An Issue of Quality

It’s pretty obvious that many of you are great fans of Tony Williams. That’s for good reason. He was an innovator and contributor of the highest order. Technically, not too many good equal him. Versatility? He was fluent and at ease with jazz, fusion, rock and all other combinations of those three. 

The good folks at Hudson Music and yours truly have been working on producing a documentary DVD on Tony’s life and music, but the Williams family just won’t go for it right now. As a matter of fact, the last Zildjian Lifetime Achievement Award given to Steve Gadd was actually supposed to go to Tony Williams. Again, the Williams family nixed it, saying that “the time wasn’t right.” Sadly, time is running out. The longer these giants go unrecognized, the quicker they will be forgotten. Making the matter of Tony Williams even more complex is that there just isn’t that much quality video material out there. Tony’s fans know it, and perhaps that’s just one reason why the “Tony Williams Live in New York” is such a popular title. 

It has a rather checkered history. It was released on a laser disc in Japan around 1990 and then withdrawn from release. was fortunate enough to get a copy some years ago and later offer it on VHS video and DVD. There have been quality problems with this title. At least half of the DVDs that have gone out have been defective in some way, shape or form. There have been picture “freeze-ups” and other difficulties that can occur on any DVD, but the main complaint has been that the audio and the video are, quite simply, out-of-sync. That just won’t do. 

We were lucky enough to obtain another copy of the laser disc from Japan, and it is in very good condition, but still not without problems. Maybe there are physical defects on these things and/or that the signals on the disc itself just don’t hold up after 17 years. After all, there’s got to be a reason why laser discs didn’t take the world by storm. And evidently, these laser discs were encoded with some kind of crude form of “Macrovision,” so they couldn’t be duped. It is simply impossible, at least within our means, to totally remove whatever signal that is. 

The good news is that now, the audio quality is absolutely superb and absolutely in synch. The only slight imperfections have to do with the video portion. Now and then, you’ll see some very, very faint lines on the picture. And there are four, count ’em, instances where there are picture drop outs. Two are of one-second duration. The other two are at about 2.5 to 3.0 seconds in duration. All and all, this is pretty darn good in terms of a quest for perfection. 

We’ve just gotten in another Tony title, recorded in France in 1990 by the same band that appears on “Tony Williams Live in New York.” Additionally, we are considering the release of a wild 1972 session, a duo of Tony and Jan Hammer. The quality is just “good” on this, so we’re still in the “consideration” phase. 

Later this week, look for some exciting Gene Krupa “discoveries,” including the actual jam sessions held in Benny Goodman’s apartment in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Carnegie Hall concert; actual “synched-up” footage of Gene with the Goodman band of 1943; additional footage of Gene at the Metropole in 1967 and most of the remainder of the famed “Anatomy of Pop” tv special of the late 1960s, and other newsreel footage of Art Tatum, Dave Tough, Billy Taylor, Duke Elllington and many more. Keep swingin’ until next time. 

Bruce Klauber

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