DVD Review by MusicWitness

Last week I was able to view Ebba Jahn’s Arts Interplay DVD on a 37” HiDef flat-screen TV after previous early viewings on a computer. It is stunning in large format, especially in the close-ups of Maria Mitchell’s interactions with drummer John Betsch.  The main concert section is an inspiring document of the intense engagement of Mitchell’s movement expression with powerful improvising musicians, whose individuality and openness to the moment is so clearly revealed in detail.

Jahn’s direction and editing is beautifully done, getting the best out of the available filmed material and remaining true to the spirit and intent of the live event.

The wide-format technology of the video screen does a great job with the horizontal movements of Mitchell’s dance. My only regret might be that this framing technology can lose some of the vertical space in the dancer’s rising-up climaxes. All in all, we are fortunate to have such a vital document of a creative human meeting available.

The print edition of Cadence magazine in which there was a video critique also came in last week. The critic, covering 12 videos on deadline for low pay, clearly did not enjoy the task. He seems threatened by expressive movement or any stance of self-possession, even complaining about the potency of Sonny Rollins’ stage presence. The critique is not about the video on the screen but a statement of self-involvement and personal rigidity. The creative interaction issues addressed by Arts Interplay are off this critic’s map.

The Bass Quartet segment is an especially clear exposition of these issues. Its extraordinarily detailed presentation of master Barre Phillips sensitivity in urging his younger workshop colleagues to dramatically extend their musical and personal relationships with their bass partners both individually and in ensemble together is a perfect preliminary exposition of possibilities in developing skills in group improvisation and human interchange, visibly and aurally leading to an actualized unique artistic consummation.  Check it out.

The video direction of this segment, perhaps because of the more contained visual sightlines and the brilliantly-lit, close-up footage available, is close to perfect.

ARTS INTERPLAY as a whole is an important contribution to the exposition of possibilities of dynamic expression offered by improvised interaction between the arts of dance, music, painting and film.


See also CADENCE Jan-Feb-Mar 2009 p. 74 + 75