Virgil Films

In a community like ours, with so many musicians and so many teachers, it would be good if Chops found a large DVD audience. Near the middle of the academic year, when enthusiasm sometimes flags, and when students and teachers may need to be reminded of the joy to be found in the exchange of teaching and learning, Chops can serve as a source of inspiration. Directed by Bruce Broder, the film follows a handful of high school jazz bands as they prepare to compete in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual Essentially Ellington Festival. Last fall, Wynton Marsalis brought the Jazz at Lincoln Center ensemble to Chico for a memorable night of music at Laxson Auditorium, and Marsalis plays an important role in this documentary. He is interviewed for the “special features” that follow the film and, as is always the case when Marsalis talks about jazz, his observations are cogent and heartfelt. But best of all is when he awards the top recognition to a band of kids from Jacksonville, Fla., right after we’ve seen them embody the best of the jazz tradition in a soulful and utterly tight performance that amply demonstrates just how much they’ve learned. It’s inspiring. That’s an understatement.