Jazz in movies is focus of touring series
Dmitri Matheny loves a good melody.
However, the renowned jazz artist from Centralia, Washington, says much of today's music lacks a good melody — or much melody at all.
"I twist up and down the radio dial, and it's hard to find any melody in any genre. It's even hard to find on the jazz station," Matheny says.
There is a profound lack of melody in contemporary film, he says, making older films that much more enjoyable.
"In older film scores and music, you'll find all kinds of wonderful, rich melodies," Matheny says. "I really dig it."
This is why he is bringing "Jazz From the Silver Screen" to Portland's Jack London Revue 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. He, along with an array of other artists, will also perform at nine other stops throughout Oregon and Washington.
Matheny a flugelhorn player, Tom Knific, a bassist and music educator from Michigan and Holly Pyle, a vocalist from Arizona, will showcase their spin on silver screen classics from the 1950s to today. The trio and band members will perform classics from films such as the 1957 classic "An Affair to Remember," "The Godfather" from 1972 and 2016's "Manchester by the Sea" — all films with a melody, Matheny says.
Pyle says Matheny originally pitched the idea for the concert series to the artists.
"Dmitri has such a big investment in film — he's a huge film geek," Pyle says. "And, the more I've gotten involved in the project, I feel the same. Just doing the research on the history of these films is fascinating alone."
Although she has been singing the songs she'll sing on the tour for over 10 years, Pyle says she spent several days sifting through the movies and songs — hoping to better understand the selection and meaning behind each.
With Knific's background in jazz, he says he has been preparing to perform "Jazz From the Silver Screen" for most of his life.
"Film scores provide some of the greatest music of the 20th Century," Knific says. "Certainly many of the greatest composers of the century wrote for the Silver Screen."
He says Erich Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, John Williams and Ennio Morricone name just a few of "the greats."
"Importantly, these and other composers also bridged that gap between classical music and popular including jazz," Knific says.
Pyle says the show is a "deliberate curation of some of the most amazing film classics."
A musician for a living, Matheny says his life consists of more than 200 days on the road. Sometimes he works with a band he already knows, but much of the time he'll work with complete strangers. Matheny says this is what makes music so enticing.
"You have to be open to travel and new experiences and new people," Matheny says. "Right now there's a lot of fear and hate and people walling themselves off into their own group. Music requires that you have an openness to people different from you and to embrace what we don't know."
Although the trio all reside in different states and play their own shows, they're all familiar with one another's styles and passions. Matheny says he and Pyle have worked together in the past and he has known Knific for over 30 years.
"It truly is a bringing together of playlists for this tour," Matheny says.
Knific says the audience at each of the 10 performances can expect engagement, interaction, spontaneity and a deep devotion to melody.
"The nature of jazz is imbued with these qualities in general, and with this repertoire specifically," Knific says.
Matheny says the Portland venue, the Jack London Revue, is the perfect spot for this sort of performance. With the look and feel of a classic jazz speakeasy, Matheny says the venue and music will reflect the nostalgia and melody the performers look to elicit.
"With Jazz, so much of it is improvisation. People often have a hard time relating or knowing the music," Matheny says. "But, we'll be playing melodies from films like "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner." Even if people don't know exactly where it's from, they still know they know it."
Tickets for the Jack London Revue show are $10. See www.jacklondonrevue.com.