‘Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense’ — A Must-See On KCTS

Over the years, many films have tried to capture the feeling and spirit of jazz. Bert Stern and Aram & George Avakian’s “Jazz on A Summer’s Day” brought us into the heart of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival through stunning cinematography and extended performances. In “Round Midnight,” Dexter Gordon brings the musician’s world to life, playing a mash-up of Lester Young and Bud Powell. And in Clint Eastwood’s “Bird,” Forrest Whitaker gives a remarkable performance as the troubled genius Charlie Parker, portraying all the humanity and all the tragedy that Bird’s life entailed.

Roy Hargrove, Jazz Alley - Seattle (Photo by Claire Scarbeary)
Roy Hargrove, Jazz Alley – Seattle (Photo by Claire Scarbeary)

In 2009, a group of Seattle film makers and producers released an ambitious project called “Icons Among Us: Jazz in The Present Tense.” The goal was to document the current jazz scene through interviews and concert and rehearsal footage of many of today’s top jazz musicians, both the well-known and the relatively unknown.

You have a chance to catch the film this Friday night on KCTS as part of the Reel NW series, which celebrates the best independent filmmaking from the Pacific Northwest. An 87-minute cut of the feature film will air at 9 p.m., with an introduction by Warren Ethridge and a post-screening interview with co-director/story-editor Peter Vogt and producer John W. Comerford.

Robert Glasper, Jazz Alley - Seattle (Photo by Sean Cummings)
Robert Glasper, Jazz Alley – Seattle (Photo by Sean Cummings)

Rather than take an historical perspective, the film looks at jazz now.  Throughout you hear the musicians struggle with what jazz is, what it’s not, what it means to them and what it means to society. The musicians paint a fascinating picture of a subculture that is bubbling up and swallowing every new innovation and musical genre that comes along.

The film is a remarkable look at the current jazz scene as told by the musicians who make up that scene. Who better to give us a first-hand perspective on what jazz means today, and what it means to be a jazz musician?

Artists featured in both interviews and live clips include Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Brian Blade, Jamie Cullum, Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Diane Reeves and many more.

Here’s the trailer for the screening:

For more information on the screening visit Reel NW.

There’s also a treasure trove of info, clips and the Living Archive of footage from the film at iconsamongus.net.

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