Sinatra: New York (Reprise)
Featuring Sinatra at his freewheeling, feisty best, the five-disc box-set (four CDs, one DVD) Sinatra: New York collects live unreleased recordings made in various venues around New York City from 1955 to 1990. The set opens with a reunion performance with Tommy Dorsey's Band in 1955, followed by a gem: Sinatra and pianist Skitch Henderson at the United Nations in 1963. The remainder of the CDs showcase Sinatra after his 1971 "retirement," starting at Carnegie Hall in April 1974, then to Madison Square Garden in October 1974 with the Woody Herman's Thundering Herd, back to Carnegie Hall in June 1984 and ending in Radio City Music Hall in June 1990. The DVD features a 1980 Carnegie Hall performance. It's fascinating to hear the subtle impact of time on Sinatra's voice; he brilliantly compensates for the wear and tear, and even publicly acknowledges that his voice might sound a little rusty, telling the audience, "I was supposed to be drinking hot tea with honey. But what the hell; I'm back in New York; I might as well have some gasoline."
Masters of American Music DVD set (Naxos/Medici Arts)
This collection of jazz documentaries produced in the 1980s and '90s for broadcast has now been released on DVD. Unlike later jazz documentaries, musicians are given ample time to tell stories about their art form. Sound is excellent and storylines are sensitively constructed.
The Story of Jazz
A must have for any student, fan, lover of jazz. From New Orleans to free form, all styles are illustrated with rare film and video performances in black and white and color. Featuring a video clip from one of the legendary Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration sessions (Coltrane taking a blazing excursion on "Blues for Pablo").
Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker
Ranks as the best among many film and docs about Parker, receiving numerous honors and awards in the 17 years since its release. Featuring the only filmed interview with his first wife, Rebecca. Film performances, photos and interviews document Parker's era and life.
Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday
Carmen McRae is the principal narrator for this in-depth documentary about Lady Day's rise to stardom and drug-addled fall. Ruby Dee reads Holiday's words. Plenty of rare performances of Lady Day and testimonial by contemporary jazz figures to her legacy.
Thelonious Monk: American Composer
This doc wipes away the misconception that Monk was eccentric and far out. Only a select number of jazz musicians were tuned into Monk's satirical style during his lifetime, although the doc depicts how his work was finally accepted and integrated in the jazz canon. Interviews with Randy Weston and Barry Harris set the record straight about Monk. Plenty of performance riches here, especially live at the Five Spot when Coltrane sets in.