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Jazz at the movies: Five weeks, five films

Films about jazz are few, theatrical screenings rarer still. Thanks to the Sound Unseen festival, jazz radio station KBEM, and a new player on the scene, five jazz films will show in Minneapolis in the next five weeks. For jazz fans, that’s worth beating a drum and blowing a horn or two. 

Sunday, Oct. 16: In My Mind with Jason Moran

Part of this year’s Sound Unseen, this film from the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University documents Jason Moran and the Big Bandwagon’s original interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s legendary 1959 Town Hall performance. Using photographs from Duke’s Jazz Loft Project and audio recordings made by W. Eugene Smith, pianist/composer and MacArthur fellow Moran presents the life, times, and music of North Carolina’s jazz giant. Jazz88’s Kevin Barnes will introduce the film. Watch a clip.

Some of you may recall that Moran brought this project to the Walker Art Center in May 2009 for a live performance. Moran has said, “[This is] much larger than a tribute project. Monk is the reason I started playing piano. I owe him all the investigation I can do.”

1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets $10.

Thursday, Oct. 20: REEL Jazz: An Evening with Bob DeFlores

Not one film, but several. In the spring of 2008, Kevin Barnes of KBEM launched a series he dubbed “REEL Jazz” — films about jazz. First held in the theater at the Bryant Lake Bowl (with pins crashing on the other side of the door), now moved to the Trylon Microcinema, an intimate and serious screening room, the series has brought us movies about Jackie Paris and Fred Hersch, Cecil Taylor, Pat Martino, Thelonious Monk, jazz in Kansas City, and a public-school jazz program in Jacksonville, Fla.

The current season began in September with “Life After Django” and continues this month with local film historian/preservationist Bob DeFlores, who has been collecting and restoring films since 1953. At first, he did it as a hobby, but then he got serious, quit his day job, and amassed a collection large enough to eventually turn over to Normandale Community College. DeFlores’ special interest is early jazz and big band films, so the evening will likely focus on those, illuminated by his commentary.

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis, MN. Tickets $10. Register here.

Sometime between Thursday, Nov. 3, and Sunday, Nov. 13: Music According to Tom Jobim and The Monsters

The dates and times aren’t set because both films are part of the just-announced, first-ever MSP Latin Film Festival, to be presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul at St. Anthony Main Theatre.

Among the more than 30 films from Central and South America, Mexico, and Spain to be shown in the festival, two are on the topic of jazz.

From Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos, “Music According to Tom Jobim” is a tribute to the man who popularized bossa nova. Without Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim, there would be no tall and tan and long and lovely “Girl from Ipanema.” The film includes interpretations of Jobim standards by Judy Garland, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Caetano Veloso, and more. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

The Monsters (Os monstros)” is the fictional account of a group of Brazilian friends and free jazz musicians—their lives, frustrations, and performances. This is the second feature by Brazilian filmmaking quartet Guto Parente, Pedro Diogenes, and twins Luiz and Ricardo Pretti, who all serve as directors, writers, and editors, plus play the lead roles. Variety called the film “rambling and scruffy,” then raved, “The 13-minute finale is extraordinary … one of the rare examples in recent cinema of uncompromising jazz played onscreen. …  The influences of horn men Sam Rivers, Eric Dolphy and Anthony Braxton and guitarist Derek Bailey can be powerfully heard.”

In other words, this is not your mother’s bossa nova. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Each film will play twice during the festival. For dates, times, and ticket prices, visit the Latin Film Festivals website (due soon), accessible from the Film Societys home page

Thursday, Nov. 17: “1959: The Year That Changed Jazz”

Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um,” Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out,” and Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come” were all released in 1959. British documentary filmmaker Paul Bernays explores the impact of these four game-changing albums in interviews with the musicians (Coleman’s bassist Charlie Haden, Brubeck’s drummer Joe Morello) and critic Stanley Crouch, interspersed with footage of news events of the time. Bernays’ other films for the BBC have covered Steve Winwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Mose Allison, and others.

7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets $10. Register on the KBEM website closer to the date.

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