Friday, April 22, 2011

Michel Legrand

Legrand Jazz

Arthaus Music

I must admit, while I have always appreciated the work of Michel Legrand, he has never been on the top of my list as one of the all-time jazz greats. To me, he has always been the jazz composer who wrote film scores and movie soundtracks, albeit very good ones. Now my opinion has changed, as this live DVD attests to the true scope of his talent. Backed by the London Big Band Orchestra, Legrand shows off his wares, delivering a stunning performance that starts with a bang and never lets up. Honestly, this is one of the best modern big band performances I have ever seen or heard.

The brilliance of the performance lies in Legrand's exuberance; he is alive and full of energy, so very into the music. His enthusiasm is infectious, and it is obvious and he and his band are having a blast. Later in the show, he is joined by guitar great Sylvain Luc and British pop singer Alison Moyet (formerly of Yaz). Their presence adds another layer of depth to the performance, yet the central focus is totally Legrand - he steals the show in every way possible.

My only complaint, and it is minor, is a distracting continuity error where closeups of the drummer show him missing a bow tie, which is present in the wide shots. Obviously some of the footage was taken from a different performance, and while it is not really a deal-breaker, it is a jarring visual to those of us who notice such minor trivial details. Rant over.

MISH MASH Mandate: Legrandstand
Legrand Jazz @ Naxos

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Five Eight
Your God Is Dead To Me Now

Iron Horse Records
14 song CD/LP

The Athens-based juggernaut still rolls on, over two decades going strong, yet with only a handful of albums to their credit. But, oh what albums they are! This latest installment from Five Eight, their first since their eponymous 2004 release, is by far their most introspective and controversial, bringing together an amazing group of songs that are among their all-time best. There's anger, but it's focused; there's fiery rock, but it's purposeful and mature in execution.

Of course, the centerpiece here is the title track - which on first listen appears to be an atheistic screed against religious beliefs, but under the surface seems to be a commentary on the false gods of religious zealots. No matter how you slice it, it gets you and captivates you immediately. It's deep, it's thought-provoking, and it's one of the best songs Mike Mantione has ever written.

By the way, if you've never seen them live, you must. Make it a point.

MISH MASH Mandate: Losing My Religion
Five Eight Website