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Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense

11 customer reviews

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(May 04, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jazz is undergoing changes of monumental magnitude and importance. Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense is a documentary film that captures the metamorphosis of jazz by showcasing the words, music, and spirit of the artists that are paving the way for an unprecedented musical revolution. Through interviews and live performance footage, we explore the thoughts and lives of the musicians spearheading today s jazz front lines. Directed by Michael Rivoira, Lars Larson and Peter J. Vogt, Icons Among Us examines the jazz music scene today by focusing the spotlight on many current jazz icons including Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., Anat Cohen, Esperanza Spalding, and Medeski Martin and Wood. The film also features the legendary predecessors and influences of today s contemporary jazz stars, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Wynton Marsalis.


The movie (Icons Among Us) has been hailed as the most significant jazz documentary in recent decades for the very reason that, rather than focusing on the music s storied past (in the spirit of Ken Burns), it takes an at-times contentious look at jazz today and ponders its future. --Brian McCoy, Oakland Examiner

Icons includes much well-filmed footage of musicians performing and rehearsing in clubs and studios.These purely musical sequences are the major attraction of the program: they indicate what current jazz musicians are actually up to. --Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

The radical contribution of Icons Among Us is that it declares jazz to be not only a vital music, but also a cutting edge way of thinking. --Eric Benson, All About Jazz

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ravi Coltrane, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, Esperanza Spalding, Skerik
  • Directors: Lars Larson, Michael Rivoira, Peter J. Vogt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: IndiePix Films
  • DVD Release Date: May 4, 2010
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002RNO1BW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,262 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Delite Rancher VINE VOICE on June 12, 2010
Format: DVD
Did the greats take Jazz with them when they passed on? Chances are that if you're reading a review for a film like "Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense," you probably already know the answer to this question. While Jazz is far from popular these days, it is quietly flourishing. The torch blazes brightly thanks to musicians that pay homage to the music's roots, yet interpret the genre to fit the current zeitgeist. As would be expected, the film introduces the debate over what's Jazz and what's not. In contrast to the conservative depiction Ken Burns offers in "Jazz," this team of directors offer a broader vision of the music. Perhaps most notably, the Jambands get their day. A thriving sub-genre of Psychedelic Rock infused Jazz has been brewing in this country for at least a decade. Of this movement, interviews are given to Marco Benevento, John Medeski and Skerik. In addition to a stirring Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood performance, the Benevento/Russo Duo is seen at the High Sierra Music Festival. "Icons Among Us" covers additional musicians that combine Rock with Jazz. Bill Frisell and Will Bernard are both interviewed and shown performing. Including musicians like Roy Hargrove, Brian Blade and Matthew Shipp, much of the film focuses on what most listeners would consider contemporary Jazz. Beyond this, a large segment is given to the ultimate resurrection of the old guard, Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center. With daKAH, time is even given to the Hip-Hop fusion. The European scene is also given a thoughtful look. Did you ever wonder what the whole ECM thing evolved into? Tineke Postma and Bugge Wesseltoft are keeping the genre alive and well on the other side of the Atlantic.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By El Sutro on May 28, 2010
Format: DVD
This is a beautifully filmed documentary that captures the energy, improvisational spirit, and daring attitude of today's jazz musicians. The film shows live jazz being made in a variety of venues and reveals the breadth of the art form - from small "serious" jazz clubs to massive festivals to concert halls to basements, recording studios, front porches, computer labs, etc. You gotta respect the filmmakers for being able to shoot equally beautifully in all of these environments. Jazz is everywhere and ever-changing. We need more documentaries like this in other fields (i.e. architecture, painting, journalism) to show the intense creativity of this day and age.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany Waddell on October 25, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This takes off where Ken Burns left off, which left you thinking that jazz just died after Miles went electric and Coltrane died. But this amazing documentary is here to show us that jazz is still alive. Love the interviews of all the different artists out there, and it turned me on to so many i haven't heard of. Kept me watching the whole time! A must see for everyone!
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Format: DVD
I nearly turned off this video after 5 minutes, which would have been a mistake. At first there appeared to be more interviews than music, and no small number of (comparatively) young musicians who evidenced little knowledge about the history and broader context of their music, as if they couldn't care less about anything other than the next gig. Soon it becomes clear that, for most of them, the primary focus is on the joy and excitement of playing, the difficulty of getting work, the public's lack of interest in their music, the shortcomings of critics and, in some cases, virtual contempt of the past and of the "greats" who still occupy a place in public memory or music history books. The musicians interviewed frequently struggle almost sophomorically with words that say essentially the same thing--"profound" wisdom like "jazz is a confining word" and music shouldn't be characterized because all music is as different as the individual personalities who play it; or "we don't play anything that can be labeled from one night to the next; like each of us, our music is constantly changing" or "jazz is music that reflects the experience of each of us, our emotions, our soul, our feelings at the moment."

To the experienced follower of the music, the comments might seem less formulaic and tiresome were they balanced with a few more thoughtful, even "prepared" statements by interviewees who, while no doubt capable musicians wanting to sound authoritative, occasionally come closer to sounding like born-yesterday whiners. Scarcely any of those interviewed even acknowledges the proud and hard-won, unequivocally African-American legacy, which Ken Burns documented so well in his series for PBS ten years ago.
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When evaluating jazz music performance I prefer the music do the talking and minimize the words. If the performers featuring on this DVD were left to play longer this is a five star, but they were constantly interrupted by a narrator or the artist himself trying to define present Jazz in their own abstract or personal terms. Not an easy task, particularly when you ignore or bypass the old icons. Of course not everyone ignored the roots of jazz. Maybe all this DVD needed is more balance between live performance and interview.

The best commentary on the DVD is from Paul De Barros; he is absolutely right when he states Jazz was once connected to society, to civil rights movements (1950-60). John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and other greats performers had something to say to society: "people we exist, we are black and this is our music, it is unique and good". At present some contemporary jazz groups do not seem to show any connection to society except for money. Of course society is changing and we live in a "brave new world" and no need to look back; all improvisation must be accepted, etc. That's a way of thinking, but unfortunately some "modern jazz" performers (not true musicians) think they can mix or add noise improvisation to jazz and call it "music",...and then expect we buy that kind of music.
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Topic From this Discussion
So who do you think was left out of "Icons Among Us?"
Actually (this is one of the filmmakers weighing in) we cover Charlie Hunter & JFJO in four-part series which is airing on the Documentary Channel now. I believe the last episode (Everything Everywhere) of our four-part series airs this Thurs. at 8pm ET/PT on Dish or and DIRECTV. Charlie is... Read More
Jun 20, 2010 by John W. Comerford |  See all 5 posts
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Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense
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