In the summer of 1997, a unique quintet made the rounds of an even dozen European jazz festivals. The group was the brainchild of Marcus Miller, for whom the term “multi-instrumentalist” could have been coined, and they called themselves simply, “Legends”.
The lineup was as follows:
Marcus Miller: Leader, electric bass, bass clarinet
Joe Sample: Keyboards, piano
Steve Gadd: Drums
David Sanborn: Saxophone
Eric Clapton: Electric and acoustic guitar, vocals
The band’s one-time-only European tour culminated at the 1997 Montreux Jazz Festival, where they appeared as the opening night headline act before what appears to be a standing room only crowd.
The events of that evening were filmed and are available on DVD under the title, “Legends Live At Montreux”. With over 250 years of experience between them as professional musicians, the name is hardly an exaggeration.
I would love to be able to tell you that a milti-disc set of CD’s is also available that includes all the songs not included on the DVD, but I’m afraid that is not the case.
The DVD presents us with a baker’s dozen tunes that run the gamut from jazz to blues and with just a touch, a mere whisper, of classic rock.
The set opens with the Wes Montgomery classic, “Full House” and the group has the audience clapping along with them from almost the first note. Sanborn has the spotlight first, and shows the crowd why he’s still a huge draw. Sanborn is followed by Clapton and then Sample, who is in turn followed by Sanborn. He does a little honking thing with his horn that I think could have been left out, but except for that it’s an outstanding performance. Then it’s Miller’s turn up front, and he plays that bass like it was a guitar.
(Later in the program, during “Put It Where You Want It”, we are treated, if that’s the right word, to seeing Miller sweat bullets of frustration as his bass won’t stay tuned during another solo. Ever the consummate professional, he carries on despite the obvious emotional upheaval he is experiencing, seen in one excruciating close-up after another.)
“Groovin'” is next, and the group simply powers their way through this song, start to finish. Say what you may about electric instruments, Clapton’s fretwork on his gold-tone colored Fender has the crowd eating out of his hands.
Speaking of Clapton, this is mainly an instrumental concert until they reach track 5, “Going Down Slow”, Clapton’s classic blues number. The crowd roars their approval as soon as Clapton opens his mouth to sing and there is never any doubt who has the lead throughout.
“Going Down Slow” is followed by “The Peeper”, and the guys work their way seemingly effortlessly through, giving the crowd everything they have by now come to expect from them. Sanborn starts, then passes it along to Clapton. The man is the master of his instrument, and that fact is nowhere more apparent than here.
After a brief break, Joe Sample returns to the stage along for a rousing solo rendition of “Shreveport Stomp”, followed by Miller on bass clarinet giving us the opening of “In A Sentimental Mood”. He is soon joined by Sanborn and they give us one of the mellowest, most beautiful moments in the concert.
Then Miller makes a slow segue into a song that sounds familiar… the intro to the acoustic version of one of Clapton’s classic signature tunes, “Layla”. After half a minute or so, Clapton himself comes onstage carrying one of his namesake Martin acoustic guitars and we are off and running with one of the most beautiful renditions of this song I have ever heard.
To close the concert, Clapton once again takes up his gold-tone Stratocaster and gives us a superb version of “Every Day I Have The Blues”.
This DVD may have more to tickle the average blues listener, but there are more than enough excellent jazz numbers to please the jazz-lover in me.
Thank you for reading this
Wood Village, Oregon
My original content, including photos other than album covers, Copyright © 2014 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.