Over the past two years, web video clips have become as essential to jazz appreciation as remastered CDs and box-set liner notes. Clips at YouTube and Daily Motion showing the artists we love in action—or featuring jazz experts offer insights on them—have added mightily to the thrill and enjoyment of the music. For a jazz fan, the web-clip revolution is akin to someone who's blind gaining vision. Only by seeing Bird smirk when playing with Coleman Hawkins can you fully understand his drive and ego. Only by seeing Bobby Timmons' rake-like hands pound out Dat Dere can you understand what a superb artist and player he was.
Like you, the more clips I see, the more my imagination starts to race. You get the distinct sense we're only at the dawn of this new medium and its potential to educate and entertain. The future of jazz video clips is very bright, indeed.
As more home movies of rare performances are uncovered in attics and basements, and more families of jazz legends shake loose their own Super 8 films, it's fair to assume we're going to see and hear much more than we have thus far. Europe alone should yield a bounty of jazz film in the coming years. What we will see and hear certainly will sharpen and intensify what we already think and feel about these artists and their music.
Just as the Internet has allowed writers to express themselves without the help or hindrance of editors, agents and publishers,
so too will the web liberate filmmakers and videographers. Instead of having to beg movie studios, PBS, distributors, theaters and vendors, the owners and makers of videos will be able to show their works directly on the web. How they will make money remains to be seen. Ads? Subscriptions? Direct sales? Co-op deals? Regardless, the public will be the beneficiary, one way or the other.
One web video practitioner who has been ahead of the curve for some time is Bret Primack. An NYU film school alum, Bret started Planet Bret in 1999. His company makes web videos for jazz musicians and the music industry. (Pictured from left to right is Cecil McBee, Phil Markowitz, David Liebman, Joe Lovano, Bret Primack, Ravi Coltrane, Randy Brecker and Billy Hart.) If Bret's name isn't immediately familiar to you, you've probably seen his ongoing series of mini-docs for Concord Records, featuring Orrin Keepnews reflecting on his "Keepnews Collection" re-issues. If not, go here to see Bret's most recent effort for Concord's release of George Russell's Ezz-Thetics.
Bret and I struck up an e-conversation some weeks ago. Like many smart people who are on the cutting edge of art and technology, he's a nice guy and knows a great deal about the web, jazz and the world of video clips. In passing, I asked him for a list of his favorite YouTube jazz clips. Here they are in no particular order, with comments from Bret:
Bill Evans in a 1958 appearance with George Russell, Billy Taylor, Mundell Lowe and other jazz greats on Billy Taylor's TV show, The Subject Is Jazz. Go here.
Bill Evans being interviewed on TV in 1971. A fascinating look into the creative mind of a great musician. Go here.
Horace Silver playing Senor Blues. From a 1959 Dutch TV performance featuring Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Gene Taylor and Louis Hayes. The clip perfectly captures the Silver magic. Go here.
Jaki Byard. This 1965 Jazz Piano Workshop clip features Reggie Workman on bass and Alan Dawson on drums. It demonstrates the depth and diversity of Jaki Byard. Go here.
Miles Davis. Excerpts from an upcoming Miles documentary, I Remember Miles. Go here.
Duke Ellington. A look at the recording process in 1937 featuring Duke and his remarkable orchestra. Go here.
Eric Dolphy. This is a 1961 clip of Dolphy in Berlin playing God Bless the Child on bass clarinet. Seeing is believing. Go here.
JazzWax video clips: For easy links to the Orrin Keepnews video-documentary podcast series and a schedule of upcoming releases, go here and scroll down a bit. The beautiful piano piece that opens each clip is Bill Evans playing Know What I Mean, from the Cannonball Adderley album of the same name.
Bret's "Keepnews Collection" clips also can be found here.