Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Icons Among Us: The whole thing, please?

Icons Among Us, the feature-length documentary film about contemporary jazz artists, has been hailed as the answer to Ken Burns's Jazz. (Ben Ratliff called it "a retort...starkly anti-Burnsian.")

I saw it in Minneapolis on October 2, 2009, at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis, where it was part of the 10th annual Sound Unseen films-about-music festival, and thought it was pretty good. Dave King was in the house with his wife and kids; they had probably come expecting to see performance clips and interviews featuring The Bad Plus, of which King is a member. But TBP appeared only in the opening credits (or closing, I can't remember which) of the film, which tells just part of the story.

The 93-minute feature was carved out of a 4-part documentary that has run on cable and satellite TV and at jazz festivals. Having seen the feature film a year and a half ago, I'd love to see the documentary. I would buy the documentary--if I could afford it. Priced for the educational market, it costs $495.

Here's a trailer. Note the copyright date at the end: 2005.

Icons may be the second-best-promoted jazz film in history, after the Burns box set. I get frequent emails about it—where it is showing, awards it has won, the fact that several artists who appear in the film are current Grammy nominees. It also has a very active Facebook page. Sometimes I feel pelted with information about a film I have already seen.

Here's a fb response from April 21, 2010, to the question, "Will you be releasing the 4 Part Documentary?"
The 4 part documentary film series will be released in a DVD box set with the feature length version and some other special goodies. We anticipate this to be ready for fall/winter of this year. 
And another from January 27 of this year:
We are delaying the series DVD release a bit because our educational version of the series will be available for order via our sub-distribution partner Naxos in about a month. The educational version has a "monumental" - G. Osby, study guide component which was spearheaded by our team member B Dahlia that will comprise of over hundred discussion questions based on the series. We wanted to wait a few months before releasing our consumer retail version, so that the educational version can take hold. Stay tuned though and thanks for your inquiry.
So now there's to be a second educational version?

Dear Paradigm Studios: The documentary is not getting any younger or newer. To quote Terence Blanchard from the film itself, "Let it go! Just let it go!"


  1. Well, you have a point. In terms of being an independent filmmaker though there are realities which compel us to hold back part of the story to better enable our long term goals. That's a long way of saying that with years of time invested, we want to ensure that their is a financial return that allows us to continue working. This educational version from Naxos will be priced at a deeper discount and include a 60 page lesson plan. We don't want to interfere with its success by releasing a retail version simultaneously. The series will be airing on The DOC Channel through April of this year. We should have a release date set for the retail DVD box set by May and a description of the special features that come with. Thanks for the complement on the promotion side as we are a small outfit with far far less than the eight figure production budget of Ken Burns' Jazz and marketing arm of PBS. Stay connected with us and keep an eye out for other offerings. All the best!

  2. Thanks for responding. I'm just impatient to see the whole thing, which has never run on any of the cable channels I receive here in Minneapolis.


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