The documentary JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY intimately brings to light what it means to take risks as an artist, what it means to be a jazz musician today — particularly in Los Angeles — and what it means to be part of the ongoing history of jazz and the joyful exploration of passion and community.
JAZZ NIGHTS chronicles a fleeting and almost completely unknown moment in time involving a group of L.A.’s top jazz musicians who brought jazz history full circle by forging a modern-day version of the forbidden Prohibition-Era speakeasy culture that jazz itself grew out of.
For two years, these premiere musicians congregated on Sunday nights at an illicit, back-room hash bar hidden in the heart of Hollywood. Once a week, these expert musicians formed a circle, a coterie of non-verbal, intuitive communication. There were no pre-determined set lists, no rehearsals. Attendance was through word-of-mouth only. No advertising.
The result was an all-out exploration — both personal and communal — of what it means to be an artist and to passionately follow one’s heart. JAZZ NIGHTS documents not only the music itself, which is simultaneously exhilarating, meditative, hypnotic and revealing, but also the personal journeys of each individual involved, their fears and desires, their struggles, triumphs and influences.
At its heart, JAZZ NIGHTS is a microcosm of intrepid artistic journeys taking place across the globe. In the same breath, it explores the emotive and mercurial backstory of jazz itself, its origins and relevance to both society and to the individual musicians who each have their own personal connection to this deep history of which they are now a living part.
“As a regular audience member, I began audio recording these live gigs for the musicians themselves to reflect on, for me to relive, and for history to remember. As a filmmaker of over 20 years and a die-hard music fan, it became abundantly clear to me that this was not only the perfect subject matter for a truly great film, but that it would also serve as a rare opportunity for others to share in this consummate experience that was, until now, only known and available to a very select few willing to attend despite the risk of a Federal raid.
“The caliber of musicianship, the setting, and the fortuity to capture this snapshot in time, spoke to my passions. I wanted to capture the vitality and fearlessness of these supremely intuitive musicians in the midst of such significant and historic cultural change. I also wanted to share the music itself, this supreme and powerful force that has come to embody not just the different traits and sensibilities of America –jazz’s country of origin– but the innumerable global influences that have worked their way into and enhanced this deeply vibrant and exploratory music.
“This feels increasingly important to me as many music-lovers and musicians alike have voiced concern that jazz itself is struggling for attention and relevance in today’s modern world. As a result, I knew these L.A. Confidential gigs were potentially a fleeting moment in time and could disappear without warning. Good thing I chose to film when I did as JAZZ NIGHTS ended up documenting what turned out to be the FINAL GIGS played by these musicians at LACon. The hash bar has since been dismantled, leaving absolutely no trace of its existence.
“Except for our film.” –Producer/Director Hal Masonberg
Intimate observations and quotes by famous artists and musicians are used to usher in each new chapter of our story, beginning with the youthful introductions of each musician. We explore those pivotal moments when each of their lives turned direction down a unique and divergent path, to discover and nurture a talent, a desire, a mission.
JAZZ NIGHTS holds a magnifying glass up to the life and struggles of these jazz musicians in a city no longer considered a “jazz town,” why they remain here, what the city means to them and why performing here and building a daring musical community feels so very critical to their existence, their very identities.
Via these conversations, the audience will be taken on a journey of their own, one that begs us to explore this human need to be understood, to voice our feelings, to share our vulnerabilities and strengths through artistic means. These events, these gatherings, happen daily in the warm glow of small backrooms across the globe, unobserved by the casual passerby and most certainly out of the purview of the machines of industry.
In the case of JAZZ NIGHTS, we pull the curtain back to take a look at how this manifests on both an individual level as well as the group level; how all the separate pieces come together to create something whole and unique. After spending time with each musician, learning who they are, how they think, how they feel, we leave with a vast understanding of the music they make and how it is an expressive and vulnerable culmination of uniquely human voices.
By time the final note is played, JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY reveals itself to be far more than a document of musicians or a single event in time; it is a microcosm of the creative and intuitive human experience that has been with us since the dawn of mankind and continues to be a necessary pilgrimage, both personal and cultural, for so many the world over.
“My desire from the outset was to make a film that moved like jazz music itself. The themes would be laid out like individual songs in a setlist. Each song, each chapter, would have its own mood, its own energy and, as the artist driving the story forward, I would allow all the different pieces to come together both as individual pieces and as a whole. These pieces would ebb and flow and interact with one another, support one another as the film itself set out on an expedition to the outer edges of those themes and then, like jazz music itself, work its way back.
”In order to create this, I chose to be extremely intimate with the shots and compositions of the musicians while performing. We even altered the lighting on a nightly basis to highlight different visceral elements and in order to impact both the musicians and music, as well as the audience, in subtle ways. Each night of the residency had its own feel, its own mood depending on the audience, the day, the weather outside, the events of the week that preceded it, the different combinations of musicians on a given night.
“Once the images and music were captured (with 5 cameras over 4 nights), it was then my job to cut them together with a visual style that mirrored both the flavor of the music along with the intricacies of what each musician was doing, whether soloing or backing another soloist. I chose to create and recreate these moments by layering images through a series of long dissolves or in delicately overlapping images so that what the audience sees would not only match what they were hearing, but guide them to potentially hear it differently. Split screen was also used throughout the film to combine much of the interview footage with the live music footage. Each song, as each theme, has its own stylistic mark, its own rhythm inherent in the cutting and combining of images.
”For the interview segments of the film, I chose to have the musicians speak directly into camera and to keep my voice as the interviewer out of the film. There is no narration. It is the musicians’ words that tell their own stories. Each musician was allowed to choose the setting they wanted to be filmed in, a space that represented something about them and meant something to them. Using the 1.78:1 frame, I positioned the musicians either to the right or left of the frame to not only share the space they were in visually, but also to allow overlays of other images to interact with them. Photographs and video footage drift in and out, almost dreamlike or as if the very thoughts of the artists were manifesting themselves in the visual realm like gentle whispers.
“The musical passages of the film were essential and I always knew that, in many ways, they would be the backbone of our story. But at the same time, I didn’t want to make a concert film. I wanted the audience to WANT to come back to the music throughout, to make new discoveries with each musical passage. At the same time, I was intent on not shying away from the music to appease potential audience members who might not have the patience to invest in the listening to and watching of music and music-making.
“In an age when popular music seems less demanding, when audiences are more prone to listen to a single song rather than an album, or to make their music-listening part of a multitasking event as opposed to a concentrated or focused endeavor, it was important to me to create an experience that embraced the intricate spaces the musicians created, the world in which they themselves inhabit.
”It was my desire to do all of this while maintaining a driving force, a sense that we are working our way toward something, even if that something — like the music to the musicians themselves — might seem amorphous during the experience, but would reveal its true impact in the moments immediately following.” -Producer/Director Hal Masonberg
“Jazz is the big brother of revolution. Revolution follows it around.”Miles Davis
This is so nice, it must be illegal.”Fats Waller
In both appearance and spirit, these musical nights at L.A. Confidential poignantly echoed the Prohibition Era speakeasies of the 1920s & 30’s — where jazz blossomed in its infancy — as well as the 1950s underground jazz clubs of Harlem and Greenwich Village.
As in those days, The “LACon” experiment reflects a society once again caught in a quagmire of differing opinions and laws, this time surrounding the legalization of marijuana, which is currently considered medically legal in the state of California, while simultaneously remaining illegal under federal law.
The coming together of these contemporary and historic upheavals alongside such distinct musical voices, provided an unexpected opportunity for these musicians to tap into the vast background that had brought them together in this place, and to explore the many life-lessons hidden within that experience.
JAZZ NIGHTS’ cast simultaneously ride the coattails of the past while paving new inroads for the future.
In a time when the music industry and how music is delivered and consumed by audiences is changing rapidly, with music programs being eliminated from the curriculum at schools across the country, with age-old state and federal laws changing and being discussed in myriad ways barely imagined before, and as the civil rights struggles in our country continue to take center stage, JAZZ NIGHTS shines a light on an ethnically diverse group of individuals who have come together to discover both themselves and one another, their similarities and differences and how to use those to create something immensely human and life-affirming.
Jazz is currently the single least popular musical genre in the U.S. — the very birthplace of jazz. It is our hope and desire that JAZZ NIGHTS will give new voice to this deeply expressive music. We also believe our film can have social impact by creatively influencing future generations of artists and offer an alternative to the heavily-produced, more high-profile forms of music and art that inhabit the mainstream. We are also looking forward to shining a light on the cultural and ethnic backstories that are so closely tied to jazz’s diverse history.
In addition to this, JAZZ NIGHTS goes in-depth in discussing and uncovering how art and social change are oftentimes tightly connected. It is most certainly part of the current ongoing conversation about the legalization of marijuana and the changing mores, values and attitudes in our country, as it once was during the Prohibition-Era of the early 20th century, and again during the tumultous Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s.
JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY is a pointed snapshot of a moment in time, a time of significant social change in a country that is struggling once again with greatly divided needs and points of view.
The musicians appearing in JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY are all prominent and admired members of the L.A. music scene and beyond.
Saxophone – Geoff Gallegos is a composer/arranger who has inked hundreds of pieces for a...
Trombone – Shaunte Palmer is a multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles. He has worked in...
Trumpet – Jordan Katz is a Los Angeles-based trumpet player, banjo player, and composer. He...
Guitar – Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Mike started playing the guitar at age...
“It’s the group sound that’s important, even when you’re playing a solo.”
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JAZZ NIGHTS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER & SOUND MIX PATRON
JAZZ NIGHTS EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
Eric & Christine Kovac
JAZZ NIGHTS COLOR-TIMING PATRONS
Andre & Maria Jacquemetton
JAZZ NIGHTS CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
JAZZ NIGHTS PRODUCER
JAZZ NIGHT ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Ebony Ann Blaze
Randell J. Kennedy
JAZZ NIGHT MONARCH
JAZZ NIGHT CONSTITUENTS
JAZZ NIGHT AFICIONADOS
Carl & Janet Masonberg
JAZZ NIGHT MELODIC LISTENERS
Gabe & Christina Klueh
JAZZ NIGHT ILLICIT MEMBERS
JAZZ NIGHT CONFIDANTS
Caley O’Dwyer Feagin
Kristen Lee Kelly
Margie and Stan Masonberg
Rachel Lynn Sebastian
Theresa L. Villeneuve
“Jazz Nights: A Confidential Journey” is a splendid documentary that reveals a number of things – that jazz is not dead; that it is more than just an entertainment form but is really a spiritual path; that those who play it, even in a hash bar, are thoughtful, articulate, and a pleasure to listen to. The film makers got it right, balancing superb music with an ongoing and intelligent contemplation/narrative from the performers about jazz and its pursuit. Highly recommended.”
–Dennis McNally, Cultural historian and Grateful Dead publicist. Author of A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead; Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, And America; On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom; Jerry on Jerry: The Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews and many others.
“At the heart of creative music, there is the language of life, truth, love, tragedy and expression. The therapeutically shared musical catharsis that emanates from Jazz was intimately captured with rich color, texture and solid sound storytelling. A documentary for all to see!”
–LeRoy Downs, Jazz broadcaster in Los Angeles on KJazz 88.1 FM, on KPFK 90.7 FM, KCRW 89.9 FM, KXLU 88.9 FM, 1410 AM KRML in Carmel and KRML 94.7 FM in the Monterey area. Host of the Monterey Jazz Festival for nearly 15 years as well as The Jazz Cruise, The Playboy Jazz Cruise, KPFK’s Hero Awards Tribute to Billy Higgins, The Angel City Jazz Festival, Terranea Resorts Jazz Through the Generations, The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz West Coast competitions, Producer of The World Stage 25th Anniversary Concert, Curator for Jazz for the Holidays series with Arts Brooksfield, Jazz Curator of the Steven James Buchanan Jazz Collection at the Mayme Clayton Jazz Library and Museum, owner and journalist for the website TheJazzcat.net, producer of the made for television pilot “Hangin’ with the Jazzcats” and The Brand New Show on Aspire called “The Jazz Creative.”
“Enjoyed JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY immensely and for many reasons. The production qualities are very high, very well done, including excellent cinematography, which takes the viewer into the world of the artists and makes them part of the scene. I had such a strong feeling of direct engagement with the music and the artists, that there was nothing in between — especially loved that there was no narrator instructing what I should think and feel!
“The audience, especially those relatively new to jazz (but not only) should gain incredible insight into this art form. It so effectively conveys many of the reasons jazz is so powerful and vital.”
“Hal Masonberg’s sensual, understated documentary Jazz Nights: A Confidential Journey (2016) makes a case for jazz returning to the night. And not just the literal night but the night of alternative spaces of the L.A. underground and word-of-mouth, to music free from club and record label skulduggery and allowed to breath again.”
-Matthew Duersten, StompBeast, A Wisconsin-born freelance writer now based in the great city of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, his pieces have been included in the anthologies Da Capo Best Music Writing and L.A. Now. He first entered the blogosphere in 2006 with the music site Downbeast, an offshoot of the L.A. indie-jazz label Cryptogramophone. He was also a senior editor of Glue magazine and has written for numerous publications including L.A. Weekly, No Depression, All About Jazz, Variety, Los Angeles magazine, Time Out-New York, Flaunt, Oxford-American, Black Book, New Times, Extraordinary, and more. Currently, he is working on a book for Asahina & Wallace publishers on L.A.’s underground jazz scene.
“For me, it’s a classic with a firm place in the cultural archives right next to The Freshest Kids, Basquiat: The Radiant Child, and any Warhol documentary. It was so exciting to see my peers honored, our time in history captured, and the art form portrayed with such reverence.”
“What Hal Masonberg –mason jar more likely because he captures the goods and preserves them with tasty morsels–did was create an archive. Which, for me last night, was living and breathing. The river of music that soundtracked the film ebbed and flowed out of the dialogue– of biographies, philosophies, styles, signatures… I didn’t have to worry or wonder or ask questions about what the film was about… The film took care of me. I just had to — like a solo– ride it.
“When a thing is well made, it speaks for itself. It moves you.
“Thank you Hal for the tapestry, the editing, the following through with a gut feeling… What a way to make us feel that spark again, that seed of Life again -Musically, Visually, Politically… and Spiritually.”
“I had a personal screening yesterday of “Jazz Nights: A Confidential Journey” and I sincerely believe it’s the best documentary I’ve seen in that it takes you into the psyche of a musician, like no other documentary had before.
“And unlike other music documentaries, this one has a LOT of what musicians do best: perform poetry WITHOUT Words; i.e. PLAY MUSIC. Our director Hal Masonberg shows with every shot and edit that he truly loves the musicians and the music and the nature of collective expression.”
Read Paul Robison’s write-up on the JAZZ NIGHTS Canon USA Screening at his STREET PHOTOS GALLERY Blog: http://www.streetphotosgallery.com/jazz-nights-a-confidential-journey/
Here are the songs performed (in part or in full) by the musicians in JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY (except where noted):
PENT-UP HOUSE – Sonny Rollins
LITTLE SUNFLOWER – Freddie Hubbard
MOANIN’ – Bobby Timmons
SONG FOR MY FATHER – Horace Silver
MARY MONTH OF MAY – Geoff Gallegos
JUST FRIENDS – John Klenner (Oscar Peterson Quartet perform from the BBC’s Oscar Peterson: Words & Music)
THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU – Harry Warren
BLUE HAIKU – Geoff Gallegos
PAPA’S THEME – Shaunte Palmer
JELLY ROLL – Charles Mingus
VERGE OF SERENITY – Shaunte Palmer
RECORDA ME – Joe Henderson
THE THEME – Miles Davis
I’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE – JP Maramba
May 6, 2017: JAZZ NIGHTS free online, invitation-only, 1-day global stream on Vimeo.
February 10th, 2017: The Copenhagen Jazz Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark. This was JAZZ NIGHTS’ European and Scandinavian premiere! The screening was in conjunction with the Copenhagen Winter Jazz Festival. JAZZ NIGHTS won the Audience Award at this festival!
July 13, 2016: 6PM & 8PM. Querétaro, México in the Auditorium of the Museum of the City (del Museo de la Ciudad). JAZZ NIGHTS will be having its Latin American Premiere at the 6th Annual Summer Jazz Festival in Querétaro, México.
WORLD PREMIERE: Saturday, April 23rd, 5:15 PM at the Fashion Island Cinemas in Newport Beach, CA. at the Newport Beach Film Festival!
Feb. 19, 2016, Espacio 1839, Boyle Heights, CA. 7:00 pm-midnight. JAZZ NIGHTS Musical Event, Extended Trailer viewing, cast & crew Q&A, live jazz by film’s stars! 1839 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90033. Listen to Q&A. View Photos and Video.
Sometimes it’s really special and meaningful to get a response from someone whose work you greatly admire. This is one of those moments for me. Cultural historian and Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally on JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY: “Jazz...
The award-winning documentary JAZZ NIGHTS : A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY has been called “a celebration of community and creativity.” Join us in honoring that spirit by experiencing JAZZ NIGHTS with hundreds of viewers across the globe on May 6th! This...
Thanks to Pelle and Betina and Mads and most especially to the audience at the Copenhagen Jazz Film Festival for this incredible honor! The love is mutual! http://jazzfilmfest.com
The screening of JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY at the Copenhagen Jazz Film Festival was an amazing event! The audience was incredible, the staff at the film festival could not have been kinder and more supportive, and the theater itself...
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