If you’re in tune with the counterculture, you’ve seen Chris Felver’s photographs: of Lou Reed, Patty Smith, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Angela Davis. If you follow film, you may know that he tracks creative people like composer John Cage, the Beat poets — and pioneering free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.
On Thursday, March 5, Felver will be at the Bryant Lake Bowl when “Cecil Taylor: All the Notes” screens as part of KBEM’s REEL Jazz film series.
“Wired” magazine called Felver’s film “an intimate portrait of a consummate musician.” Jazz critic Gary Giddins pronounced it “remarkable.”
Here’s a piece of the film.
Cecil Taylor is not an easy subject. Google his name and you’ll find words like “impenetrable” and “inscrutable” used to describe both the man and his music. Repeat them to Felver and he laughs.
“Cecil was classically trained at the Boston Conservatory,” he told MinnPost on Monday from his car somewhere in California. “To me, all of his music is classical in the end. You just have to wait it out.”
What was it like to work with the media-shy Taylor? “The collaborative process with Cecil is a one-way street. He’s wonderful to hang out with, but if you ever try to ask him a straight question you’ll never get a straight answer.”
Ann Ruhr Pifer knows that if anyone can get a straight answer out of Taylor (and other challenging subjects), it’s Felver: “I am continually amazed at the way he gets otherwise intensely private people to open up to him — because he is genuinely interested in the people, their stories, and what makes them do what they do.”
Pifer, who owns the Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, has known Felver since 1999. On Saturday she and KBEM’s Kevin Barnes will host an Art & Jazz Party at the Grand Hand featuring Felver’s portraits of musicians. Felver will be there as well.
Does Felver listen to Taylor’s music? (Even for hard-core jazz fans, it can be tough going.) “Absolutely. If I need a kick, I put on Cecil. … He’s one of the seminal cats, part of the tree of jazz. … His passion is to create new sounds, like a sculptor creates new forms. Tones you’ve never heard before.”
How long did it take to make the film? “Probably 20 years. I had to hang out with Cecil for 10 years to figure out what the hell he was doing.”
Why should people come to see it? “Even if you’re a folk-singing hootenanny type, this will inspire you about where you can actually go, and what are the possibilities in music. Everybody needs a challenge, you know. Wonderbread is not the answer.”
“Cecil Taylor: All the Notes.” Thursday, March 5, 6-9 p.m. REEL Jazz Film Series. Bryant Lake Bowl Cabaret Theater. Pianist Bryan Nichols plays at 6:15; film screens at 7. Limited to 80. To reserve tickets, email KevinB@Jazz88fm.com. ($10)
“Chris Felver: Portraits of Musicians.” Saturday, March 7, 6-9 p.m. Gallery Grooves Art & Jazz Party at the Grand Hand Gallery. San Francisco-based jazz guitarist/vocalist Johnny Smith performs. Free; contributions to KBEM are welcome.