MOVIES | Talking with “Icons Among Us” producer John Comerford


Throughout the week, the Daily Planet will feature audio interviews with filmmakers discussing their films in this year’s Sound Unseen Film Festival. The festival, which runs through Sunday and typically features films with a music theme, is in its 10th year. Make sure to check out the festival Web site to purchase tickets, view trailers and information for all the films, and explore what this cultural event is all about.

All the interviews were conducted over the phone and recorded on my computer. In this entry in the series, I speak with John Comerford, producer of the in-depth and engaging jazz documentary Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense. (Click on the icon at the bottom of this story to listen.) Check out the film’s Web site for more information. Icons Among Us screens this Friday (October 2) at 7:15 p.m. at the Oak Street Cinema.

The official plot synopsis (by way of the press notes) of Icons Among Us reads:

By combining rare archival stills, interviews with 75 jazz artists and live recordings culled from 25 hours of concerts, Icons Among Us is a dynamic and engaging document of many of the greatest jazz musicians of today. Capturing the spontaneity of performers who have an intimate knowledge of their instruments and a full knowledge of jazz history, the movie (created from four episodes of a cable and satellite TV series) shows how something like the same riff can become something completely different in the hands of different musicians. The dialogue between older and younger generations of music takes place with words, but also with music. Anyone from diehard fans to interested novices and those interested in the origins of creativity will find something to take home with them. Like the music itself, Icons Among Us is fresh and constantly surprising, with a spirit and energy that innovates even as it recycles. Icons Among Us features unique interviews and exclusive performances from Terence Blanchard, Medeski, Martin & Wood, the Bad Plus (with Happy Apple drummer Dave King), Ravi Coltrane, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and many others.

I begin every interview with the same question. Having seen nearly all the films in this year’s Sound Unseen Festival, a clear theme emerged. These are stories about people pursuing their dreams, consequneces be damned. So I lead off asking the filmmaker about this theme as it pertains to their film.

Erik McClanahan ( is a freelance film journalist and critic in Minneapolis. He is also co-host of KFAI’s Movie Talk.

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