Jazz, often called America's one true art form, is the focus of this weekend's eighth annual Denver Jazz on Film Festival, presented by KUVO/Jazz 89 at the Starz FilmCenter.
"The objective of the festival is to share with Denver the importance of jazz and blues in our culture," says producer Kristin Nolan. "It's about paying homage to that creative process."
Over 25 offerings will be featured this year, including Oscar Alem´n: A Swinging Life; Nina Simone: Love Sorceress; Chano Dominguez: Mira Como Viene; and Soul of a Man. Also on tap are documentaries on Benny Goodman and Cole Porter.
For the first time, Denver Jazz on Film will celebrate the blues, with works including The Howlin' Wolf Story, Hellhounds on My Trail and all seven episodes of Martin Scorcese's PBS series The Blues. The gathering is "growing every year," says Nolan, "so we want to keep pushing it in new directions."
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On Friday evening, jazz vocalist and special guest Anita O'Day will attend a screening of Anita O'Day: Live in Tokyo 1963; afterward, she will perform at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, 930 Lincoln Street. "She is really one of the preeminent jazz voices from the '40s and '50s, and one of the few musicians from that era who are still living," says Nolan. "Denver Jazz on Film is one of only two events of its kind in the country, and we're really honored to have her coming out here."
An overall focus on jazz drummers gets a boost on Saturday evening, when Dr. Bruce Klauber, director of the two Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend films, will give a multimedia presentation titled "The History of Jazz Drumming on Film."
"The nice thing about drumming as a focus is that it's so high-energy and can really liven up a theater," says Nolan. "It's going to be loud and raucous and really exciting."
Nolan promises the festival will please the average listener as well as the hard-core jazz aficionado. "I think some people assume that it's going to be a very esoteric festival," she says. "But these films are about so much more than the music. They're about our history; they tell stories about fascinating people. It is a niche event, but there is something here for everyone."