Veteran clarinetist Mort Weiss gathered together an unbeatable rhythm section (Grammy winning pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Roy McCurdy) and invited a few of his talented friends to sit in. This is the first recording of his nine that includes a pianist, and Weiss picked one of the very best in Bill Cunliffe, a traditional modernist of the highest order. A rapid version of The Theme, which some bands use as their closing number, gets this set off to a rollicking beginning with a drum break, a conversational clarinet solo, a powerful spot for Cunliffe's piano (with verbal encouragement from Weiss), trades with McCurdy's drums and a humorous final chorus. They do not hold anything back, going for broke without making a single misstep. Joined by a magnificent rhythm section, he shows that not only is the bop clarinet very much alive but that Mort Weiss is one of the greats of today.
[Non-U.S. Format Region 2 U.K. DVD - This will not play on U.S./Canada DVD players or those from most other countries outside Europe. You would need a "multi-region" or "region-free" PAL compatible DVD player or computer.] Boys from the Blackstuff gripped audiences in 1982 with its bleak, fiercely funny exploration of the effect of the UK's economic depression on a group of Merseyside characters. The writing is unsparing in both its pain and unconditional affection for characters being pushed to the very limit of civilisation. Yosser Hughes (Bernard Hill) is still recognised as one of the great creations of modern television drama: a man on the brink of madness, unlikeable, ostracised, digging a deeper hole with every desperate act, but ultimately a human being deserving of sympathy. The performances are wonderful throughout: particularly Peter Kerrigan as Malone, the once giant union leader reduced to a shadow but still with a spark that commands love and respect; Michael Angelis as Chrissie and, in a typically sharp cameo, Julie Walters as his wife. "My dreams still give me hope and faith in my class. I can't believe there's no hope," says Chrissie towards the end. And it's testament to Bleasdale's skill and the resilience of his characters that somehow that flicker of hope remains unextinguished. The blackstuff--the tarmac--of the title becomes increasingly ironic. There is none. The boys have no work. The dole office scenes have a grimly nostalgic, documentary quality. Each second drips another droplet of disillusionment on people whose expectations are crushed by every effort to haul themselves up. Thatcher's Britain was a cruel place for many. The unspoken question that hangs in the air after watching Bleasdale's poetic dissection of ruined lives is, have things really changed that much? Television drama doesn't come any more powerful or honest than this. EXTRA: The Blackstuff original 90-minute play and insightful commentary from author/director Jim Goddard.
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