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By mere coincidence (or perhaps not), I sat down to review this new hybrid SACD on the rare rainy day in Los Angeles (although not quite as rare this winter). The two were a perfect fit. The Jazz Kamerata has a comfortable warmth about it, inviting you to wrap yourself in it and settle in for a lazy afternoon.
Pianist Carlos Franzetti's arrangements combine jazz improvisation with a classical chamber-music format. Saxophone, piano, flute, and clarinet join an orchestral quintet to re-create works from Miles Davis ("Circle"), Wayne Shorter ("Nefertiti"), Pat Metheny ("Quiet Rising"), Bill Evans ("Very Early"), and Franzetti himself ("Allison's Dance"). This isn't high-energy jazz that feeds off of tension and dissonance—you know, the stuff you have to actively engage in to really appreciate. The Jazz Kamerata is content to let you sit back and simply enjoy how the musicians complement one another.
Logically, the 5.1-channel mix sounds lush and warm, and it doesn't take any chances. Most of the interplay occurs between the front speakers and subwoofer, while the surrounds quietly augment the soundfield. After all, you can't relax when your ears are suddenly pulled to the left surround speaker because of an errant saxophone.
In the accompanying liner notes, Franzetti calls this "a mood album. A disc that, I hope, can put people in a certain place." That it can. It put me in a wonderfully mellow place that made it awfully hard to get up and write this review.—Adrienne Maxwell
DVD: Flight of the Phoenix—20th Century Fox
Director John Moore had a lot going for him when he helmed this 2004 remake of the 1965 original. He used CGI and other effects barely dreamed of 40 years ago to create the harrowing plane crash that sets the plot in motion. Can the survivors escape the desert that threatens to kill them? Moore also effectively filmed his African location using aerial photography and wide-angle lenses to portray its vastness, eliminating much of the original film's stage-play feel. What Moore didn't have, though, were actors like Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, and the rest of the original cast. The new players are good (Giovanni Ribisi is a stand-out), but they tend to lean on the special effects to create the suspense and drama that the original actors could muster alone.
The extras package is the usual fare: a making-of documentary, deleted and extended scenes, and a commentary track by producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey, production designer Patrick Lumb, and Moore.
This DVD really shines technically. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer has an immaculate transfer that beautifully displays the desert's many hues and loses no detail, whether in the noon-day sun or during the many nighttime sequences. Even better is the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which has some of the best surround-channel effects I've ever heard. The sandstorms sound so realistic, you'll want to dump out your shoes when the movie is over.—Drew Hardin