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This week’s jazz picks: Jazz at the movies and more

Jazz films are rare, and series more so, except for the much-maligned “Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns,” a 19-hour opus that first aired on public television in January 2001. (Whenever I read/hear someone whine about it, I want to reply, “Ken Burns made a jazz film and you didn’t.”)

Inevitably dubbed “a retort to Ken Burns” and “everything ‘Jazz’ wasn’t,” a four-part, four-hour series called “Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense” was featured on the Documentary Channel earlier this year. Sound Unseen is bringing a shorter (101-minute) movie-house version to town tonight.

While Burns’ series condenses everything from 1961 on into the final episode, “Icons” focuses on the jazz musicians of today: The Bad Plus, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding, John Scofield and many others.

MacPhail’s new jazz coordinator, Adam Linz, previewed the film and gives it a thumbs-mostly-up: “Every musician in there talks about finding their own individuality. Every time I heard that, I thought, ‘Right on!’ ”

Linz’s objection: “All of the interviews were with people who have been in the game for a long time, or they’re new to the game but super, super highly successful. There aren’t a lot of struggling jazz musician interviews. That was the one thing that kind of miffed me.”

Draw your own conclusions when the film has its Midwest premiere tonight at 7:15 at the Oak Street Cinema. Tickets here. Brief trailer here. Series promo here. Website here.

Sound Unseen’s second jazz film (yes, there are two) profiles drummer Ed Thigpen, whose many accomplishments include several years with the Oscar Peterson Trio and then Ella Fitzgerald. Minnesota native and longtime Thigpen friend Don McGlynn is producer/director and narrator. Tickets here. Clip here. “Ed Thigpen: Master of Time, Rhythm and Taste” is at the Oak Street on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m.

Live jazz this weekend:

Friday: Adam Meckler Quintet CD Release. A Twin Cities trumpeter, composer and educator, Meckler plays the early set at the Artists’ Quarter each Wednesday with the Tefsa Quartet and performs often with wife Jana Nyberg’s group. His debut CD, “For Dad,” is an account of his life before and after his father’s death on Feb. 1, 2009. It’s full of melody, emotion, variety and fine playing on the part of Meckler and his quintet, which couldn’t be better: Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, Zacc Harris on guitar, Adam Linz on bass, Greg Schutte on drums. All 10 tracks are originals, beginning with the bright, lively “Banana Lady” (written for Nyberg) and ending with “Pittsburgh’s Song” (for the city and the Steelers). I’ve been listening to the CD hard and liking it a lot. Sampler here (click on “listen” up top). Friday, Oct. 2, 11:30 p.m., Dakota ($5).

Saturday: The Girls — Turbocharged! Lori Dokken, Judi Donaghy, Erin Schwab and Patty Peterson have been wowing Twin Cities audiences for the past nine years with their four-part harmonies, humor and storytelling. They’re calling this their final performance and bringing in former member Debbie Duncan and Rachel Holder, who subbed for Peterson while she recovered from emergency heart surgery in 2007. Tickets here (click on “Buy tickets for upcoming performances” at left). Saturday, Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, ($24 adult/$21 senior/$19 HCA member/$12 student).

Sunday and Monday: Stanley Clarke Trio. The jazz gods are surely smiling on us. The great bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White were here in early September with Chick Corea, and now they’re returning with young pianist Hiromi, who played two nights at the Dakota in June. The trio’s CD, “Jazz in the Garden” (2009), is straight-ahead acoustic bliss. Promo video here. Sunday and Monday, Oct. 4 and 5, 7 and 9:30 p.m., Dakota ($28-$50).

Coming next week: an interview with saxophonist Larry Ochs, whose Sax & Drumming Core launches the ’09-’10 Northrop Music Season on Thursday, Oct. 8.

Pamela Espeland keeps a Twin Cities live jazz calendar and blogs about jazz at Bebopified. She tweets about jazz on Twitter.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Pamela Espeland on 10/02/2009 - 08:50 am.

    There are actually three jazz films in this year’s Sound Unseen. Festival director Rick Hansen told me last night at MacPhail about the third one: “Guy & Madeline & A Park Bench.” It’s a music-and-love story about a young Boston jazz musician, starring young trumpeter Jason Palmer. It airs on Saturday at 6:45 at the Trylon Microcinema, a new state-of-the-art screening room on 33rd and Minnehaha.

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