NEW YORK–Actor-saxophonoist John Lurie is captured in an enlightening, no-frills concert film shot at Berlin’s Quartier Latin nightclub. Feature should serve to expand his musical audience rather than prove a B.O. attraction on its own.
Lurie, known for his roles in pix by Jim Jarmusch, heads up a nonet that performs here in a jazz-fusion style that’s refreshingly close to pure jazz. Main concession to fusion is the funky rhythms relying upon Oren Bloedow’s bass guitar.
Soloing on both soprano and alto sax, Lurie shows the strong influence of the late John Coltrane, especially in several free jazz sections. His minor-key compositions are quite varied here, ranging from a figure resembling Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” theme to near-pastiches of “St. James Infirmary” and even Bob Dylan’s electric folk sound of “Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35.”
Debuting feature director Garret Linn occasionally overdoes the racking of focus or swish pan for effect, but concentrates on recording the performance without audience shots or any interview interruptions.
Lurie and company minimize the onstage clowning. He provides direct contact to the audience with a droll recitation of a shaggy dog story that has a dynamite political punch line, setting the stage for a torrid drum solo (plus chanting) by Grant Calvin Weston.
Ensemble playing is emphasized, with the band members getting to show off as soloists during a final number when Lurie introduces each of them.
Notable contributions by sidemen include vibraphonist Bryan Carrot, trumpet and cornetist Steven Bernstein and cellist Jane Scarpantoni, last-named fitting in well with the group’s droning style.