RKS Films: “Fire Music: The Story of Free Jazz”

Growing up as a teen in Montreal I remember walking through Alexis Nihon Plaza in downtown Montreal and hearing Led Zeppelin 2 blasting from a record store. Was that in 1969? I just had to buy it and arguably isn’t that one of the best rock albums of all time? Yes I loved them and Cream, Hendrix, Joplin and the Allman Brothers.

I was NEVER LOST IN ROCK! Despite all the great rock in the late 1960’s and 1970’s I was a bit of an outcast listening to classical music and jazz and enjoying it. But the jazz was traditional if I can use that word. Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Mingus and loads of classical jazz musicians. As a reviewer of jazz and blues performances I had an opportunity to see many of the greats long gone into the world beyond while so many of my cohorts were listening to rock.

Even beyond that after moving to Toronto I continued to listen to jazz and classical while rock had long died especially with the biggest traitor of all Rod Stewart going disco after a great run with the Jeff Beck Band. He disgusts me and I look forward to him writing theme music for Harlequin Romance films.

I can’t remember all the jazz concerts I reviewed in Montreal but if I could recount all the names you might say I was a very lucky man and I will not disagree.

So after listening to jazz for 40 years I watch “Free Music: The Story of Free Jazz” and I feel lost. What is this type of music? I can throw a bunch of names that play this genre of jazz and am left with a headache with discordant and maniacal jazz. So jarring I almost said no more so I stopped the film after 35 minutes and went to bed yesterday to continue tonight.

Of course, as a reviewer I will not snow you and say truthfully, I can’t identify with this style of avant- garde “free jazz”. I have never heard of the many avant-garde musicians in this film. It is not my fault as my radio stations have failed me sadly perhaps looking for a more comfortable style of jazz. I have never heard any Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Prince Lasha, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Sam Rivers or Sun Ra on my local jazz station. Quite frankly the music is a cacophony and may lead to a migraine headache as one commentator suggests. But a bright light went off in my head as there is a clip of Gato Barbieri, an Argentinian saxophonist I saw live in that jazz club in Montreal, was it Sunrise? He had a slightly wild saxophone that must have tinges of free jazz! Note that wild his playing was on the film “Last Tango in Paris”.

I must admit that is not my style of music but as an historical trail, of “free jazz” it is a must for I am sure are a bunch of jazz ignoramuses.

Free jazz may be what Picasso or Miro was to art or Jimmy Hendrix to rock but it is a journey should you take if you are interested in jazz and what the mainstream has missed. You might not like the music but the fact you may not have been exposed to it reeks of jazz propaganda control.

Although the film is 84 minutes in length it spans 20 or so years jam packed with archival footage and cinematography that takes you back to a 1970 Mahogany Rush concert in Montreal with a light show!

A film by Tom Surgal and executive producers Ron Mann and Peter Afterman.

A thorough look at a largely ignored genre of jazz.

You can see trailer here https://vimeo.com/ondemand/firemusicfilmca/596149413

Theatrical releases in Canada are:STARTS Sept 29: HOT DOCS (Toronto, ON) In-Cinema
STARTS Sept 30: HOT DOCS (Toronto, ON) Virtual
STARTS Oct 8: WINNIPEG CINEMATHEQUE (Winnipeg, MB) In-Cinema
STARTS Oct 15: FIRST ONTARIO PLACE PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE (St. Catharines, ON) In-Cinema
STARTS Oct 22: VANCITY (Vancouver, BC) In-Cine

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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