First shown in 2001, Inside Out in the Open is taking on the air of an historic document, and it is all the more valuable for that. Now widely distributed for the first time on DVD, and deservedly so, the hour-long documentary should appeal to anyone wanting an insight into the whats, whys and hows of the music known as free jazz.
Filmmaker Alan Roth calls on a varied roster of veteran and (then) contemporary performers to tell the story of the music in their own words. Roth enlists a number of practitioners less well known to the unconverted and is well served with articulate and perceptive contributions from bassist Alan Silva, trombonist Roswell Rudd, trumpeter Baikida Carroll, reedman Joseph Jarman and bassist William Parker. The interviews are interspersed with concert footage from the likes of Parker's great In Order To Survive band (the close-up of pianist Cooper-Moore is worth the asking price alone), Parker (again with Other Dimensions In Music), as well as shorter extracts from German reedman Peter Brötzmann, saxophonist John Tchicai and trumpeter Carroll, among others. Concert snippets from the now departed saxophonist Glenn Spearman, drummer Denis Charles and bassist Wilber Morris add to the archival value.
With restricted time, some of the editorial decisions are puzzling, like including not one but two interview sections interrupted by phone calls. And there are visual clichés like the shots through car windscreens that could have been better used to expose the musicians involved. Nonetheless, this is an accessible film that dispels many of the myths around free jazz and reveals the inherent beauty and passion in the making of the music. We can be thankful that it is now widely available.