Jazz in July

Just uploaded are a pair of DVD reviews featuring Gil Scott-Heron, a poet, singer, composer, and musician whose filmed performances are extremely few and far between.

His style has been cited as pre-rap, his lyrics – depending on one’s political persuasion – are bleeding Liberal, or spot-on to the ills that have plagued the U.S. government over successful presidencies. What’s surprising is how a number of his songs, like “Winter in America,” remain topical in spite of being more than 25-30 years old – good for the artist, unfortunate for the social activist who hoped verse through popular, kinetic music would create some major changes.

If one sets aside the politics (which is admittedly tough, since Scott-Heron’s lyrics are so direct and unambiguous), one can also recognize some truly skilled musicianship from the many bandmates that appear in Robert Mugge’s 1982 documentary/concert film, Black Wax (available from Fox Lorber), and Scott-Heron’s 2-hour concert at the New Morning club in Paris, filmed in 2001 (inakustic / MVD Visual).

Mugge, who recently made the superb New Orleans Music in Exile (Starz Home Entertainment), again lets the subject's words and music tell the story and propel the narrative, whereas the New Morning concert is a straight jam session featuring Scott-Heron and three veterans of the Amnesia Express: percussionists Larry MacDonald and Tony Duncanson, and bassist Robert Gordon.

It’s all good music, and the New Morning concert is particularly welcome because a few songs were showcased in MVD Visual’s excellent 2-disc tribute, New Morning 25th Anniversary (1981-2006).

Next: Legend, Philippe Labro’s documentary on Serge Gainsbourg, Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in Slogan (1969) from Cult Epics, Gainsbourg and Birkin in Les chemins de Katmandou (1969), and Jane Birkin, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider in La Piscine / The Swimming Pool (1969) from Lionsgate / Maple. (I think this is called doing 2 degrees of Gainsbourg.)

And imminent: a Daniel Waters double-bill: the new Anniversary Edition of Heathers (1989), and Sex and Death 101 (2007), both from Anchor Bay / Starz.


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