On the liner notes for her first-ever official live DVD release, Patti Smith's longtime musical co-conspirator Lenny Kaye writes "we are jazz," and perhaps somewhat in awe of the storied venue where it was recorded, the free-form spirit of improvisation permeates much of Live At Montreux 2005.
This shouldn't be at all surprising to those who have long worshiped at the altar of the one-time reigning high priestess of punk-rock though.
Although Patti Smith is most often associated with the same late-'70s New York punk-rock boom that produced the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads, the stream-of-consciousness incantations on the longer songs from her masterpiece Horses, like "Birdland," owe as much to Ornette Coleman and Roland Kirk as they do to Dylan, Burroughs or Rimbaud.
However, on Live At Montreux 2005, Patti Smith and her band take this shamanistic approach a step further. The punk-rock wild child seen on such widely circulated bootlegs as the 1979 performance for Germany's Rockpalast broadcast (where she was the rather unlikely opening act for Johnny Winter) is mostly absent here. On this DVD, Patti Smith and her great band instead let the music speak just as loudly as her own formidable gift for wordplay.
There are numerous examples of the musicians here taking Patti Smith's songs to the dizzying heights of tonal exploration that jazz cats like Coleman, Kirk, and Miles Davis would surely appreciate. But Tom Verlaine's performance here in particular needs to be singled out.
Verlaine's great work with Television - particularly on their brilliant Marquee Moon - is already a matter of record. But as he sits in with Patti Smith's band for this performance, Verlaine's guitar work is just stellar. On "Beneath The Southern Cross," Verlaine's subtle flourishes add just the right amount of color to the dreamy, meditative quality of Smith's tone poem. His extended solo late into "Dancing Barefoot" likewise lends a trance-like feel, which Smith then polishes off nicely with one of her more passionate vocals.