Reel Music Festival

ArtsWatch Weekly: let the good times reel

NW Film Center's "Reel Music," plays about D.B. Cooper and Ben Linder and a guy named Fly Guy, atlas art from post-Gutenberg days

“Tradition!” Tevye the milkman barked, and with that emphatic proclamation the song and dance reeled on. The traditions that last the best are the ones that constantly reshape themselves within the structures they’ve set up, and certainly the Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival, which spools into its 34th annual edition on Friday, fits that category. The basic idea is the same as always: pull together a whole bunch of films about music and musicians (documentaries, primarily), but do new ones every year, and let the good times roll. Or reel.

Thelonious Monk with his band in 1959, from “The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith.” Credit 2016 The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, FilmBuff

This year’s edition, which runs through February 5, kicks off with a foulmouthed film about the Rolling Stones (Robert Frank’s 1972 Cocksucker Blues) that followed the band on tour after the Altamont debacle, and was so raunchy and revealing about the seedier side of rock that it was shelved, and is only rarely seen. Here’s your chance. You might want to pair it with the more genteel, if that’s the right word, The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!, filmed on last year’s Latin American tour. I like the looks of 1957’s The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith, filmed by the Life Magazine photographer when he lived and worked in an illegal loft teeming with artists and musicians and house parties and jam sessions in Manhattan’s Flower District during a golden age of jazz; A Poem Is a Naked Person, a cinematic portrait of Leon Russell directed by Maureen Gosling and the great Les Blank that was unreleased for 40 years because Russell, a co-producer, didn’t like it; and Mose Allison: Ever Since I Stole the Blues, Paul Bernays’ portrait of the essence-of-hip pianist and singer who was yet another member of last year’s sizable artists’ march into the final sunset. You, no doubt, will find your own favorites. Check the schedule and put on your toe-tapping shoes. It’s a tradition.

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News & Notes: Dear Congress, Support sacred music and stop the shutdown!

Can Byzantine chant save the Republic? How literary can Portland get? How musical? Etc.

October 4, 2013—Maybe we have our first direct Portland casualty of the US government shutdown (don’t get my mother started on this topic!). And by casualty I just mean “spot of bother,” not actual injuries or death. It involves our splendid Byzantine chant choir, Cappella Romana, and of course it involves a trip to Washington, D.C.

Archangel Michael, First half 14th century tempera on wood, gold leaf/Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

Archangel Michael, First half 14th century
tempera on wood, gold leaf/Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

Before the shutdown, the National Gallery of Art was to have opened the exhibit “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections” on October 6 continuing through March 2, 2014. And the gallery had enlisted Cappella Romana to provide an aural supplement on October 27. (The National Gallery has an extensive music program.) CR administrative jefe Mark Powell says that in his last communication with the gallery, he was told 1) they couldn’t communicate with him any more about the concert because they’d been furloughed, and 2) they couldn’t make a final determination about the concert until October 23.

The CR tour was also to have included a stop in Richmond, VA, but Powell says it’s unlikely the choir members can stay that flexible on scheduling, and the tour is likely off, barring a sudden change of heart by the House of Representatives. (Hey guys, you could USE a little sacred music in those precincts!)

The show moves on to the J. Paul Getty Museum, April 9 through August 25, 2014, and Cappella Romana will meet up with it there at the Getty Villa. Presumably, that gig is safe from the shutdown.

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