Few labels are as meaninglessly reductive as “world music,” yet there isn’t another term to describe the range of Italo musician Enzo Avitabile’s inspirations, captured in Jonathan Demme’s “Enzo Avitabile Music Life.” Unlike the helmer’s docus featuring mega-star tunesmiths, his latest takes a gamble with a performer of devoted but limited international recognition; perhaps that’s why Demme keeps things modest, though it doesn’t explain the sense of a film put together in a hurry. Involving rhythms, great jam sessions and, most of all, Demme’s name will spark moderate interest among music docu fans.
A musical omnivore, Avitabile began his career in the early 1980s riffing on American funk and jazz. By the ’90s, he returned to his Neapolitan roots, which he alternated with influences as wide-ranging as Pergolesi oratorios, African beats and Arabic maqams.
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The heart of “Music Life” lies in jam sessions with international collaborators, their intertwining melodies often layered with Avitabile’s lyrics championing social justice. Unlike Demme’s concert pics, this aims more for the process, yet brief scenes “in the old neighborhood” play out like cliches, and only Avitabile’s restlessness really lingers. Lensing feels spontaneous and equally curious.