Monday, December 17, 2012

Phil Collins “Live at Montreux

(Eagle Rock) This 2-disc DVD opens with a set from Jazz Fest in 2004 where Collins enters the stage pretty much wordlessly and just starts playing a wild drum solo. Then another dude joins in and there’s a thundering drum duo. Then a third cat comes out playing congas and percussion and we get a drum trio. This is THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW! And it goes on for like ten minutes, no music except apeshit percussion, and they are not doing some mellow drum circle unity thing, this is like a jazz war where cats are showing off their best stuff, trying to cut the other dude. Maybe Collins always opens like this, maybe he just wanted to show that he knows he’s a drummer and not a pop star so he prefaces an hour of schmaltzy vocals with a muscular set of mayhem, or maybe he just felt like jazzing it up jazz fest, I don’t know, but it was awesome. The rest of the set is genuinely godawful, nearly two dozen cornball Collins’ songs and covers (“Groovy Kind of Love,” Cyndi Lauper’s “True Clors”) accompanied by a smooth jazz/new age-ish band. Yecch. But disc two, a Jazz Fest set from 1996 is much more interesting. Collins decided to do a full on Benny Goodman Big Band deal, with no vocals, just big band arrangements of Genesis and Collins’ solo songs, with him playing drums. Quincy Jones conducts, and this is fun, if not super good.The problem is that despite Phil swinging pretty hard on the drums, using brishes when appropriate, and trying to jazz it up, it never sounds swingin’, it sounds more like a slick orchestra recording a movie score. The songs themselves ay be hard to jazz up, but also the very talented band is just not made up of guys who can get into big band mode. David Sanborn and Gerald Albright soloing is going to sound like a smooth jazz Christmas no matter what they try to play. At one point Tony Bennett comes out and sings a Tony Bennett song with his own pianist and bassist (and Collins and Co.) and he’s remarkable. Obviously Bennett can sing, but how muscular his voice was in ’96 is astonishing. According to Collins’ liner notes Bennett did a full 30 mionutes, but we only get one song. I feel good for Phil getting to do this, it looks fun, but other than backing Bennett it’s more a curiosity than essential. Still, between this and the drum collision I think this is a worthwhile release.

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