcus Miller on bass guitar, Steve Gadd on drums, Joe Sample on keys, David Sanborn on saxophone, and Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals (where they occur). Considering the backgrounds these guys come from, this project was aptly titled Legends. The concept of this band came from Marcus, who was responsible for bringing the musicians together, and the entire tour covered only eleven dates, all from major European Jazz Festivals.
Putting together this caliber of musicians is nothing short of spectacular. Marcus Miller and Steve Gadd make for a solid funky rhythm section creating an incredible foundation for Sample, Sanborn, and Clapton to stretch out over. Eric Clapton seems like an unlikely candidate for this lineup but he really fits in well adding a real bluesy dimension to their smooth jazzy sound that wouldn’t be present if they got some hot shot jazz guy. A few years after this tour, Clapton revealed to Guitar Player magazine that this project restored his confidence in his musical intuition.
The sound quality throughout this set is absolutely stunning with only the Gasteiz Jazz Festival being slightly inferior to the other shows. With the exception of Clapton’s vocal contributions during “Going Down Slow”, “Third Degree”, “Layla”, and “Everyday I Have The Blues”, the shows are made up of instrumentals where the musicians showcase incredible talent. Even though these performances are almost flawless, occasionally we do hear things that sound like they weren’t supposed to be, proving these guys are actually human. The set list stays the same throughout the live shows and the end of disc six has two bonus tracks from Robert Cray’s set featuring EC on “You Gotta Change”.
The rehearsal tracks from S.I.R. Studios are an excellent look into the development of this project. While David Sanborn appears to be absent, the rest of the guys are heard feeling their way through the songs arrangements. The second versions of “Marcus #1”, “Full House”, and “Ruthie” from disc one are studio demo versions that probably stem from recordings prior to these rehearsals. It is very likely that these demos provided a basis for them to go on.
“Going Down Slow” during rehearsal was played in a more traditional blues style and “I Got You” is an instrumental jam of the James Brown classic. “Silver Rain” sounds promising with Clapton on vocal but never materialized for the show. “Layla” is the unplugged version with Miller on bass guitar during rehearsal but interestingly features him on bass clarinet during these unique live performances.
2005 saw the official release of the Montreux Jazz Festival set on DVD by Eagle Rock Entertainment (who in conjunction with the artists is releasing quite a few shows from the festival’s archives). Considering the amazing quality and superb packaging that Mid Valley is known for, Flawless is as easily recommended as the official DVD. According to the official release, the tracks “Marcus #1”, “Suggestions”, and “Jerry Roll” are actually titled “Groovin”, “In Case You Hadn’t Noticed”, and “Shreveport Stomp”, respectively.