Jazz Shots From The East Coast, Vols. 1-3, Jazz Shots from the West Coast, Vols. 1-3 (EforFilms). The music on these discs is almost uniformly good. The video ranges from TV quality to grainy film, and no wonder; some of these clips are ancient soundies. There are great rewards here, but be warned: the producers provide no information beyond the names of the leaders and the tunes, unless it was superimposed on the original clip. No dates. No sidemen identification. Who was that marvelous alto saxophonist soloing with Duke Ellington on “Sophisticated Lady?” It was Willie Smith, replacing Johnny Hodges for a time in the early 1950s, but if you don’t recognize him, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, pianist Ronnie Matthews’ name appears on the screen in a marvelous performance of “Monk’s Dream” by Johnny Griffin, but that is a rarity. Who was East Coast and who was West Coast may have been decided by a toss of the dice. In the course of the series, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Jimmy Smith and Thelonious Monk show up in both categories. But pigeon holes don’t matter, music does, and for all of their informational faults, these DVDs deliver plenty of it by some of the best players of the twentieth century.
Jazz fans of the 50’s and of Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars may want to know that Howard Rumsey has been very ill this year and is in recovery at a skilled-nursing center. He spoke with me fondly of his days with all the greats that he played with at Hermosa Beach’s Lighthouse. Surely, your prayers and thoughts will be appreciated for his full recovery.