Fans will soon be able to watch the legendary Ray Charles in his prime, thanks to the Oct. 25 worldwide DVD release: "Ray Charles Live in France 1961."
The Eagle Rock Entertainment and Reelin' In The Years Productions project was culled from performances filmed 50 years ago at the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival in France. The discovery of the performances also marks the first venture of the new partnership between Reelin' In The Years and France's Institut National de l'Audivisuel (INA).
"Ray Charles Live in France 1961" features 105 minutes of Charles performing with the original Raeletts and his band, including saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. The original 16mm films recorded over four nights and digitally restored and remastered captured Charles' first performances in Europe. Among the DVD's 25 songs are such classics as "What'd I Say," "Georgia on My Mind, "I Believe to My Soul" and a cover of a Nat King Cole composition that Charles never recorded in the studio: "With You on My Mind." Retailing for $14.98, the DVD also features a 25-minute bonus section of six additional festival performances.
In addition to Charles, headliners for the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival included Count Basie, Les McCann and jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Footage from the festival was originally edited into nine different "Best of the Antibes Jazz Festival" programs. Broadcast on France's RTF channel from summer 1961 through spring 1962, these programs provided the inspiration for "Ray Charles Live in France 1961." The film's worldwide premiere will take place Oct. 20, presented by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.
"This Ray Charles footage was never intended to be shown as a full-length project," says Reelin' In The Years president David Peck, who produced the DVD with Tom Gulotta, Phil Galloway and Steve Scoville. "But I saw one of the songs on a program, then saw another performance. Then we found the radio recordings of the full sets, giving us a way to edit everything together to become this seamless experience and amazing document of Ray Charles."