Stacy Dillard, Eric Reed to Star in "Chaography," a New Fiction Film Celebrating New York's Jazz Scene


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Director Douglas Chang and Executive Producer Ronald Tikofsky have announced the upcoming production of Chang's new feature, “CHAOGRAPHY: Variations on the Theme of Freedom," in 2010. Anchored by original music to be composed and performed by some of the most exciting young musicians in jazz today, the film will seek to explore what freedom really means, using jazz as a mirror of the choices we make in our individual and collective pursuit of happiness.

Heading the roster of musical talent secured for the film is saxophonist Stacy Dillard. Called a one-of-a-kind musician by Roy Hargrove, he has recently appeared as featured guest with Cyrus Chestnut at the prestigious Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and leads two regularly working bands of his own.

Eric Reed is slated to play the starring role of Piano. Dubbed as one of the top pianists of his generation by All Music Guide and described as one of my very favorite pianists by Ahmad Jamal, his credits include performances with Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Quincy Jones and Patti Labelle, among others. Currently based in Los Angeles, where he wrote the score for Eddie Murphy's film “Life," Eric was recently seen in New York performing a Thelonious Monk tribute at Smoke.

“CHAOGRAPHY" will be the equivalent of a concept album on film, according to Chang. We're actually trying to incorporate jazz ideas into the films narrative and visual rhythms, engaging with the subject as jazz musicians might approach a song cycle like Mingus The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady or Coltrane's A Love Supreme.

“The film was freely adapted from anecdotes passed on to me by my father, who a worked as a bartender from 1959-1963 at a legendary New York nightclub called the Jazz Gallery," reports Chang. “During those pivotal years, when the boundaries of jazz were expanding as fast and almost as controversially as the nation's social and political fabric, my father was exposed to such greats as Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, along with a colorful assortment of Beat writers, avant-garde composers, European aristocrats and others. From his memories and other bits of information I've collected over the years, I have invented five fictional characters inspired by these jazz legends and the worlds expressed in their music."

Each musicians story seeks to dramatize a crucial aspect of freedom explored in his work. Interwoven throughout is the parallel storyline of Max and his girlfriend Ava, two Chinese-American students who enter the jazz world as bystanders and whose attempt to build a life together in America provides a poignant counterpoint to the journeys of the artists.

The film's five story tracks will invoke different moods and styles of storytelling but share recurring themes and characters. Each will be treated as a skeleton around which the performers are allowed to play and improvise; some are more tightly scripted, while others give freer rein to performers and production team. This approach is designed to produce the same spontaneous excitement and sense of discovery as the best of jazz can do.

Chang and Tikofsky are starting up a grassroots fundraising effort, reaching out to fans and aficionados of jazz music through the internet and other jazz-related networks. Donations of $10,000 or more will give the donor special access to the production, including the tapings of all live performances for the film.

Tikofsky, who sits on the board of the Jazz Foundation and is himself an amateur saxophonist, believes the film can re-energize popular interest in jazz, introducing a new generation of fans to a fresh array of young talent. People who care about jazz want to see it thrive, he says. So while were exploring all the usual funding avenues, wed also like to get our natural fan base involved in the production. He hopes the film will kick off a larger initiative for financially supporting and producing films that chronicle jazz for posterity.

Chang adds: “It would be especially satisfying if this film were able to further the careers of artists who, like so many jazz pioneers over the years, seldom expect to reap substantial rewards from playing the music they love."

Production Talent

Director/Writer/Producer Douglas Chang has spent much of his career bridging the worlds of public television and independent film. He produced, directed and co-wrote the narrative feature film “Absent Father," about a typical teenage girl who gets impregnated by God, only to find He never seems to be around when she needs Him. The film premiered at the Dhaka International Film Festival in 2008 and was nominated for best feature at the Religion Today Film Festival in Trento and Rome, Italy. He has also played an integral role on two PBS programs: P.O.V., the acclaimed documentary series; and City Arts, a groundbreaking art and culture series, where he worked with some of the worlds most prominent artists. From 2001 to 2003, he served as programming director for KCET, the flagship PBS station in Los Angeles, reaching the second largest public television market in the United States.

Doug has also contributed to numerous documentaries as a writer, producer and/or unit director, including the recent films “Latinos 08," “The Jewish People: A Story of Survival," and “Jerusalem: Center of the World," all broadcast nationally on PBS. He has acted as an advisor on many more.

Executive Producer Ronald Tikofsky, Ph.D. serves on the board of the Jazz Foundation of America. When he is not playing the saxophone or working to further the appreciation of jazz and the support of the musicians he does brain research in nuclear medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

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