Free Jazz Film Series at Library of Congress Coming in April

Larry Appelbaum presents Jazz in the Spring Film Series on Monday nights in April

Albert Ayler
Raymond Scott
Raymond Scott

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During successive Monday nights in April, longtime JT contributor Larry Appelbaum will be presenting another great film series at the Library of Congress, where he works as Senior Music Reference Specialist in the Music Division. The Jazz in the Spring Film Series includes four jazz-themed films: My Name is Albert Ayler; Deconstructing Dad: The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott; Round Midnight; Han Bennink: Hazentlid.

Appelbaum has been curating this series at the Library for over a dozen years. “I kept finding fascinating, very rare materials in the collection that were not commercially available and I wanted to show them, so we created this series as a way to provide access to these treasures,” explains Appelbaum. “It’s not enough to just collect things and put them on a shelf. We want people to see, experience, learn and enjoy.”

According to Appelbaum, the attendees are not necessarily hard-core jazz fans. “The audience is a diverse cross-section of musicians, hard-core fans, curious neophytes and film lovers,” he notes. “We have some regulars but we also see different audiences for different titles.”

He endeavors to find an interesting speaker with an affinity for the films to introduce each screening. For example, Maxine Gordon, widow of Dexter Gordon, will be introducing Round Midnight on April 19. “In the early years of the series we often had people to introduce each night. We even had evenings devoted to and featuring special guests, such as Max Roach, Benny Carter, Kenny Burrell and Artie Shaw. I think having someone like Maxine Gordon introduce Round Midnight will heighten the experience and provide insight and context for helping to understand the film on a deeper level.”

The screenings are held on Monday evenings at 7:00 pm in the Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. No tickets are required. All programs are free, but seating is limited to 60 seats. Reservations may be made by phone, beginning one week before any given show. Call (202) 707-5677 during business hours (Monday-Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm).

For more information about this series and others at the Library (including a Motown series coming up), you can visit the Library’s web site.

Here is the complete schedule of films for the Jazz in the Spring Film Series (descriptions are by the Library of Congress):

MONDAY, APRIL 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm

MY NAME IS ALBERT AYLER (2007) directed by Kasper Collin (79 mins DVD)

The prophetic free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, who today is seen as one of the most important innovators in jazz, was obsessed with his radical music and by the thought that people one day would understand it. As he said in his own words, “If people don’t like it now, they will.” In 1962 he recorded his first album in Sweden. Eight years later he was found dead in New York’s East River, aged 34. Kasper Collin’s documentary follows the trail of Ayler from his native town of Cleveland by way of Sweden to New York, meeting family, friends and close colleagues. Albert Ayler and his brother Donald guide with voice and music in what JazzTimes called “One of the most starkly beautiful and moving documentaries ever made about a jazz musician.”

MONDAY, APRIL 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm


This feature length documentary explores the life and work of composer, bandleader, inventor and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott (1908-94), presented from the unique perspective of Stan Warnow, his filmmaker son. The film interweaves Warner Brothers cartoon excerpts (Scott has been called “the man who made cartoons swing”), rare home movies, and interviews with noted Scott fans John Williams, Don Byron, Mark Mothersbaugh, DJ Spooky and Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog Synthesizer.

MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

‘ROUND MIDNIGHT (1986) directed by Bertrand Tavernier (132 mins 35 mm)

A French-American feature, dedicated to Bud Powell and Lester Young, which pays tribute to the black musicians who lived and performed in Paris in the late 1950s. Set at the Blue Note club in Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Louisiane Hotel, the film stars Dexter Gordon in his Oscar nominated role as saxophonist Dale Turner. On screen appearances and performances by Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter (Screening will be introduced by jazz historian Maxine Gordon, wife of Dexter Gordon.)

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm

HAN BENNINK: HAZENTIJD (2009) directed by Jellie Dekker (70 mins DVD)

This stylized recent documentary depicts Dutch drummer and visual artist Han Bennink’s creative journey from art student and free-lance percussionist backing touring Americans like Johnny Griffin and Eric Dolphy, to the uncompromising improvisor he is today. His visual work, which he creates alone, silently and surrounded by nature, is shown as a counterpoint to his cosmopolitan and often noisy musical life. Bennink is seen captured in performance with Griffin, the ICP Orchestra, jamming with Ethiopian musicians and leading workshops with students and children.