All That Jazz (view this story)

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Kevin Wellenius June 16, 2010, 11:15 a.m. permalink

[NOTE: this project continues to have additions throughout the Festival; the review is based on the first five shows]

This is really inspiring daily work. I can't imagine turning this volume of material around on a daily basis. If I did one such piece per *month* I'd feel like I was working pretty hard. The technical quality of the audio and of the images is consistently excellent. Since this is a music festival, I think people expect to hear the music, and you do a good job weaving that in through each piece. The images are generally strong, and you get good variety from limited situations; by working with the performers when they're not onstage, you also show something different from the performance images.

The first two pieces were very strong. Billy's accent and the contrast between his speaking voice and his singing voice is fascinating. His background and philosophizing on music carry the piece. The second entry on Brass Jaw was comic and light, which is a nice counterpoint to Billy's seriousness. The key to that piece is the relationship between the four musicians, and the audio of their banter is great (though probably challenging to record).

On a project like this, the openers are really important, since I know there's a lot of other material I could be looking at. Brass Jaw and Rosie Ledet had great openers, in part because they make a statement that begs for an explanation, so I stick around to hear the explanation. Billy is also intriguing, since it's in Russian (right?). Less engaging was Katie Thiroux Trio and Robin McKella, which start with ambient sound and discussion of an aspect of music. For Robin, I thought the more engaging audio was at 1:15, in which she discusses how making a living from music changes things. This is a more universal theme than her approach to covering other people's tunes.

Some of the pieces did have me looking at the clock, though. Katie Thiroux Trio is a little flat, in part because the audio of the three musicians never gels. You hear about three individuals, not about a band. Visually it's all about Katie, though the audio starts with Matt, so I wasn't totally sure about the primary focus. Rosie Ledet also got a little slow when discussing how she started playing with her husband's band, in part because it's not clear whether her husband is one of the current band-members.

In the piece on Robin McKelle, your first cut is exactly on the piano hitting that first note. This led me to expect the next cuts to be to the music, but it wasn't the case. In the first few seconds of a piece, I'm trying to get my bearings so anything I notice it taken to mean something; when it's wrong, it can be a little disorienting.

To answer your feedback request, I think what makes for the strongest stories is when you show us intriguing individuals. That will make the pieces relevant even to people who know -- or care -- little about music itself. You're already doing this, though, so it's a matter of playing the numbers to find the real gems.

I'll keep looking at the daily additions, and encourage others to do so as well.

-kevin

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