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Icons Among Us: An Epic Jazz Documentary, Part 2

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Part 1 | Part 2



This seminal documentary continues on the second CD with a scene straight out of a typical Gotham jazz collaboration: singer Gretchen Parlato

Gretchen Parlato
Gretchen Parlato

vocalist
and pianist Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
b.1983
piano
are together in a NYC apartment working out a vocal arrangement. Gretchen is heard commenting on the vagaries of jazz singing and the associated career moves that she continues to work at. In the background the camera pans areas of the New York skyline while a delightful musical score entertains us. It is the combination of all of these production elements that keeps the show humming along. Despite the protracted commentary from the performers, tedium never sets in because the directors know how television works. This has rarely happened when jazz and TV have been paired.

Professor Robin Kelly's remarks are particularly prescient. He notes that our culture is still far too preoccupied with money and materialism. "What's at the bottom here [the U.S.A.]?" he says and then answers "not art." The camera flashes to Spike Wilner who operates Small's, a wonderful jazz room in New York at the forefront of the movement to support jazz by charging customers very little to see the show. 'Twixt these commentators we see the venerable Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
and newcomers Marco Benevento
Marco Benevento
Marco Benevento

organ, Hammond B3
and Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen

sax, tenor
performing and opining about the state of the art in jazz. Later in staccato fashion we see and hear writer Ashley Kahn and then younger musicians Miguel Zenon
Miguel Zenon
Miguel Zenon
b.1976
saxophone
, John Medeski, Matthew Shipp
Matthew Shipp
Matthew Shipp
b.1960
piano
, Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
b.1971
piano
and Amy Denio join in the dialogue with veterans Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
b.1956
vocalist
and Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
b.1965
sax, tenor
.

Throughout the show the theme remains clear: the search for new approaches to create art music. All of the age-old struggles associated with this aesthetic commitment are noted but the dynamic of the production brings a freshness to this ancient topic.

Later, Danilo Perez discusses the value of "community" in the jazz performing world as he is joined by Brian Blade

Brian Blade
Brian Blade
b.1970
drums
at a jazz concert in Newport.

In the fourth episode of "jazz in the present tense" (the subtitle of the show) we are taken to the Louis Armstrong memorial at the site of what used to be Congo Square in New Orleans. It is a fitting place to end matters and the last part of the commentary (Donald Harrison

Donald Harrison
Donald Harrison
b.1960
sax, alto
is prominent here) takes us offshore with a look at all of the world musics presently employing the jazz form.

This program is a must for jazz educators, performers, writers and fans everywhere.


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