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New live jazz DVDs

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New live jazz DVDs

The ’80s weren’t exactly a high point in the history of jazz, but these Live at Ronnie Scott’s discs — recorded separately in London in 1986 — do encapsulate what was happening to the genre during the decade: the passing of giants; electronic experiments; traditionalists looking back. With his scraggly hair and sunken cheeks, trumpeter/lion in winter Chet Baker — less than two years away from death here — gets by on gravitas rather than greatness. Van Morrison and Elvis Costello drop in, but they can’t mask Baker’s thin tone and tentative vocals. Saxophonist Chico Freeman‘s outing is even harder to watch. Frenetic editing during one trill is practically seizure-inducing; the synth-based vamp ”Going Places” is dated and cheesy. But then there’s Anita O’Day, the sassy singer who died last November, mugging, flirting, and charming her way through a Great American Songbook-heavy set. Even at 66, the Jezebel of Jazz still had the chops to scat an up-tempo version of the Gershwins’ ”’S Wonderful” and wring every bit of nuance out of the ballads.

Baker: C+
Freeman: D
O’Day: B+

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