FILM IN THE AIR, PLUS MUSIC ON THE SIDE: For hopeless and diehard film festival fans—and celebrity hounds—in Santa Barbara, SBIFF-time translates to 10 of the most blissful, sometimes blurry days of the year. The film medium proper is very much on the brain and on the town, but musical subjects slip into the festival programming mix as well. Last year’s documentary on Brian Wilson was a mixed bag, an inside job that felt more like promo than a doc per se—more electronic press kit than cinéma vérité. But it was nonetheless thrilling to catch glimpses of his creative process and to do so in the Lobero where he had recently performed.
This year, music plays a stronger programming role than usual. For one thing, by synchronistic or cosmic coincidence, the festival includes new documentaries on the two prominent world-class Charlies who are part of a handful of world-class jazz musicians hailing from SoCal: Los Angeles-based Charlie Haden and Santa Barbara’s own Charles Lloyd. Director Reto Caduff’s Charlie Haden: Rambling Boy tells the tale of Haden, famed jazz bassist with the great early Ornette Coleman quartet, solo artist of many dimensions (we last heard him here with his inspirational Liberation Music Orchestra at the Lobero), and currently with his nod to his classic country/bluegrass roots with Rambling Boy—ironically, his best-selling album to date. Lloyd’s similarly—but very differently—rambling story, from Memphis to world renown to Santa Barbara and beyond, is told in the hour-long The Monk and the Mermaid—The Song of Charles Lloyd, directed by Fara C. and Guiseppi de Vecchi.
From a very different perspective, filmmaker Larry Nimmer will present the world premiere of an addition to the growing crop of films about the late Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland. Jim Morrison, whose death was only the beginning of his legend, is in the sights of filmmaker Tom DiCillo with When You’re Strange, which has Johnny Depp narrating. The Sun Came Out, which chronicles a benefit concert in New Zealand put on by Neil (Crowded House) Finn and including Wilco, KT Tunstall, Eddie Vedder, and others, also gets its world premiere. And guitar geeks and the culturally curious should be interested in the documentary The Legend of Stuart Mossman, about the acoustic guitar maker, and including footage of the Carradine brothers. Yes, those Carradine brothers.
HARPING AND BLOWING THE HOUSES DOWN: Blues harp will not leave you alone, and let us be thankful for that. Late last year, the Riverside-based harp master Rod Piazza blew the crowd away at Warren Hall in one of the hottest Santa Barbara Blues Society shows in recent memory. Tonight at SOhO, the blues harp math goes exponentially nuts thanks to Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica BlowOut, a series of all-star blues harp soirées now going back 20 years. Hummel, a powerful harpist from the Bay Area, is the host, along with Piazza and another great one, Kim Wilson—whom locals fondly remember as “Goleta Slim,” before he went on to fame with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and the blues world at large.
GOING CHAMBER IN THE COUNTRY: Although a familiar part of the musical calendar over the hill in the idyllic hills and dales of Santa Ynez Valley, Los Olivos’s “Schoolhouse Music Evenings” still qualify as one of the Santa Barbara County classical music scene’s “best kept secrets.” With concerts originally held at at Dunn School in town, the series has been put on by Rose Knoles for over 25 years, and has found a happy, atmospherically accommodating home in the Santa Ynez’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church.
This year’s three-concert series kicked off with polydirectional violinist/fiddler Gilles Apap and his Transylvanian Mountain Boys last month, and continues on Friday with the impressive clarinetist Håkan Rosengren, joined by pianist Anne Epperson. The Swedish-born Rosengren dazzled us with Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, a highlight of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s last season. Here, he scales the dynamics down to chamber size.