Take a voyage through the history of European jazz in this musical meditation on the origins, growth, and exciting shifts in direction that came to define the endless search for that ever-elusive "voice of one's own." As musicians from both sides of the Atlantic began working in unison, jazz lovers around the world would bear witness to a fascinating form of evolution in their favorite freeform musical style. Rare footage of Ben Webster, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and en entire host of jazz legends make this a musical journey that is sure to fascinate and educate.
|Dee Dee Bridgewater||Actor|
|Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen||Actor|
|Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band||Actor|
|Christian Quartet Wallumrod||Actor|
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For far too long, critics and historians alike have overlooked the contributions Europeans have made to America’s sole indigenous art form. This new documentary by Julian Benedikt, aptly called “Play Your Own Thing,” attempts to redress this injustice, examining the history of jazz from the perspective of the European artists that helped to pioneer and develop it. Utilizing rare stills, archive footage, concert recordings and dozens of interviews, Benedikt weaves a fascinating narrative mosaic that encompasses the music’s beginnings from the 1910s up to the present day. While acknowledging the primacy of American jazz artists, “Play Your Own Thing” brings a reality check by noting the European heritage of several seminal jazz figures, including guitarist Eddie Lang and violinist Joe Venuti (both Italian), and gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt (Belgian). The film also points out how European critics were quicker off the mark than their American peers to recognize jazz music as a legitimate art form, and how Europe was, for many African-American jazz players, a far more welcoming environment, both professionally and personally. Benedikt underlines this particular theme with fascinating archive footage of pianist Bud Powell playing with the cream of European rhythm section players in a Paris nightclub, as well as tenor saxophone legend Dexter Gordon sauntering through the streets of Copenhagen en route to a gig, where he suavely introduces his Euro band mates. Another running motif is the importance of finding one’s own creative voice, hence the film’s title. Interviews with such European individualists as Albert Mangelsdorff, Palle Mikkelborg, Tomasz Stanko and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen reveal their approach to creating jazz music on their own terms while respecting its traditions and heritage. German trumpeter Till Brönner perhaps sums it up best: “At some point I asked myself, must I be black and American to be allowed to play jazz? Or is jazz by now a language, a vehicle, a vocabulary which is accessible for everyone and which we should just use to orient ourselves in the direction we actually come from?” Director Benedikt first gained attention about 10 years ago with the documentary “Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz.” But whereas that film felt kind of superficial and unequal to its subject, “Play Your Own Thing” resonates with depth, heart and soul. Most important, it makes an unimpeachable case that jazz has always been an inclusive, rather than exclusive form of music, and that this quality is the key to its ongoing survival and development.