Inside Out In The Open: A Film by Alan Roth

Jerry D'Souza By

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Joseph Jarman, Marion Brown, John Tchicai, Alan Silva, Burton Greene, and others.

Inside Out In The Open
ESP Disk

Free jazz is probably a term more bandied about than understood. It means different things to different people, taking cognizance in the eye of the beholder. With Inside Out in The Open (subtitled "an expressionist journey into the world known as free jazz"), director Alan Roth set out to capture the essence behind the term through interviews and footage of live recordings, aiming exclusively at musicians who had helped change the focus and direction of jazz, artists who cast away the conventions of composition and found inspiration in their individuality.

The movement came into its own in the 1960s—a decade of ferment, of radical change, of Viet Nam and peace, of free love and poetry, of Woodstock and loft jazz. The time was ripe for a revolution in jazz and for a new breed of jazz musician to fertilize those germane roots. Each did it in his own way, but the goal was the same: to play music unbridled by norm and form. As Marion Brown says, "I just wanted to play as I felt... Everybody thought it was strange."

It was strange to those whose appetite for jazz and needs for emotional release were satisfied by the mainstream, but for the men who decided that the written note was not for them, the change in direction was more than a challenge: it was a calling. Alan Silva, who makes an eloquent case for the music, says that the work of an improvising musician in this time period and idiom was to extract an essence. And it's an extension of that essence that drove composer-saxophonist Joseph Jarman: "In my own work I was striving to eliminate reason and rely on intuition." In doing so, there in turn came about an environment that nurtured that same creativity.

The force of unrestricted creativity is seen in the several performances in the film. Especially fascinating to watch is the virtuosic pianism of Cooper-Moore. His attacks are tempestuous—using the backs of his hands across the keys to create rolling chords and then letting loose a rippling gush of phrases—while his concentration is as total as that of John Tchicai, who rents form asunder. The latter proves compelling with the freedom and intensity he brings to his playing.

John Coltrane found his muse for Ascension (Impulse, 1965) when he went to see Cecil Taylor with Jimmy Lyons and later Sunny Murray with Albert Ayler sitting in. As Tchicai says, "Coltrane was in the audience, and the way Ayler was playing can be heard in many of the later recordings of Coltrane. He was going out in the areas where Albert Ayler used to operate."

Free jazz, like any other music, does not always make a significant statement. Burton Greene puts it in perspective when he talks about the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble which, though it took off from the vantage point of listening to the other band members, produced music that did not always communicate. Greene adds, "Sometimes you fall on your face. That's when it starts to happen. Mistakes are pregnant with ideas."

In making a film that brings home the nucleus and the development of free jazz, Roth has provided listeners of all persuasions with a handy reminder of an extension of jazz that created and remains a vibrant niche.

Interviews: Joseph Jarman; Marion Brown; John Tchicai; Alan Silva; Burton Greene; Baikida Carroll; William Parker; Roswell Rudd; Daniel Carter; Susie Ibarra; Matthew Shipp.

Performers: Joseph Jarman; John Tchicai; Wilber Morris; Glenn Spearman; Peter Brotzmann; Sun Ra and his Arkestra; Baikida Carroll; Reggie Workman; Thomas Borgmann; In Order to Survive (William Parker: bass; Cooper-Moore: piano; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Susie Ibarra: drums); Other Dimensions in Music (Roy Campbell Jr.: trumpet, flugelhorn; Daniel Carter: alto saxophone; William Parker: bass; Rashid Bakr: drums; Matthew Shipp: piano); Free Form Improvisation Ensemble (Burton Greene: piano; Alan Silva: bass; Gary Friedman: saxophone; Jon Winter: flute; Clarence Walker: percussion); New York Art Quintet (Roswell Rudd: trombone; John Tchicai: saxophone; Lewis Worrell: bass; Milford Graves: drums).

Production Notes: 60 minutes. NTSC/PAL.

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