Featured Documentary Review

ListenInTime

The influence of music is the consummate companion in all that I do. There is a particular peace about listening to the radio (at home, in the car, work or a café, etc.) I once had a repertoire of records that filled a closet and two milk crates before I departed Western, PA to live in Miami. Once there, I began to listen to compact disc and did not buy vinyl. Live music, which I have always sought, will lure me in the grid of a city or a club. North-East-West-South the NEWS of a performance or single player is the best.

I purchased a turntable one year ago with two albums and reconnected myself to the past with a three hundred sixty degree groove that gravitated toward a time of archaic and newfound appreciation.

At the time of my purchase I was writing about August Wilson, the griot and playwright. The Three Months of August is a review entailing his ‘Pittsburgh Cycle.’ Ten plays chronically the 20th century about the lives of African-Americans. I called his works an American anthem for it is a social timeline of the United States history.

Prior to Wilson’s works being produced, and most of his plays in development from poetry, he was struggling to make ends meet. It was during this time in St. Paul, MN that he purchased old recordings of blues singers and musicians. This inspired him to write, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

After I finished the lengthy review I was inspired to look for albums. One day thereafter, I headed to my local library to see new arrivals of books for sale when I noticed a box in a corner with LP’s. I walked closer to see additional albums in a rack. The variety of music for a dollar each bridged Nat King Cole to Tchaikovsky. Since that time, I have walked this bridge and found vinyl records in mint condition: Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, soundtracks to movies and television shows; plays like Romeo and Juliet to Richard Burton in Camelot.

These LP’s launched a musical footnote on my social timeline as I became more involved with each album: I valued the art of the album cover; on the back cover, I’ve read the stories and reviews about the artist; and most notably, a nexus to a historical period or another performer. The latter involvement would lead me to the internet where I learned additional information pertained to the performer, band, composer, or collection of artist.

I went to my first Record Store Day and met Whiz B.K.A. Tez in the long line to enter Radioactive, a record store in Ft. Lauderdale. Whiz is a DJ who was co-hosting an event in Miami for his radio show, World Famous Lessons in Jazz. Their presentation was about how music minds the gap between Millennials of the Hip Hop generation and Baby Boomers who have a passion for jazz. We spoke more, purchased albums in the packed store, and went on our way, but I was intrigued with the two genres of music mixing.

These phonographs of facts were like vines of vinyl. I rode these grooves to documentaries about the vinyl revolution. The vines reached a point with collectors and collectors who currently produce music. This search of new sounds reached Keepintime and the sequel, Brasilintime.

Keepintime: Talking Drums and Whispering Vinyl is a two-part short documentary by Mochilla Films. The first part is about the influence of music from four drummers and two DJ’s. We are given a brief bio about each drummer: Roy Porter played Be-Bop with the likes of Charlie Parker. Porter died before the documentary was produced. Earl Palmer is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was the ‘The Hottest Cat on Tubs’ and “The most recorded drummer of all time.” Paul Humphrey, who played with Zappa to Coltrane, profoundly impacted Hip Hop. The youngest of the three drummers is James Gadson, whose skills are “Littered with monuments” in Hip Hop.

The two DJ’s highlighted in Part 1 are Babu along with J Rocc (who is also a videographer). Both are part of the Beat Junkies. It is J Rocc’s play in front of the three drummers to one of Gadson’s songs that get the legends excited about the ‘break’ in the funk. A break is looping parts of two albums on two turntables. Gadson and Humphrey play with Babu and J Rocc in a jam to a crossroads of creative collaboration.

In Part 2 of Keepintime, Paul Humphrey is talking about improvising in general, and then specifically on Marvin Gaye’s, “Let’s Get it On.” In the very next scene, Paul Humphrey is playing off DJ Cut Chemist who “Cuts records for Jurassic 5.” Both men use their hands for sound—primitive. Then Humphrey picks up his sticks and Cut Chemist begins to break: The Beat, drums, and machine—musicians manipulating sounds.

Brasilintime: Batucada com Discos is a sequel to Keepintime: Talking Drums and Whispering Vinyl. This documentary was released in 2008. It begins with the sound of a phone ringing with a narration about the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison. The call is answered by Wilson Das Neves. This is a great intro which includes DJ Madlib working in his Los Angles studio.

“Music is conversation,” said Neves and accordingly it is the crux of the film. We are reintroduced to the legends: drummers and DJs from the prequel as they have arrived in Sao Paolo, Brazil for a stretch of conversations and collaborations.

The imagery of art, people, and the street art of the city is a grain in the groove of a record being spun into a jam that will later conclude the film.

As the spectator, we watch as the drummers stop, play, and shop in a music store; we walk with the DJs as they dive into the vinyl at a market with veracity. The historical transfer of comradery between Brazilians and Americans begins: The Incredible Bongo Band’s cover, “Apache,” is  explained with a sequence of musicians.  A drummer named Bahamian King Errison and DJ  Kool Herc’s break between two records with “Apache” was the mix, a foundation for Hip Hop. Will.I.AM talks about his appreciation of Brazilian music without knowing the language but equally appreciating the genre: “All I know is that it makes me feel good when I hear it.” João Parahyba, a Brazilian drummer, explains his passion about music through channels of American and Brazilian Indians. He dressed like Willie Nelson because he wanted to grow old like him, to be “An old Indian.” Thus, he received the moniker, ‘Comanche.’ Impressions duplicated by Madlib are expressed by means of the group, Azymuth: “Music is crazy man, it’s spiritual.” The drummer in Azymuth, Ivan Conti, who listens to a remix of the group’s song by MadLib, is in awe.

Brasilintime offers a viewpoint of samba and spirituality as attachments for instruments of religion. “Samba school is a religion,” Neves said. We watch this religious movement of samba as Neves continues, “Each drum group plays for the saints of the group.”

The ‘break’ was initiated from a Samba school in the 1930’s. A conversation among drummers about cultural influences before a photo-op is summarized by João, “These guys are fucking good.” The remaining contents of the Brasilintime: Batucada com Discos is live footage of an amazing jam between the drummers and DJs.

This documentary review, unabridged with fertile parcels, is for this writer, and hopefully to the nascent collector of vinyl, a turntable of revolutions and revelations—İMusica!

Brasilintime: Batucada com Discos is available at Mochilla Films

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