Sorry for the "punishing" title for this review, but I just couldn't resist the urge. I owned the original LP on the Pablo label from the middle 1970s which contained three of these numbers ... Billie's Bounce, Lester Leaps In, and one of the the two Blues Jams. The other Blues Jam was on a compilation LP from the Montreux 1975 Festival (which, unfortunately, I never owned).
The sound quality on this DVD is not as good as the audio recording on LP or CD, but don't let that bother you. This is a very good session, with everyone in fine form. One reason I purchased this video is that the price is right. Another is that, as a (semi-pro) Tenor Sax player myself, I'm a big fan of Johnny Griffin. Griffin is in excellent form for this show. I'd never seen him on film until I watched this DVD. Roy Eldridge was also up for this show. I had seen him live about 9 months previously when he played the opening set for an Ella Fitzgerald concert. Eldridge is in better form here, taking risks and usually achieving the desired results. I've heard better from Milt Jackson on live dates from this period, but Jackson is still good enough here to make a difference. The rhythm section is crisp (although the sound mix is not the greatest on the DVD). Basie seems to be able to play with any combination of musicians. This makes him a good fit for a Norman Granz' produced live jam session.
Growing up, I encountered many critics who complained about the line-ups for the Jam Session section on JATP recordings. For the most part, I never had a problem with the mixed swing and bebop lineups. Willie Smith contrasted well with Bird on the '40s records, while Eldridge and Gillspie did the same on the mid-to-late 50s dates. How does one make enough money to pay the artists what they're worth on a JATP tour? Add an Illinois Jacquet and/or a Flip Philips to the lineup. Besides, if one doesn't like it when they "cook", both these guys play great on the ballads (listen to Jacquet's "Tenderly" and Philips' "All of Me" in the 1955 JATP Box Ballad Medley and you'll see what I mean).
Its the same thing on this Basie Jam date. Eldridge is a swing musician, first and foremost, who happens fit in well with musicians of later styles. He does not sound out of place with Johnny Griffin or Milt Jackson in the lineup. I believe they "jell" very well together. The energy level is as high here as on any of the JATP Jam Sessions in the 1950s box sets. It doesn't have to be labeled JATP to be JATP, and for my money, this is JATP. Etaion Shrdlu could have even written the two Montreux Blues Jams! (smile)
In the end, I debated whether I should rate this DVD with 4 or 5 Stars. Good thing this isn't a fashion video ... it might not have even made 3 stars! In the end, I rounded 4.5 stars up to 5 (despite the protests of my wife)! She doesn't like Jam Sessions.