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“The making of JazzTown was a 13 year long labor of love collecting, shaping and protecting the life stories of my musical mentors from Denver. I went through two divorces, the loss of my father to cancer and eventually had to sell all of my drums and recording gear, my car and finally my home to see this project completed. During this time more than a few of my mentors and friends from JazzTown passed. My hard drives containing this film survived tropical floods on the island of Bali and a theft that robbed me of all of my film gear. I feel certain that the spirit of these folks have helped to see this story make it across the finish line and up onto the silver screen.”

JAZZTOWN 92 min. Directed by Ben Makinen

Meet the Grammy Winners and Colorado Music Hall of Famers of Colorado’s Jazz Scene!

Denver’s iconic and Grammy Award-winning musicians reveal the secrets of their success and longevity in the music business while warning the young lions to whom they pass the torch to stay relevant in a marketplace both treacherous and brutal.

The majestic Rocky Mountains tower over a bustling metropolis filled with steamy and romantic nightclubs where jazz flourishes on stage. JazzTown features never seen before live concert footage on historic stages that have now crumbled due to economic stresses of the Covid Pandemic. Tragically, more than a few of the stellar musicians featured in JazzTown have died during the making of this movie. Their stories and their passion and their wisdom live on to entertain and inspire the next generation.

Cast includes:

~ Dianne Reeves (5-time Grammy Award winner for Best Jazz Vocalist)
~ US Senator John Hickenlooper (former jazz club owner)
~ Ron Miles (Colorado Music Hall Of Fame, Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Ginger Baker,)
~ Charlie Hunter (Snarky Puppy, Christian McBride, Stanton Moore)
~ Art Lande (Naropa Institute,Mark Isham, Gary Peacock)
~ Ayo Awosika (Session Singer on Soundtracks of: Wakanda Forever, Nope, Dune; tours with Miley Cyrus)
~ Freddy Rodriguez Sr (Sax of El Chapultepec fame; recorded and performed w Rahsaan Roland Kirk)
~ Mitch Chmara (Denver’s electric guitar legend and master instructor)
~ Billy Wallace (pianist with Max Roach & Sonny Rollins)
~ Creighton Holley (Colorado’s R&B Legendary Vocalist & Guitarist)
~ Rekha Ohal (Brilliant Singer/Songwriter and vocal coach)
~ Charles Burrell (102 year old Living Legend of the Bass; played with Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker; member of the Colorado Symphony)

JazzTown is notable for:
~ having a cast that is the most ethnically diverse to be seen in a jazz documentary to date.
~ first jazz documentary to utilize arial drone photography.
~ having been made entirely by one person.

JazzTown features one Grammy winning musician (Dianne Reeves) and two other Colorado Music Hall of Famers: the legendary 102-year old Charles Burrell, and the beloved Colorado trumpet hero Ron Miles.

Also newsworthy is the presence of Nigerian-American session singer Ayo Awosika, a Denver resident at the time of filming. She now tours as a back up singer with Miley Cyrus and is heard singing with Rihanna on the soundtrack to Marvel’s Wakanda Forever!

Rocky Mountain PBS has committed to airing a one hour edit of JazzTown in the Spring of 2023. Makinen is currently seeking underwriters for this broadcast.

JazzTown and Makinen’s 22 minute short Who Killed Jazz have both been added to the libraries of CU Boulder and University of Colorado Denver. They are free to all faculty and staff (log into your library portal).

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ALSO! The Award-Winning short WHO KILLED JAZZ: now available on Vimeo!

This is a short documentary film derived from JazzTown outtakes and additional footage shot in Bali, Indonesia.

Elite professional jazz musicians address the elephant in the room: why are musicians living in poverty while the club owners and music distributors profit off of their life’s work? Have the musicians lost touch with their audience, or have they been duped and enslaved by a brutal music business?

Action packed with live performances and candid behind the scenes confessions!

Ben Makinen – Bmakin Film

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