My passion for this subject matter stems from my fascination with jazz and loss: jazz and renewal.
Jazz has been the music accompanying my life for about 15 years, both in my artistic endeavors and in my personal life. Music (especially improvisation) is my greatest inspiration for film. Melody is story. Harmony is texture. Improvisation is character. Rhythm is editing. In all its parts, I like to imagine I’m creating similarly to the way a musician does.
As a dancer with the company Jump Rhythm Jazz Project under the tutelage of Billy Siegenfeld, we danced to rhythmic jazz music — even be-bop. I have always physicalized this music, and I translate that into movement in images. This dance company was in Chicago where I first met jazz violinist Zach Brock. For the following decade I became immersed in the jazz scene in different ways: attending concerts/clubs, co-producing records, booking and tour managing, and shooting footage of musicians at concerts and on the road. I have developed a profound love and appreciation of the music and the musicians who devote their lives to it.
Along that path, with Zach, I discovered the music of Zbigniew Seifert. I was so moved by Seifert’s record, “Solo Violin” — an epic 45 minute solo piece — that it became the soundtrack to my every day. It was the only music I listened to on my ipod for months. Meanwhile, Zach discovered the out-of-print record “Passion” at the Chicago Jazz Record Mart. Intrigued by Seifert’s selection of sidemen: John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez, and Richie Beirach, Zach bought it and put it on. As a jazz violinist, this was a watershed moment for him. He connected to the virtuosity and modern innovations found on this old 1978 LP, and we both connected to the transcendent, visceral force that we could only compare to someone like Coltrane. So the ultimate question presented itself, “WHY are we (especially Zach, being a jazz violinist) not familiar with Zbigniew or his music?” That is where it all began…
We are both on a mission to recover this music which transforms those who have experienced it. This process — traveling all over the world talking to those who knew and played with Zbigniew — is being documented. The unraveling investigation IS the film. Seifert’s music is mostly out of print, and if it doesn’t get re-mastered the magnetic tape will quickly deteriorate.
I am inspired by the writing of Ben Ratliff in his recent book, “Coltrane: the Story of a Sound.” In his introduction he writes, “The rhetoric surrounding jazz is changing. The notion that jazz is the music of the underdog’s liberation, that it is intrinsically radical is not to be found in most serious discussions about jazz today. The best jazz playing today has made room for the notion that this music makes its own meaning without the superimposition of any political or intellectual one, that it will advance by slow degrees, and that it will go around and around in further understanding and refinement of itself, eating its own tail. Structural newness, genre newness, is not necessarily what we are looking for; what we want is the musician’s individual expression: honoring the past while being yourself.” This struck a chord for me — the theme of my movie! ‘PASSION’ contrasts both the historical notion and the modern day evolution of jazz. The “underdog’s liberation” is Zbigniew excelling in the political environment where he escaped the tight hold of a communist government that allowed only two American jazz records within its boundaries. Later in his life he fought a much more devastating and personal battle. This compelling context butts up against individual expression demonstrated through Zach’s personal journey and his drive to realize, in a modern context, Zbigniew’s extraordinary story and music.
I am reminded of one of my favorite filmmakers Andrey Tarkovsky who said,
“Touched by a masterpiece, a person begins to hear in himself that same call of truth which prompted the artist to his creative act… In those moments we recognize and discover ourselves, the unfathomable depths of our own potential, and the furthest reaches of our emotions.”