DANCING TO NEW ORLEANS
Review by Mark Wiechman
Buckwheat Zydeco, Aaron Neville, Clarence Brown, and C.J. Chenier, Jerry
Lee Lewis, many others
Director: Michael Murphy
Video: Color, Full Frame 1.33:1
Audio: Dolby 5.1 and 2.0
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release date: September 30, 2003
play blues that is a more sophisticated-type blue. Blues that'll teach your kids
and my kids and everybody else's kid the right way of life rather than the wrong
Orleans is indeed a whole other world, one of the few true melting pots of
culture in the Western Hemisphere and a mother lode of great food, people, and
music. Europe has Prague, Vienna,
and Bayreuth while the USA has Memphis, Austin, Detroit, and New Orleans--the
places new music is born every day. And
only in New Orleans could a black man play a white accordion and be the height
of cool! I think my fascination
with New Orleans is that musicians do not need to worry about labels; you just
play what you want and blend whatever influences and instruments you want.
It resembles something like punk country or folk jazz-blues on a
washboard, but as I said, labels don't work here.
Just play it and love life, the music says.
film surprised me because I was expecting another "wowie, ain't Nawlins'
great" video with the usual gumbo clichés, much like the endless Food
Network specials I am forced to sit through at home. This film, however, covers so many musical styles and has
in-depth interviews with so many talented performers that it accomplishes many
things that interminable productions such as Ken Burns Jazz have not: it summarizes what makes each instrument, style, and
performer special and still makes you feel like you are there.
discuss the invention of the rub-board, which I always thought was just a
washboard but which is actually a unique American instrument made to very
specific specifications and had its origins in a factory in Texas, and its
one-piece design changed music. We
also learn about the differences between Texas and Mississippi guitar styles,
and the strong influence of religion (musical and cultural) on music.
Jazz is the most uniquely American musical style of music and its
birthplace of New Orleans actually has many other styles such as Cajun Zydeco
and many genres within jazz itself which are also not heard in other places.
special also goes into great detail about small towns and lesser-known Louisiana
traditions including the Louisiana Hayride, where Hank Williams starred and
popularized country music, Jerry Lee Lewis rocked out on piano (being the good
Louisiana boy he was), and Elvis began his meteoritic ascent.
as the region's music and blending old and new footage masterfully.
Many interesting segues using modern video editing techniques and
no splotichiness or other problems. A
very professional job.
rear channels are (as usual) neglected and not used to their full potential, the
production is loud and proud and the balance between narration and music is
effortless seamed together---no mean feat considering the hodgepodge of electric
and acoustic instruments and footage from so many sources.
The dynamic range and mix is excellent throughout.
This is also DTS-worthy sound, but it is so well-mixed and EQ'd that you
would think it is DTS, which I can't say about many other DVDs.
than most documentaries, there are many notes on the filmmakers and various
artists as well as Docurama's catalog. Many
interesting jazz references are also available.
Nothing exciting but plenty of information for those who want to learn
more on their own as well as seeking other works by the authors.