Thursday, February 3, 2022

Noir City Festival: Dark City Edition at SIFF Cinema: Feb 11 - 17


After a lengthy hiatus due to the conditions of the global pandemic, Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation return to Seattle's historic Egyptian Theatre this month with a substantial Noir City program. As the press release states, the lineup will feature "films from all the finer Dark City neighborhoods; Shamus Flats, Knockover Square, Vixenville, Blind Alley and Hate Street, with stops at The City Desk, The Psych Ward, Losers' Lane, The Big House and other dark alleys." This year, Muller will serve not only as host, but also as the inspiration for the program. The 17 films chosen for this year’s festival were selected from those referenced in his bestselling book "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir", which was just recently published in a newly expanded edition. With the book's reprinting this past fall, Muller spoke at-length with NPR's Terry Gross, plumbing the genre's "Celebration of Cinema's Double Crosses and Doomed Characters", that populate "The Lost World of Film Noir". The last occasion Muller was in Seattle, some two years ago now, was for Noir City: International Edition II which continued the programming last seen in the first of the Noir City: International Editions, with geographically framed sets and quartets of films originating from far flung corners of the world. Previously, we also saw 2019's Noir City: Film Noir in The 1950s program which tracked the beginning of the decline of the American studio system, and into a fresh cinematic landscape where the genre was to be refashioned, both subtly and radically, for a new generation. Other previous iterations have been formatted in a Film Noir from A to B presentation involving "A" and "B" double bills, in both low budget and high production value features, and the outstanding set of Noir City: The Big Knockover - Heists, Holdups and Schemes Gone Awry, after the festival's brief hiatus and return to Seattle in 2016. Outside of the annual return of the Noir City Festival, this decade inaugurated Muller's new permanent residence on TCM with the launch of his Saturday night Noir Alley showcase. Muller and his show have become a central component and representation of how "Turner Classic Movies Is Changing. And Trying to Stay the Same." His weekly selections and introductions act as more than just a showcase for the Film Noir Foundation and their partners at The UCLA Film & Television Archive, but instead a global overview of the social concerns, look, sound, aesthetic, and feel that define the Dark Passages of film noir.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Makaya McCraven's "Deciphering the Message" and West Coast Tour: Feb 18 - 26 | "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History" | New York Times


The Guardian's primer to the contemporary body of musicians comprising the new UK jazz sound, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook" might be the most satisfying single read on the scene on the other side of the Atlantic, but the concurrent set of musicians in the midwest's windy city, have met their challenge with an equal and voluminous set of releases. Drummer Makaya McCraven has been a pivotal figure in this Chicago scene since the earliest of the releases issuing from him and a set of regular collaborators heard on his "In The Moment" from 2015. Featuring nineteen rhythmic jams that were born of improvisation, this wasn't a cacophonous free jazz, but instead a new body of groove-oriented spontaneous soul jazz that was culled from 48 hours of recordings spanning 28 shows. A multitude of live chops on display alongside dense processes, synth lines, and rhythmic programming, that album acted as a foreshadowing for the more-intensive studio construction that is his debut for the legendary Blue Note label. This meeting of a new scene and sound, with the longest running legacy in American jazz is the locus of the New York Times "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History" feature on the musician, and their wider overview, "Chicago and Jazz at Play, Ideally." His interview for The Guardian, "‘Evolution is Part of Tradition’: Musician Makaya McCraven on the Future of Jazz" maps the last decade in which McCraven cemented his status as one of the most individual voices in contemporary jazz, pioneering his technique with a group of local collaborators to create the albums, "Universal Beings", "Highly Rare", and his astute reconfiguration of Gil-Scott Heron, "We're New Again", straddling improvisation and influences culled from neo-soul, and hip hop's mentality and approach to sample splicing.

All of which became more explicit on his deeper foray in beat sciences with 2021's "Deciphering the Message". It's belated live component will finally be swinging through the west coast with a series of shows spanning February, including a date at Seattle's Neptune Theatre. This newest album is craftily camouflaged as a homage to the Blue Note Records hard-bop catalog of the 1960s, in which McCraven has seamlessly assembled a mix of live shows of his own band, clips of the classic Blue Note originals, and his hip hop schooled gifts for making cutting-edge beats out of almost any sonic element and recorded sound. "Deciphering the Message" contributes another facet to McCraven's growing discography; the ability to assimilate and reconfigure some of the legendary height's of jazz past, into a liquid, changeable new form of his own making. While it has been a soul-stifling year due to the continuance of the global pandemic, McCraven is among a 21st century body of musicians effectively "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", who have produced bountiful collaborations and an array of top-notch albums. Most notably new releases from Chicago's International Anthem label, New York's Eremite, and the UK's scene represented by Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label have gone against the grain of the year's inertia. Culled from all of these, London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation, fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. From these cities and respective scenes, in the last year we've also seen releases like Joshua Abrams' Natural Information Society in collaboration with Evan Parker and the lush expanse of Floating Points wondrous new collaboration with Pharoah Sanders on "Promises".