September 19-29, 2007

This mix of nineteen films, comprising the work of fourteen directors from nine countries, is designed to provide an opportunity for New York audiences to trace the contemporary working-out of processes of intercultural and cross-cultural transformation of jazz and jazz-identified musical practices in non-US local scenes.



Documentary Film Festival,
National Track & Field Hall of Fame Theatre
The Armory At West 168th Street

216 Fort Washington Avenue
Entrance between 168th and 169th Streets
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Admission: Free


10:00:   "Jazzin' The Black Forest" (2006). Elke Baur (Germany), director.  90 minutes A German DJ rediscovers the now-defunct German record label MPS, which during the 1960s and 1970s committed an international panoply of artists to vinyl.  Includes rare (silent) footage of Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and Ed Thigpen in a home recording session.

11:45:   "Eric Dolphy:  Last Date" (1991). Hans Hylkema, director (Netherlands). 92 min -- A Dutch perspective on the great saxophonist Eric Dolphy, celebrating his personality, his intellect, and his musicality, while lamenting his needless passing due to undiagnosed diabetes.

1:30:     "Misha Mengelberg:  Afijn" (2006). Jellie Dekker, director (Netherlands). 77 min.-- A loving portrait of Dutch pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg, a colleague of Eric Dolphy and a leader of the post-1965 European jazz movement known as "the Emancipation," which turned away from imitations of American music in favor of combining jazz with the sounds of their own national and pan-European traditions. 

3:00:     "Irene Schweizer" (2004). Gitta Gsell, director (Switzerland). 75 min. -- The film dovetails internationally renowned Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer's exuberant pianisms, which draw from Monk, Cecil Taylor, and the sounds of the Swiss countryside in equal measure, with her forthright feminist activism.

4:30:     "Art Ensemble of Chicago:  Swim, A Musical Adventure" (1993).  Felix Breisach (Germany), director. 55 min.-- A "Crossover-Projekt" among three modernist German composers, the Deutsche Philharmonie of Bremen, Germany, and the Great Black Music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, performed on the edge of an Olympic-sized swimmingpool.

5:30:     "On the Edge: Improvisation in Music, Part 1: Passing It On" (1992). Jeremy Marre, director (Great Britain).written and narrated by Derek Bailey. 55 min-- Part 1 includes a discussion of improvisation in Western classical music, Gaelic psalm singing, and Indian singing, along with segments on John Zorn and the pedagogy of Douglas Ewart.

6:30:     END



Documentary Film Festival
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
3940 Broadway 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Admission: Free


10:00:   "Chicago Improvisations" (2000). Laurence Petit-Jouvet, director (France). 83 min. -- This "road movie" in the spirit of Jack Kerouac (and Alexis de Tocqueville) chronicles the late German bassist Peter Kowald's encounters with black musical culture and the social and economic dislocations of working-class black life in the US. 

11:30:   "Off The Road" (2001). Laurence Petit-Jouvet, director (France). 72 min. A second "road movie" finds the late German bassist Peter Kowald performing with many of free improvisation's most important contemporary figures, such as Bronx-born bassist William Parker. 

1:00:     "Sound?" (Roland Kirk and John Cage, 1967). Dick Fontaine, director (Great Britain).  26 min. A montaged "virtual jam" between blind multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and composer John Cage, an outspoken critic of jazz--two influential, committed, and highly idiosyncratic experimentalists, albeit from vastly different cultural standpoints and infrastructural access.

1:45:     "Archie Shepp:  'I am jazz…It's my life" (1984).  Franck Cassenti (France), director.  54 min. -- Archie Shepp came to prominence in the 1960s for his music and his criticism of the economic exploitation of African-American artists.  The film, shot in France, presents a diverse array of Shepp's sounds, ideas and working processes on music, theatre, poetry, politics, and internationalism
2:45:     "The Leaders, Jazz in Paris" (1988). Franck Cassenti (France), director.  54 min. Six musicians of diverse backgrounds and musical directions: Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Lester Bowie, Famoudou Don Moye, Cecil McBee, and Kirk Lightsey--come together in France to play and talk about the future of music.  "What do we call this kind of music?  Schizo, I guess," joked Bowie.  Or postmodern.

3:45:     "Toshiko Akiyoshi: Jazz Is My Language" (1986). Renée Cho, director (USA).60 min. An engaging portrait of the life and work of pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi.  Born in Manchuria and brought up in Japan, Akiyoshi achieved worldwide fame as one of the major jazz composers of her generation. 

5:00:     "On the Edge: Improvisation in Music, Part 2: Movements In Time" (1992). Jeremy Marre, director (Great Britain). written and narrated by Derek Bailey. 55 min. Part 2 traces the effects of improvised musical forms that migrate across borders, continents, and oceans. Presented are examples of Hindu music, Sufi qawwali, medieval music in Andalusia, gypsy flamenco music and dance, and the work of Eddie Palmieri.

6:00:     "On the Edge: Improvisation in Music, Part 3: A Liberating Thing" (1992). Jeremy Marre, director (Great Britain). written and narrated by Derek Bailey. 55 min.--- Part 3 features the late Max Roach at the Harlem School of the Arts, Lawrence "Butch" Morris's "Conductions," Korean musician Sang-Won Park, Max Eastley's sound sculptures, pedal steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons (juxtaposed with Eugene Chadbourne's "shockabilly"), and Derek Bailey himself.
Video Samples:

7:00:     END




Documentary Film Festival,
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center

3940 Broadway
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Admission: Free

10:00:   "Jazz Tales" (1997).  Albert Chimedza, director (Zimbabwe). 55 min.-- Jazz Tales Director Albert Chimedza, an mbira performer, maker, historian, and curator through his Mbira Centre in Zimbabwe, follows his band Gonamombe at music festivals across Italy, where they encounter, among others, Senegalese master Youssou N'Dour.

11:00:   "Unyazi of the Bushveld" (2007). Aryan Kaganof, director (South Africa). 45 min. The Zulu word "unyazi" can be translated into English as "lightning," a double image of rupture and new beginnings for UNYAZI 2005, Africa's first festival of electronic music, and the subject of this film, which explores the complex relationship among technology, the African and Afrodiasporic worlds, and multiculturalism.
Video Samples:

12:00:   "Musicians in Exile" (1990). Jacques Holender, director (Canada). 75 min. This film explores the complexity of the experiences and motivations of expatriates and exiles such as South Africans Dudu Pukwana and Hugh Masekela, the Chilean group Quilapayun, and Cubans Daniel Ponce and Paquito D'Rivera.

1:30:     "Abdullah Ibrahim:  A Brother with Perfect Timing" (1987). Chris Austin, director (Great Britain). 90 min. A canonically important film in South Africa, this portrait of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim portrays the creative process of this cosmopolitan artist in dialogue with the streets of his native Cape Town, and with New York City, to which he was exiled in resistance to apartheid.

3:15:     "Elements of One:  Steve Coleman" (2004).  Eve-Marie Breglia, director (USA).  98 min. -- Saxophonist Steve Coleman travels to Senegal, Cuba, India, and Egypt, assimilating sophisticated rhythmic methodologies, esoteric Egyptology, and interactive computer music

5:00:     "On the Edge: Improvisation in Music, Part 4: Nothin' Premeditated" (1992). Jeremy Marre, director (Great Britain). 55 min.
The concluding Part 4 begins with Jerry Garcia's exploration of what he calls the "anti-authoritarian" aspect of improvisation, and includes three very different views of the Afrodiasporic world of improvisation:  mbira music from Zimbabwe, guitarist Buddy Guy, and research on computers as improvisors conducted by African-American musicians in Chicago. 
Video Samples:

6:00:     END



Film times and durations are approximate. Offerings are subject to change.  For up-to-date information, please visit the Festival's website,, or the Center for Jazz Studies website, .

The Miller Theatre box office hours are Monday-Friday, 12pm-6pm, located at Broadway and 116th St.  We will be closed on Labor Day.
Tickets may be purchased by cash or check and in person only.
$5  student ID  (2 ticket maximum)
$10 general public (10 ticket maximum)
For more information about tickets or about the program schedule, please call 212-854-5301 or visit (or CJS website)

merican jazz is celebrated around the world, and videotaped and filmed performances by Americans are perhaps most plentiful in Europe, whose publicly-owned radio and television services documented performances by the American musicians who came to their countries far more assiduously than either US private or public systems.

For this film series, however, I wanted to concentrate not on performance films, but on documentaries that highlight the cross-cultural and intercultural processes by which jazz and jazz-identified musical practices are pursued in non-US local scenes. Of course, this begs the question of what jazz actually is, an issue that continues to be debated in the United States. In today's globalized sociomusical condition, it seems, these debates inevitably become bound up with the concern that the United States might not indefinitely retain its dominant role as the definer of jazz.  For some, this possibility is already disquieting, suggesting effects that are also being felt in the geopolitical arena. More ominous for many is the suspicion, increasingly bruited about, that these predominant roles have already been lost.

In any event, the ongoing Stateside debate over the canon of jazz has only infrequently been informed by non-US perspectives.  The well-known Ken Burns film series Jazz, an often arresting celebration of the music's value as culture, nonetheless spent relatively little time on what was surely one of the signal achievements of this uniquely American art form--the music's important impact in the international arena.
Seen from a global perspective, the difficulties associated with US-style debates over the jazz canon seem easier to grasp.  In fact, local, cross-cultural jazz hybridities have emerged in the most far-flung locales, right under the noses of prominent commentators on the music. Similar hybridities include the rise of reggaeton, a mix of hip-hop and Latin popular music, or the Trinidadian music called "chutney," an infectious mix of West Indian and East Indian popular music whose popularity now rivals that of calypso itself. As far back as the 1920s, however, musicians realized that any music could be "jazzed," and jazz's traditional openness uniquely situates it to enter into dialogue with local traditions, becoming itself revised and transformed in ways that wreak havoc with canonical dreaming. 

We should not forget that a similar mix of hybridities and transformations was key to the early (and ongoing)

development of jazz itself, and this mix of nineteen films, comprising the work of fourteen directors from nine countries, is designed to provide an opportunity for New York audiences to trace the contemporary working-out of those processes of intercultural and cross-cultural transformation.

Each day of the series is devoted to a different musical area or direction.  Session One's films are set largely in Europe and the United States, chronicling collaborations between Europeans and Americans in major metropoles such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich, and New York.  Session Two takes the journey as its theme, exploring the cosmopolitanism of African-American musicians, the consonances and dissonances between vernacular and classical forms and practices, both of which have an impact on jazz--for instance, the contrast in notions of human sonic expression between Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage--and the border-crossing experimentation that finds intercultural expression through improvisation. The third session is largely devoted to jazz and improvised music in Southern Africa, which in recent years has become a major site for new thinking on jazz, emerging from the South African exile diaspora to the post-apartheid opening of the country that set the stage for the very first festival of experimental electronic music to be presented on the continent.

Of special interest in this festival is the presentation of the complete four-part documentary on improvisation around the world, British director Jeremy Marre's "On the Edge: Improvisation in Music." Never shown on US television, this series is perhaps the most wide-ranging documentary on the subject ever made.  The series was written and narrated (with a strong Yorkshire accent that contrasts markedly with the usual BBC Received Pronunciation) by the late British free improvisation guitarist Derek Bailey, the author of the widely cited "Improvisation:  Its Nature and Practice in Music."
Non-US directors have been in the forefront of tracking global changes in jazz and its offshoots and tributaries, and one message that might be gleaned from these three days of radically variant perspectives on jazz and improvised music is that the music's continuing resistance to the imposition of definite borders and fixed canons, an artifact of the music's character as improvised, may well prove its greatest strength as an enduring international symbol of freedom and mobility--a power not only stronger than swing, but just possibly stronger than itself.

-- George E. Lewis