B.B. King has a long history with the Montreux Jazz Festival, where he'll be performing again this year for his twentieth time. Given this musical tradition, and Montreux's dedication to video recording, there are probably a great number of performances that could have been presented here. But they chose 1993, where a 68-year-old King masterfully led his band through a blistering testament to the staying power of blues.
After a few quick instrumental numbers where the band warms up the crowd, B.B. King takes the stage with a rousing a very non-ironic performance of "Let The Good Times Roll." It's neither hopeful or boastful, but just a statement of fact.
In addition to King's obvious guitar chops, these opening jams in the set also help to show off individual performers, as well as just how tightly this particular B.B. King ensemble works together. "Chains Of Love" finds trumpeter James Bolden taking center stage (after King professionally leads the jam while fixing his own guitar string), and "Caldonia" shows off dueling saxophonists Walter King and Melvin Jackson during a rousing and upbeat track.
"All Over Again" is a slow, sultry slice of late-night, closing times blues. King's guitar playing here, especially, is amazingly conversational, giving the instrument an authentically pleading voice. It's a solo that says more than lyrics ever could. Similarly, "Blue Man" starts as a laid-back blues anthem before quickly building power and letting King belt out a statement of musical purpose.
The energy dips a touch at the very end with "Rock Me Baby" and "Please Accept My Love" but picks back up to close with one of his signature tracks, a cover of "The Thrill Is Gone." At just over an hour-and-a-half, B.B. King's Live At Montreux '93 performance is a solid testament to his musical legacy and a treat for music fans.
Montreux seems intent on creating a living record of great performances. The recordings I've seen - and this one is no exception - serve live musical performances extremely well, performing a deft balancing act between capturing all the action with well-placed cameras while not going nuts with rapid edits.
Although footage from the 80's and early 90's often tends to look like it's been run through a filter that gives everything a light buff to take off edges (and vibrant colors), the transfer here is on the better end of that spectrum. Detail is sharp, and the consistency of the multi-camera shoot is seamless with quality from shot to shot, although occasionally you'll catch a camera inbetween focus.