In the last year, whenever I encountered Marty Grosz at a jazz party, he would tell me that someone good was doing a documentary with him as the subject. Since we know that many projects never get completed, I didn’t dare to anticipate that I would ever see the results. But the DVD is out and it’s a thorough pleasure. Here’s a six-minute plus excerpt — Marty and the Hot Winds urging us to be candid, honest, and frank in all things:
RHYTHM IS MY BUSINESS: AN EVENING WITH MARTY GROSZ is a superb hour-long performance film / documentary by filmmaker / acoustic guitarist Jay Brodersen, capturing Marty, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, and Vince Giordano in concert. It’s available from Jay himself for $25 (including first-class mail shipping) and you can contact him at email@example.com., or at 6859 N Road, Escanaba, Michigan 49829.
Most of the film is the music — Marty and the Hot Winds in a small concert hall swinging through eleven songs — many of them Grosz classics, and a few surprises: I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / I’M BUILDING UP TO AN AWFUL LET-DOWN / EMALINE / I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY / JUST A GIGOLO / IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE / YOU BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LOVE TO ME / WABASH BLUES / IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN – JUBILEE / JUST FRIENDS . . . and the strains of DREAM MAN can be heard as the credits roll.
The beauty of this film is that, from the first minute, it presents experiences that even those intent listeners in the front row do not have. First of all, the sound and lighting are terrific: everything’s audible and the audience is quiet yet appreciative. Then there’s the wonderful camerawork. As an amateur videographer, I know the limits of the single camera, which can (at best) follow the photographer’s eye, and zoom in or out. Of course, such videos are often marred by extraneous noise or real-life distractions.
Jay has used a multi-camera setup to show us things we would never see, and he’s done this with restraint and taste. Some multi-camera videos are always on the move: the camera rests only a few seconds in any shot. The result can seem dizzying, all in the name of novelty. But this film isn’t afraid to patiently watch something that’s interesting, yet (in the manner of THE SOUND OF JAZZ) it takes us to surprising places: things we would never see if Jay had simply aimed one high-quality camera at the stage and switched it on. In addition, Jay has interviewed the members of the band and expert admirers — so there are very short interludes, always relevant to the music at hand, where Dan, Scott, and Vince talk about what Marty creates; where Marty speaks about his background and his father’s art. But the “talking heads” are entertaining and they never dominate the film.
Every time I’ve watched it I’ve seen something new: the expression on one musician’s face when someone else is soloing, a fantastic duet in WABASH BLUES (which has delightful playing by Dan on baritone sax) between Vince and Scott, making beautiful music in unorthodox ways: Scott buzzing through a clarinet with the mouthpiece removed and Vince playing his bass sax with the tuba mouthpiece . . . or so it seems. And although the concert is greatly devoted to swing numbers, Marty offers a sweetly convincing reading of EMALINE and a mournfully tender exploration of JUST FRIENDS that once again shows what a great balladeer he is.
The DVD has received a showing on the local PBS channel: I’m hoping that someone at the national level gets a chance to preview it. It’s just that good, and not only because it features one of the best bands we will ever hear. Kudos to Jay Brodersen for creating this film, and to the musicians for playing so splendidly.