There are no surprises here, but a full set of wonderfully evocative music and some food for thought. If Robert Altman has brought a bit of jazz into his films, with high levels of improvisation for example, he has also in this case brought some of the verisimilitude of film to jazz. He and his collaborators (Hal Willner and a fine all-star band) take a Method approach to jazz repertory: Where most repertory efforts ask the musicians to play the notes from classic performances, here they are asked to play the roles of their musical forebears. Swing it, brother Stanislavsky! Maybe the costumes helped the players find that 60-year-old groove, maybe the “live” ambiance helps the listener hear the recording as a pioneering hi-fi radio broadcast come back like Halley’s comet. And maybe it’s the caliber of the music-including such classics as “King Porter Stomp,” Prez’s “Tickle Toe” and “Cherokee”-and the band-including, to name but a few, “Fathead” Newman, Joshua Redman, James Carter, Olu Dara, Ron Carter, and Victor Lewis (who, like Mario Andretti, can drive anything). But it works.
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