Reel NW

Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense

Airs on May 30, 9p
John W. Comerford, Producer; Michael Rivoira, Co-Director and Story
Lars Larson, Co-Director and Cinematographer; Peter J. Vogt, Co-Director and Story; Kristian R. Hill, Editor and Story

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Jazz is undergoing changes of monumental magnitude and importance. Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense, is a documentary film that captures the metamorphosis of jazz by showcasing the words, music, and spirit of the artists that are paving the way for an unprecedented musical evolution. The film was selected to participate in the American Film Institute’s 20/20 Program. The program’s global screening tour was supported by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Screening destinations included China, Peru, Russia and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.. The film played domestically on opening night of AFI Fest, during the Seattle International Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival accompanied by post-screening live music events.

Interview with the Filmmakers

Reel NW host Warren Etheredge interviews filmmakers John W. Comerford (producer) and Peter J. Vogt (co-director) of 'Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense.'

Filmmakers' Statement

Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense, the documentary feature film, looks at the jazz music scene today. Through interviews, performance footage, and the voices of the musicians themselves, we explore this music and the divergent influences that shape the world of jazz at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Not a historical look at what has been called America's music but a timely, vibrant trip through the clubs, festivals, and lives of this new generation of jazz musicians. Never before has jazz music been so many different things to so many different people, from hip hop to bebop from jam band to free form, the music continues to grow and shape itself in ways as varied as the musicians who play it.

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Reel NW - Icons Among Us


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Hello. Some said repeatedly that jazz is dead.

I did not hear any Oh,Yea last night in the comprehensive and revealing documentary Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense. Thus, I salute Seattle's Paul de Barros: there is no cultural context to place jazz in the present tense.

Not all the jammers--for example Matthew Shipp who plays very vital and intelligent piano--talked about soul in what they played. Shipp talked jazz musicology, not life-informing spirit (aka Charles Mingus).

Some say there are aesthetic traditions are recognized and followed as beloved aesthetic criteria by insiders. In the dynamics of personal and cultural change, these conservative forces are changed by time and location and tools and powerful innovators, such as the irrepressible Cecil Taylor and Matthew Shipp.

Put simply, with an advance in what we call the arts, something is lost, perhaps to be rediscovered. Miles reinvented jazz several times.

Let's say that the soul of present-day jammers breaks through personally and culturally to be heard and grasped.

Let me hear an Amen.


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