Musically Speaking – Before the Music Dies
Please join us for Musically Speaking with DJ Soul Sister – A series of music-themed movies and documentaries, curated and hosted by DJ Soul Sister, and co-presented by Press Street, WWOZ and Charitable Film Network. Free Admission – SEATING IS LIMITED. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the Music Dies by Andrew Shapter
Featuring interviews from Bonnie Raitt, Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Branford Marsalis, Dave Matthews, Les Paul, Elvis Costello, and more, this documentary takes a critical look at the increasing commercialization of music over the past three decades. Using historic footage, the film looks at the evolution of American music and the artists who created it, and attempts to expose the current state of American popular music. “The reality is that superficiality is in,” says Marsalis. “And depth and quality is kind of out.” (2006, 93 min.)
Tuesday, April 9 – Celia the Queen by Joe Cardona & Mario de Varona
This inspiring documentary about Celia Cruz, the “Queen of Salsa,” tells the story of the little girl from Havana who became an international diva, bringing the sound of salsa music to the world. When she fled Castro’s Cuba in 1960 and arrived in the U.S., she continued an already-successful career, fueled by her partnerships with salsa greats Tito Puente, Willie Colon, and Johnny Pacheco. Ironically, while she became known as the voice of Cuba around the world, her once beloved music was banned in her home country. Also featuring David Byrne, Quincy Jones, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, Cachao, Wyclef Jean, and more. (2009, 84 min.)
Tuesday, April 16 – The Five Heartbeats by Robert Townsend
This feature-length musical drama, loosely based on the stories of The Temptations, the Four Tops, The Dells, and others, follows the three-decade rise and fall of a fictional R&B vocal group The Five Heartbeats. is the story of five young friends drawn together by music. Their dream of success takes them from amateur nights in ghetto clubs to the pinnacle of show business success and personal tragedy. Written, directed by, and starring Robert Townsend, and co-written by Keenan Ivory Wayans. (1991, 121 min.)
Tuesday, April 23 – Soul to Soul by Denis Sanders
On March 6, 1971, some of the greatest artists in popular music history traveled from the United States to Ghana, West Africa, to take part in a 14-hour musical celebration of the 14th anniversary of the independence of that country. Over 100,000 enthusiastic locals gathered for this unique cultural exchange between two continents. The award-winning film combines classic concert performances with scenes documenting the artists getting in touch with their roots as they return to the cultural motherland. With Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, Santana, the Staple Singers, Willie Bobo, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, and the Voices of East Harlem. (1971, 96 min.)
Tuesday, April 30 – Chops by Bruce Broder
Each year, Jazz at Lincoln Center and its artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, host the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. The film follows Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a public high school in Jacksonville, FL, as they compete with elite bands from all over the country at the festival in New York City. Inspired by the entire community of jazz musicians, the students humbly recognize the honor of carrying on the legacy of the masters while watching the culmination of their hard work: an electrifying festival performance where the students realize that no matter how much one prepares, sometimes life, like jazz, calls for improvisation. (2009, 88 min.)
Tuesday, May 7 – Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
Wild Combination is director Matt Wolf’s visually absorbing portrait of the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist, and disco producer Arthur Russell. Before his untimely death from AIDS in 1992, Arthur prolifically created music that spanned both pop and the transcendent possibilities of abstract art. (2008, 71 min.)
In the early 1970s, Russell began working with Philip Glass and other composers in the avant-garde music world, writing melodic orchestral music. Simultaneously Arthur discovered the liberating social and aesthetic possibilities of underground discos. Under the guise of various monikers — Dinosaur L, Loose Joints, Indian Ocean — Russell produced playful and eccentric disco records that became hits of the pre-Studio 54 era.
The rules and codes of established genre didn’t apply to him, as the utopian social settings of the early discos were like the Buddhist commune Russell had once known. Now over two decades after Arthur’s death, his music continues to be rediscovered.