Captivating Documentary 'JazzTown': A Soulful Journey through Denver's Jazz Scene - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Captivating Documentary 'JazzTown': A Soulful Journey through Denver's Jazz Scene


Captivating Documentary 'JazzTown': A Soulful Journey through Denver's Jazz Scene

Experience the captivating soul of Denver's bustling jazz scene in director Ben Makinen's latest documentary, 'JazzTown.' This remarkable film has garnered praise and awards for its mesmerizing cinematography and heartfelt exploration of improvisation, earning the admiration of jazz aficionados worldwide. Embark on a transformative journey through live performances, recording sessions, and the profound mentorship that shapes the future of jazz musicians. Makinen's extraordinary production features an array of exceptional talents, including Grammy-winning Dianne Reeves, renowned artist Ron Miles, pianist Billy Wallace, and the enchanting vocals of Ayo Awosika.

Nestled in the heart of Denver, 'JazzTown' pays homage to the city's iconic Grammy Award-winning musicians, uncovering their secrets of success and longevity in the music industry. As you immerse yourself in the film, you are confronted with the treacherous and unforgiving nature of the marketplace, serving as a cautionary tale for the young lions poised to inherit the jazz legacy. Through captivating visuals and heartfelt interviews, this documentary showcases the very essence of jazz, transcending cultural barriers and creating unparalleled artistry and musicality that has captivated audiences across the globe.

Director Ben Makinen's personal connection to the subject matter resonates deeply throughout 'JazzTown.' His unwavering admiration for the hometown heroes who have nurtured countless young musicians permeates every frame, bringing to life the stories, magnificence, and grace of these revered jazz legends. Having once shared the stage with icons like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker, these musicians continue to inspire as Makinen immortalizes their mentorship. This documentary stands as a testament to the universal importance of guidance and support in artistic pursuits.

The journey to complete 'JazzTown' was a testament to Makinen's resilience and dedication. Over 12 years, he faced personal sacrifices and numerous challenges, including two divorces and the devastating loss of his father to cancer. In his quest to secure funding for the film's completion, Makinen sold his drums, music production gear, car, and even his home. Despite setbacks such as stolen camera gear, computer malfunctions, floods, landslides, and an earthquake, Makinen persevered, preserving the invaluable movie files on hard drives. His determination, fueled by the support of guardian angels, including his late father and cast members who never witnessed the finished product, propelled him forward to share 'JazzTown' with the world.

One of the defining elements of 'JazzTown' is its exceptional original soundtrack, expertly composed by Ben Makinen himself. The score beautifully complements the film's exploration of jazz and its spirit of improvisation. Grammy-winning artists Dianne Reeves, Ron Miles, Ayo Awosika, and jazz trombonist Tom Ball contribute soulful and energizing performances that add depth and emotion to the documentary's narrative. The soundtrack stands as a testament to the diverse and soul-stirring nature of jazz, solidifying its central role in the world of 'JazzTown.'

Ben Makinen's remarkable achievements with 'JazzTown' have not gone unnoticed, as the documentary has garnered numerous accolades and awards. Its unique cinematography, stylized camera work, and outstanding soundtrack have captivated audiences and critics alike, offering a rare spectacle that combines live performances, behind-the-scenes interviews, and recording sessions. Makinen's multifaceted role as producer, writer, director, cinematographer, editor, composer, and self-distributor exemplifies his talent and unwavering dedication to his craft.

As 'JazzTown' continues to resonate within the jazz community, Ben Makinen is already immersed in his next project, 'We Are Here: Women In Jazz.' This upcoming documentary aims to shine a light on the gender disparity within the jazz industry, exploring the obstacles faced by women in this traditionally male-dominated field. Featuring an impressive cast, including The Manhattan Transfer, Veronica Swift, and music producer Ervin Pope, Makinen's next film promises to be thought-provoking and enlightening.

 'JazzTown' stands as a cinematic masterpiece that celebrates the spirit of jazz and the enduring legacy of its musicians. With Ben Makinen's directorial expertise, combined with exceptional performances and breathtaking visuals, this documentary offers an immersive and soul-stirring experience. Whether you are a jazz enthusiast or simply appreciate captivating storytelling, 'JazzTown' is a must-watch that will leave you inspired and awestruck by the transformative power of music.

 'JazzTown' is available for streaming on various online platforms, including AppleTV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vimeo, and YouTube. Additionally, a one-hour edited version of the documentary can be enjoyed on Rocky Mountain PBS television.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you Lapacazo for this glowing review. You'll no doubt enjoy watching my action-packed short (22min) film Who Killed Jazz - a deep dive into the underbelly of the socio-econ at work keeping jazz musicians working for 50 year-old frozen wages - lots of live performance with candid and behind the scenes interviews. Who Killed Jazz is now on Vimeo On Demand