Rising Tones Cross | Chicago Reader

Rising Tones Cross

Ebba Jahn's 1984 video documentary looks at the free-jazz scene in New York City, calling on two of its trailblazers—tenor saxist Charles Gayle and German bassist Peter Kowald—to serve as talking-head tour guides. Gayle gets more screen time, his ebullient rambling providing a sharp (though perhaps unwitting) contrast to Kowald's wry skepticism. Some of their subjects are fresh and informative (the history of the movement, its racial divide, the discipline behind improvisation, the nature of avant-gardism) and some aren't (lack of money, the need for universal peace). Jahn cuts between talk and music in awkward imitation of free's give-and-take, though she has enough sense to let the music speak for itself during performances by Gayle, Kowald, the Peter Br√∂tzmann Ensemble, and Don Cherry and the Sound Unity Festival Orchestra, among other notables. 112 min.

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