Local jazz, blues behind bars, and backing-band memories: new music docs


Jazz singer Jacqui Naylor — Buddhist, Hayes Valley resident, mash-up innovator — premieres her new doc, Lucky Girl: A Portrait of Jacqui Naylor, with a live concert at the Palace of Fine Arts Sat/16 (the DVD will be available in stores Tue/19).

The film, produced by the Bay Area's ARTiDOCs, is about as far from Behind the Music-style tell-all as you could get; Naylor seems blissfully happy with her life, being completely creatively and personally fulfilled (see also: the film's title, named for her 2011 CD). No scandals or dark secrets revealed here; this is a straightforward look at a working artist, briefly touching on her career beginnings (at the suggestion of teachers at American Conservatory Theater, she chose music over acting) and including mini-profiles on the artists she collaborates with, including husband Art Khu.

Fans (whom she prizes highly — and takes their suggestions seriously) will enjoy the film's many musical interludes, which showcase snippets and entire songs of Naylor performing and rehearsing in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Istanbul. Her repertoire includes original songs, pop and jazz standards, and standards freshened up with her signature "acoustic smashing" — singing the lyrics to "My Funny Valentine" over the instrumentation for AC/DC's "Back in Black," for example. Will this versatile performer dust off more heavy-metal flair for Saturday's show? It could totally happen. She's taking requests: jacqui@jacquinaylor.com.

Lucky Girl: A Portrait of Jacqui Naylor (with reception and concert)
Sat/16, 7pm, $35
Florence Gould Theater
Legion of Honor
100 34th Ave., SF


Coming to the Kabuki and Smith Rafael this weekend is Music from the Big House, a soulful doc from filmmaker Bruce McDonald (2008's Pontypool) about fellow Canadian Rita Chiarelli's experiences working with musician-inmates at Louisiana's Angola Prison.

Angola Prison — earlier the subject of an acclaimed short documentary about its famous rodeo — has a well-known, rich musical history; in the 30s, John and Alan Lomax recorded Leadbelly while he was serving time there. Chiarelli, a blues superstar in her native country, says she initially traveled to the American South a decade ago to "visit the birthplace of the blues" — a journey that included a stop at America's largest maximum security prison (5,000 inmates), where she discovered a thriving musical culture. Inspired ("the trueness totally moved me"), a planned concert for the prisoners became a concert with the men, including groups playing good ol' boy country, gospel, Stevie Wonder jams, and Chiarelli's own brand of raw, rootsy blues.

Gorgeously filmed in black and white, and crisply edited, McDonald's film emphasizes the joy and feelings of freedom the men have achieved through their musical pursuits. But it also acknowledges its inescapable setting, filming the dorm-style cell blocks, a visiting day filled with seldom-seen wives and children, the barbed wire encircling the years. "When you're playing music it's easy to forget where you are," the husky-voiced Chiarelli reflects. "But they're still in prison and that's rough."

Though most of the featured men don't directly address their crimes (their various offenses, including rape and murder, are addressed in the film's sobering end credits), themes of deep regret and redemption run throughout the film. Kind of like the blues.

Music From the Big House
June 15-21, 2:15, 4:10, 7, and 9:20pm (with live performance by Rita Chiarelli Sat/16, 7pm)
Sundance Kabuki Cinema
1881 Post, SF

Also Sun/17, 7pm, $12 (with live performance by Chiarelli)
Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center
1118 Fourth St., San Rafael
(415) 454-1222


And next weekend, get a sneak peek at an as-yet-unreleased (and not on DVD) documentary about acclaimed session musicians the Wrecking Crew, presented by the San Francisco Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society.

The film sounds kind of similar to the excellent 2002 doc Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about Motown's legendary Funk Brothers: the Wrecking Crew was hugely active in 1960s Los Angeles, adding their musicianship to hits by the Beach Boys, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the Monkees, the Mamas and the Papas, and more. (The film contains so many songs that its release has been held up over music-rights issues).

Producer-director Danny Tedesco — son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco — will be on hand to discuss the film, which he's been working on for over 15 years, after each screening.

The Wrecking Crew
June 23, 2:30 and 7pm, $20
Auctions By the Bay Theater
2700 Saratoga, Alameda

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