Legends: Live At Montreux 1997 [Blu-ray Review]

Studio: Eagle Vision

Starring: Eric Clapton, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, Joe Sample, David Sanborn
Directed By: N/A

Running Time: 107 minutes
Ratings: N/A

Back Cover

Founded in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious annual music events in the world. The extraordinary list of artists who have played there is drawn from across the musical spectrum and from around the world. Now, with the consent of the festival and the artists, Eagle Vision is making these concerts available for the first time.

Legends is a unique concert from the Montreux Festival bringing together the formidable talents of five musical superstars: Eric Clapton (guitar and vocals), Steve Gadd (drums), Marcus Miller (bass), Joe Sample (piano) and David Sanborn (saxophone). Together they produce an intoxicating blend of jazz and blues on classic tracks such as “Full House,” “Shreveport Stomp,” “Groovin’” and an outstanding acoustic version of “Layla.”

Movie

The wonderful advancements in quality of the Blu-ray format have opened my eyes to the wonders of live concert material. Prior to this and several other concert titles becoming available on Blu-ray, I was never impressed with live concert material on DVD. Now, it is some of my favourite material. With both the audio and video improvement of the Blu-ray format over DVD, I can now truly feel as though I am experiencing a truly live performance. And, this Legends concert from Montreux in 1997 is a prime example of what I mean.

Eric Clapton (guitar and vocals), Steve Gadd (drums), Marcus Miller (bass), Joe Sample (piano) and David Sanborn (saxophone) explore a lavish landscape of jazz and blues unlike anything I have ever heard before. The only other experience I’ve had near the likes of this is the Santana: Hymns For Peace Montreux performance (also available on Blu-ray from Eagle Vision). These artists had me, as well as my roommates, tapping our feet and bobbing our heads to their illustrious rhythm. Each performer gets ample opportunity throughout the concert to showcase their talents… and they do! How these people can manage to maintain hand eye co-ordination while maintaining synchronicity with one another always astounds me. At times, their fingers are moving so fast that it looks like they have six fingers and two thumbs!!! I’m surprised that Eagle Vision was able to fit so much talent on this one disc.

Crave Factor – 10

Extras

N/A

Crave Factor – N/A

Video

1.78:1 Widescreen / AVC

Presented in 1080i, this release from Eagle Vision has left me scratching my head. This image is not even presented in the highest resolution available and it still looks as good as the best 1080p transfers that I have seen. This transfer literally brought a tear to my eye from the impeccable beauty and depth of its scope. Colours are not even the slightest bit askew. The skin tones and every other colour involved in any aspect of the concert is phenomenally reproduced. Even the varying shades of wear and tear on David Sanborn’s saxophone make it feel like a shaving could flake off and fall onto your living room floor! And that is also representative of the fantastic amount of detail preserved in the transfer. Every nick and scratch on Steve Gadd’s cymbals can practically be counted! Also, since this is not as much of a rock type concert as most other Eagle Vision releases, the stage lighting lends itself beautifully to this transfer as there is very little lighting changes. This helps reduce the possibility of artifacting and black hue separation. The blacks are highly consistent throughout the entire jam session. All that’s left to say is, Wow….. just wow!

Crave Factor – 10

Audio

DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio / Dolby Digital 5.1 / Linear PCM Stereo

DTS HD MA continues to prove itself the king of the castle for concert material. With this track in particular, most noticeable is the incredible reproduction of the saxophone and bass guitar. Both have unbelievable range through good speakers. During the opening number, one of my roommates, a real musician, actually came upstairs asking if we had a visitor who brought a real saxophone with them! Everything about this audio track made my ears smile. The only improvement I would have like to have heard was a slightly increased emphasis on the kick drum. Otherwise, the rest of the drum kit and all other instruments very dynamic on this track.

I really have to start watching these Blu-rays with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track turned on first. In comparison to the DTS HD MA track, this lossy version is almost sacrilegious! Every instrument lacks a depth and range needed to accurately reproduce the live element. It sounds nowhere near what a live performance would sound like aside from some crowd cheering in between songs or after solos. Perhaps this is the reason that I was never really interested in concert material on standard DVD. The audio just didn’t make it feel like a live concert. I could just listen to a CD for half the price if I wanted to hear that kind of quality. I didn’t need to watch it. Now, with Blu-ray and the advanced audio codecs, these Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks should be deemed obsolete for concert material.

The Linear PCM Stereo track… well, what can I say about that? For those with receivers that can only handle PCM audio in 2.0 and can’t handle the DTS HD audio codec, this is a worthy alternative. Most likely, such a system will matrix the stereo signal into a surround field for you. It definitely is a better representation of the live performance than the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. You get all of the dynamics and full range of the instruments with the PCM track, but you lose the smooth mixing via satellite isolation which helps blend the instruments together perfectly.

Crave Factor – 9

Menu

The disc menu is a sleek design with a wavy blue mountain-esque design along the bottom ¼ of the screen. Overlayed on top of this pattern is the title “Legends,” which is directly over the menu option on the left side of the screen, while “Live At Montreux 1997” is located on the right side of the screen. Behind this menu plays one of the chapters from the disc with Eric Clapton providing vocals.

The playback menu is identical to that design portion described above, but while the main presentation continues to play in behind instead of reverting to the same chapter as the disc menu.

The only criticism I have of the menu system is the lack of fluid transferring between sub-menus. Once a selection is made, the subsequent menu appears in a flash instant without any flow or transition.

Crave Factor – 8

Conclusion

What can I say? With such quality as is available on this Blu-ray release of Legends: Live In Montreux, there is no reason to not have this title in your collection. A great performance captured in stellar video quality and with impeccable audio reproduction deserves to be experienced! There are no extra features on this release, but who cares? This is the type of epic artistic collaboration that feels like an extra treat all on its own. This is a must have for anyone that enjoys live musical performance… especially for those who enjoy any form of jazz or blues.

Overall Crave Factor – 9

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