Reno Jazz and Film Festival
Pucker up your lips and get ready to blow—there’s a big event coming up. No, not Valentine’s Day—the third annual Reno Jazz and Film Festival, co-presented by For the Love of Jazz (FTLOJ) and the Great Basin Film Society (GBFS) at the Sands Regency “Just For Laughs” comedy club, over the next three Sunday afternoons.
Each day pairs a classic, jazz-related film with live music from some of the area’s top musicians.
The GBFS is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an alternative cinema experience here in what founding member Steve Savage describes as “a one-theater town. Well, a one-cinema-company town anyway. … We try to provide the intimate atmosphere of an art-house theater.”
FTLOJ is also a non-profit organization that promotes a beloved art form.
“But, For the Love of Jazz is not just an appreciation society,” says board member David Ake, also chairman of the University of Nevada, Reno’s department of music and dance. “It’s by musicians, for musicians.” The organization helps provide year-round opportunities for musicians.
“We help keep Reno’s jazz scene thriving and vibrant,” says Ake.
The Jazz and Film Festival, held in February in honor of Black History Month, provides area music fans with unique opportunities to see some of the area’s best contemporary talent alongside classic films about the musicians that inspire them.
The first Sunday will include music by the esteemed UNR faculty group The Collective.
“This will be our third year,” says Ake, pianist for the group. “We really enjoy it because it provides us an opportunity to focus on different periods. The first year, for example, we played before Thelonious Monk, Straight, No Chaser and did all Monk tunes.”
This year, The Collective should have an opportunity to focus on a wide range of styles when it plays before a series of short films. Selections include a 1961 television pilot called After Hours, featuring appearances by Coleman Hawkins and Milt Hinton; and Newport Jazz Festival ‘62, documentary footage of that historic festival featuring performances by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, three vastly different artists.
“Though you hear the differences,” says Ake, “hopefully you also get a sense of the common lineage.”
The second Sunday features Stormy Weather, a 1943 wartime musical directed by Andrew L. Stone that features an all African-American cast, including Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Cab Calloway and Fats Waller. The film features some grandiose musical numbers, and the day’s live music performance will be by Ce Ce Gable. “It’s a great match-up,” says Ake. “She has a great knowledge and love of those sort of swinging Tin Pan Alley songs.”
The final event will be the Dickie Mills Quintet, a venerated group that Ake describes as the “stylistic forefathers of all the jazz in town today,” paired with Last of the Blue Devils, a 1979 film by Bruce Ricker. The film documents a 1974 reunion of prohibition-era Kansas City stars like Count Basie and Big Joe Turner. “All these great musicians are so glad to see each other,” says Savage, “and we just get to eavesdrop on that.”
There will be free popcorn and, for those who like to start drinking early on Sundays, the bar will be open. "And that’s a service they don’t offer at Century Theatres," says Savage.