From within the relative glut of jazz-related DVDs that concern themselves with storied, and often deceased, masters of the form, a refreshing documentary has emerged. Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, a DVD and Video On Demand release that became available on May 11, examines the world of modern jazz through the eyes of some of today’s most vital jazz artists. Featuring live footage and interviews, the film spotlights a bevy of current jazz luminaries, including Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper (pictured above), Matthew Shipp, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, and Medeski Martin and Wood. The film also features influential predecessors and influences such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves and Wynton Marsalis.
Crafted from the four-part series continually airing on the Documentary Channel, Icons Among Us was fashioned from seven years of interviews with over 75 jazz artists and more than 25 hours of live performances recorded on super-16-millimeter film in venues across the United States and Europe. The full series is set for screening in its entirety at the 53rd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival in mid-September.
Icons Among Us begins by challenging perceptions of what jazz is and what it is becoming by examining its innovative new voices as well as their forebears. The film goes on to explore a vast array of topics including straightahead and free jazz, the migration of jazz to Europe and jazz’s expansion beyond its own boundaries into other musical genres including hip-hop and rock.
It’s a good film that not only entertains, but provides today’s jazz audience with a lot to ponder and admire.
Photo credit: Sean Cummings