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January 15, 2010

Tonight -- Reel Music Festival

The Portland Art Museum's NW Film Center has their 27th Reel Music Festival going on. Typically each year they have a handful of rare screenings on Jazz. This year is no exception. What's particularly interesting is the double screening of two 2009 British films. Cool, which profiles the resurgence of Cool and West Coast jazz after the debut of Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool. The other is titled, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz, a documentary on the influential year which saw great releases such as Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, Davis' Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and Mingus' Ah Um. Four titles that any jazz fan should, if not, already own in their collection.

I had gotten to see the screening of Cool this past Sunday but unfortunately the print of 1959 hadn't arrived in time, so I will certainly be in attendance tonight to catch both. Cool started out with the introduction of Miles Davis' ninetet that was organized in 1949. A gathering of musicians who wanted to take the stylings of bebop and "cool it down." Just like bebop, these musicians wanted to move jazz further from the entertainment spectrum and closer to a creative intellectualism.

The film was filled with wonderful transitions employed by a soundtrack of melodic, ambient, and abstract tones by creator George Taylor. The sounds of vibes, bass, piano, harp, and minimal horn aided in the landscape of synergetic archival footage consisting of beaches, art museums and galleries, city highways, and urban areas. With also a lot of clips of musicians composited over these scenes. Scrolling quotes by musicians contributed to the narrative of the documentary and supplied a peek into the impressions of greats such as Dave Brubeck, Art Farmer, John Lewis, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and others. All of this contributed to the mood, lifestyle, and feeling of "cool."

The film dips into third stream with an uncanny performance by the MJQ. A unique and powerful interpretation of a Bach composition. Cool also featured killer performances of Art Farmer, Paul Desmond, Oscar Peterson, and Diz. And on a final note, given my art background I was pleased to see the film pointing a back and forth with jazz and Abstract Impressionism. Plenty of images of Pollock and Rothko paintings. It even discussed a Brubeck release dedicated to the Surrealist Juan Miro titled, Time Further Out.

I'm looking forward to seeing it again tonight, don't miss this double screening as it may be a once in a lifetime chance. Here's more info provided by the PDX Jazz Fest:

Catch films of history's jazz greats and the jazz "icons among us" during Reel Music 27, an annual celebration of music andfilm running through February 7, 2010. Join Artistic Director of the Portland Jazz Festival, Bill Royston on January 31, as he introduces and talks about ICONS AMONG US: JAZZ IN THE PRESENT TENSE. ICONS, featuring several past festival artists (and some in 2010), provides a lively and insightful snapshot of today's jazz scene, and reveals interviews with dozens of musicians from multiple generations "Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Ravi Coltrane, Medeski Martin & Wood, the Bad Plus, Nicholas Payton, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, along with many others - and a wealth of performance clips and rare photographs to celebrate the past, present, and future of an art form that continues to evolve. DIRECTORS MICHAEL RIVORIA, LARS LARSON, PETER J. VOGT IN ATTENDANCE.

Additional Jazz film highlights include:
Miles Davis - Jan 15
Ornette Coleman - Jan 15
Pannonica "Nica" Rothschild - Jan 16
Thelonious Monk - Jan 16
Count Bassie - Jan 17
Ed Thigpen - Jan 17
Bill Frisell - Jan 21 & 22
Portland Blues - Jan 25
Icons Among Us - Jan 31

Full schedule, film trailers and tickets at www.nwfilm.org

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