Various Artists

Legends: Live at Montreux 1997

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Michael Heatley's liners note that saxophonist David Sanborn and guitarist Eric Clapton worked on the first Lethal Weapon film in 1986, scoring another three of the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover movies with Steve Gadd on drums for one of the sessions. So these five chaps have a "family tree" of sorts and take the stage on the opening night of the July 4-19, 1997, Montreux Jazz Festival, nestled on Lake Geneva in the resort town in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. One would thing the majesty of the country and the moment would inspire. Sad to say, despite the appreciative audience and world-class résumés working in unison, the long songs go on and on. And on. Keep in mind, Clapton was deified when his guitar exploded into "Sunshine of Your Love" or "White Room" on radios around the world. There are no such explosions here. In fact, this entire performance could've been your favorite bar band down the street with Sanborn sitting in. Close to 12 minutes of "Snakes" is repetitive -- do you really want to hear Marcus Miller and Gadd give a bass and drum clinic? Want to watch it as well? The crowd loves it, and with the excitement of these giants performing in front of them, that's understandable. This just won't go down as their classic stuff. Clapton sings "Going Down Slow," but there are no revelations. No sweat, no crumbs from heaven. If anything, Sanborn gets overexposed on this release; his instrument -- usually a treat to sweeten up great songs -- finds itself becoming predictable and clichéd. It's not that there are any embarrassing moments -- and maybe that's part of the problem, as the music is machine-like, consistent, and very laid-back. One really needs Michael Heatley's liner notes to put things into perspective, and when you find yourself reading liner notes and not looking up at the TV, you begin to realize that entertainment is an art. With Joe Sample, Gadd, Miller, Sanborn, and Clapton exercising their chops and playing for themselves, one keeps hoping someone in the audience will have the good sense to jump up and scream "Stop going through the motions and entertain, dammit." Remember how the "Judas" remark got Bob Dylan to lash out with one of his best performances of "Like a Rolling Stone" ever? That's a moment you won't find here. Inevitably, Legends: Live at Montreux 1997 is a nice souvenir for those who attended, and another DVD that collectors will want to own but not play very often.

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