This DVD holds two 30 minute programs recorded in 1981 at the Village Vanguard. The first set is tenor sax giant Johnny Griffin with his working quartet, Ronnie Matthews, Ray Drummond, and Kenny Washington. To say that Griffin is exciting is an understatement. Living in Chicago, I got to hear a lot of Johnnie Griffin in the 70s, 80s, and 90s because of the regular visits he made to Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, and this video really captures the fire that was an everyday part of Griff's music. This may have been the first major gigs for Drummond and Washington, and both have been first call sidemen ever since. I have only one complaint about this set -- it's far too short.
The second program, featuring alto saxophonist Richie Cole, is a lot of fun, but is most notable for the presence of guitarist Bruce Foreman and the very exciting Filipino pianist Bobby Enriquez. Billed as "the wild man of the piano," Enriquez was known on the New York scene as a "piano destroyer," but his solos really sent this band into orbit. Cole's best playing is on a tune they play for grins, "Punishment Blues."
Enriquez and Matthews both died young, so there isn't much of them on video. Both play well here. Picture quality, camera work, and artistic direction are first rate (considering the cramped quarters of the Vanguard's stage), and sound is much better than average, except that the sound balance is erratic (the piano is lost during solos) on the Griffin set, and on both sets the drums sound a bit muffled.