Jazz International

New Documentary Project: Jazz International/The Middle East/Jazz in Arabic Culture

FORTHCOMING INTERVIEW: February 29, 2024: University of Florida Professor Mark Lomanno, researcher of jazz in the Middle East.

February 27, 2024: Marlow interviews Cairo-located contemporary musician/composer Maurice Louca.

February 13, 2024: Marlow interviews Egyptian jazz pianist Rami Attallah (Cairo).

February 13, 2024: Marlow interviews Turkish-born documentary filmmaker Batu Akyol (London).

February 8, 2024: Iranian-born percussionist Ali Nourbakhsh (interviewed in London, England) describes his introduction to jazz and his inspirations and why jazz speaks to his musicial sensibilities.

February 2, 2024: Producer/Director Eugene Marlow interviews Professor Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs (Basic Books 2009). Dr. Rogan is an expert of Arabic culture and history and currently teaches at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He provided pointed insights into the political and social history of the region that will provide context for the evolution of jazz in the Middle East.

January 25, 2024: Dr. Marlow interviews Sami Abu Shumays, coauthor of Inside Arabic Music (Oxford University Press 2019). Shumays provides a detailed overview of the practice and performance of Arabic music. Shumays is the co-founder of Brooklyn maqam.

January 24, 2024: Iranian-born jazz musician and composer Mahan Mirarab describes his influences and cultural heritage from his studio in Vienna.

January 21, 2024: Producer/Director Eugene Marlow interviews Egyptian-born singer Ahmed Harfoush. Harfoush, who now resides in London, England, provided many details on the presence of jazz in Egypt in the 1950s-1960s. He also described his early interest in jazz referring to such luminaries as Nat King Cole and Mel Torme as major influences. Harfoush was a goldmine of information on jazz not only in Egypt, but also other parts of the Middle East.

January 19, 2024: Iranian-born “blues” singer Rana Farhan interviews with Dr. Eugene Marlow regarding her musical roots and influences and her combination of jazz and Iranian poetry.

January 15, 2024: Beirut-based documentarian Antoine Abou Samra provides insights into the jazz scene primarily in Lebanon, but also in other part of the Middle East.

December 1, 2023: Iraqi Maqam trumpeter, ensemble leader, and composer Amir Elsaffer gives a ranging interview with Dr. Eugene Marlow on maqam, the Arabic system of modes (i.e., scales) found in North Africa, the Middle East, and Western Asia.

November 27, 2023: Dr. Eugene Marlow has an outstanding interview with Dr. Raphael Cormack, author of a book on Cairo in the 1920s and an expert on culture in Egypt. Dr. Cormack provided a litany of contexual insights into the political, religious, economic, and social milieu of this time period.

November 21, 2023: Producer-Director Eugene Marlow interviews 93-year-old Souren Baronian. A reed player of Armenian parentage, because he was born and raised in Spanish Harlem, New York City he had the good fortune of hearing “The Prez” saxophonist Lester Young and became enamored with jazz. He studied with Lenny Tristano and Turkish clarinetist Safet Gundeger and began incorporating Middle Eastern musical traditions into his “world music” sound. He still performs with his group “Taksim.”

October 27, 2023: Producer-Director Eugene Marlow interviews Moroccan-born eclectic singer and composer Malika Zarra in her home just outside Paris, France.

October 19, 2023: It is becoming clearer that the “Jazz International” project is going to result in several documentaries starting with the Middle East. Other countries that are emerging to become part of the project are Morocco, Scotland, and Cuba. These countries are in addition to the previously identified Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea, Turkey, and Vietnam.

October 19, 2023: Producer/director Eugene Marlow interviews veteran electric bass player Samer George from Cairo, Egypt. George talked about his early influences and how jazz improvisation is like poetry made up “on the spot.”

October 13, 2023: After several tries, we finally interviewed Noha Fekry, a leading female jazz vocalist in Cairo. She gave a terrific interview with comments about her background and her first experience with jazz, the jazz scene in Cairo, the broad jazz audience, and the future of jazz in her country.

September 22, 2023: Amro Salah, progenitor of the Cairo Jazz Festival, is interviewed for his broad knowledge of the jazz scene in Egypt. He provides many names of early influences, many of which are African American, as well as the names of female jazz performers in Egypt. The Cairo Jazz Festival takes place October 26-November 3, 2023.

September 12, 2023: Eugene Marlow interviews Francesco Martinelli at the suggestion of Carole Woodall. Martinelli provides an overview of the contemporary jazz scene in Turkey.

September 7, 2023: Eugene Marlow interviews Prof. Carole Woodall of the University of Denver on Zoom. Dr. Woodall is an expert (and is currently writing a book) on the early years of jazz in Turkey. She suggests we talk with Francesco Martinelli, an Italian jazz journalist who is expert on the contemporary jazz scene in Turkey.

August 31, 2023: The interview with jazz electric bassist Ahmed Nazmi II accomplished over Zoom. Nazmi provided a wealth of information about jazz in Egypt.

August 30, 2023: Mo Qian, who designed the animated logo for Dr. Marlow’s “Jazz in China” documentary, submits comps for a “Jazz in the Middle East” logo.

August 28, 2023: Sabrina Amoriello joins the production team as a research associate working directly with Dr. Marlow

August 27, 2023: Veteran Egyptian jazz pianist Fathy Salama describes his musical background and the jazz scene in Egypt.

August 23, 2023: Dr. Marlow receives the names and email addresses of several Arabic performers living in New York City who could talk about Arabic rhythms as they relate to jazz from the folks at The Brooklyn Maqam.

August 22, 2023: Dr. Marlow (producer/director) interviewed Russian jazz journalist Cyril Moshkow located in Moscow about his documentary dealing with the 100-year history of jazz in Russia. The interview will be used at a later time. Later that day Dr. Marlow interviewed Howard Lawes just outside London about his article “Jazz in Arabic Culture.” Lawes provided some links to relevant performances in and around the Middle East.

Week of August 21: The Nazmi (electric bass player) interview originally scheduled for August 8 was postponed until this week. An interview with Russian jazz journalist Cyril Moshkow is scheduled for August 22, 2023.

Week of August 14: It was discovered that a documentary on the 100 year history of jazz in Russia has been produced and is in the process of morphing into a series. Russia, therefore, has been taken off the list. It has also been decided to focus on the The Middle East as the center of the documentary. The countries Turkey and Vietnam may very well deserve their own documentary each.

July 17, 2023:

Project Description The in-progress feature-length documentary (60-90 minutes) will show how jazz—a democratic genre of music through improvised individual freedom of expression—exists and can thrive in countries with a history of adherence to authoritarianism. The documentary will divide into three sections: The Middle East, Russia, and Southeast Asia. The countries projected to be included in the documentary are Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Vietnam. The documentary will include interviews with leading indigenous jazz musicians, historical and cultural experts, jazz audiences, as well photographic and filmic archival content, and performance footage in clubs, festivals, and educational institutions.

This project has received support from the Professional Staff Congress (City University of New York) and the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences (Baruch College). It is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Development Work, 2023-2024: Producer/Director/Writer Dr. Marlow conducted pre-production research in spring 2023 in anticipation of production (Fall 2023) and post-production (Spring 2024) for the documentary. During spring 2023 two research assistants worked with Dr. Marlow to identify potential interviewees. One research assistant identified extant books, articles, and mentions dealing with jazz activities in the abovementioned countries. Jazz activities include jazz clubs, jazz festivals, jazz education, and jazz programming on radio and television. A second assistant researched extant archival video and graphic materials found online. The results of these two research activities will be cross-referenced in June-July 2023 to develop an initial interviewee contact list.

During late summer 2023 potential interviewees will be contacted and scheduled for interviews in early fall 2023 via Zoom. Zoom was the technology used by Dr. Marlow to conduct interviews for his award-winning, feature-length documentary “Jazz in China.”

Interviewee transcriptions will be accomplished as interviews are completed. During winter 2023-2024 the transcriptions will be used to formulate a roughcut script and video edit. A rough cut will be completed in Spring 2024 which will be shown to private audiences for feedback to be followed by completion of a fine cut.

Other 2024 activities include additional graphics research, color correction, audio mixing and mastering, presentation of portions of the documentary on April 30, 2024, International Jazz Day via UNESCO’s web site, entry of the completed documentary into film festivals, showings in various classes at Baruch College (where Dr. Marlow is a fulltime professor), and promotion of the project in domestic and international publications (print and online).

Vision Statement: The project is about jazz as “free speech” at a time when authoritarianism appears to be growing around the world.

Other than Marlow’s “Jazz in China” documentary, there are no extant documentaries that explore the juxtaposition of jazz as a democratic form of individual freedom of expression in the context of authoritarian countries. The proposed project, especially, will also add to the meagre catalogue of documentaries dealing with jazz outside the United States.

One of Dr. Marlow’s directorial goals is to create a work that does not include any professional voiceover or narration. He chooses this approach because he perceives this allows the audience to get closer to the individuals telling their story. He succeeded in doing this with the “Jazz in China” documentary where the principals tell the story of jazz in China in their own voice. Historical content links were accomplished via billboards, music and sound effects. Dr. Marlow intends to apply a similar approach to the proposed project.

This documentary project is an outgrowth of Dr. Eugene Marlow’s success with the 2022 release of the feature-length (60 minutes) documentary “Jazz in China.” It garnered “official” acceptance at 11 domestic and international film festivals and earned two awards: an “Award of Excellence” from the 2022 Depth of Field International Film Festival; it was the winner of the 2022 American Insight “Free Speech Film Festival.” Professor Marlow’s documentary is based on his acclaimed

The Production Team: The production team that worked on the “Jazz in China” documentary will also work on the “Jazz in Authoritarian Countries” project, namely: Eugene Marlow, MBA, Ph.D./Producer/Director/Writer; Jiefei Yuan/Editor; and Jan Sileo/Graphics Consultant. Zoom will again be used as a primary means of conducting interviews. Onomatopoeia (New York City) will again serve as the facility for audio mixing and mastering.

Collectively, this New York City-located production team has decades of award-winning video and documentary production experience.

Public Presentations: The intended audience for the proposed documentary is broad: anyone with an interest in jazz as cultural expression, history, education, international cultural exchange, the influence of communications and information technologies on the spread of culture globally, and freedom of speech.

There will be several public presentations of the documentary project initially to New York State audiences: (1) a rough cut will be shown to various private audiences for feedback, followed by completion of a fine cut; (2) entry of the completed documentary into New York State film festivals; (3) rough-cut excerpts of the formative documentary on April 30, 2024, International Jazz Day via UNESCO’s web site (there is a strong jazz community in New York State); (4) showings in various classes at Baruch College, City University of New York (where Dr. Marlow is a fulltime professor), as well as Hunter College and City College; (5) presentation of the documentary at  New York public libraries, such as the Brooklyn Heights Library where Dr. Marlow has previously shown his “Jazz in China” documentary; (6) showings on CUNY-TV. “Jazz in China” have been aired multiple times on The City University of New York’s television channel; (7) showings at the Jazz Museum of Harlem and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; (8) a feature article in the New York City Jazz Record; (9) an interview on Judy’s Carmichael’s NPR program “Jazz Inspired”; (10) showing on WLIW (Long Island) and NYC Life (WNYE-DT1) television channels; (11) feature interview on Spectrum News NY1 (cable channel); and (12) identification of Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, Saudi Arabian, and Iranian communities in New York State for potential showings.

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