Weekend Extra: A Film About Chuck Israels


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Following his five years as the bassist in the Bill Evans Trio, Chuck Israels worked with a variety of leaders, among them J.J. Johnson, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock and Hampton Hawes. His repertory orchestra, The National Jazz Ensemble, and his writing for the Metropole Orchestra disclosed his range and depth as an arranger. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2010 after nearly a quarter of a century of teaching music at the university level. It wasn’t long before Israels organized an octet of some of the best musicians in the Pacific Northwest’s rich pool of talent. Much of the band’s music is arranged by Israels based on recorded performances of Evans. In a 2012 review of the band in performance, I wrote:

Translating the music from Evans’ fingers through eighty fingers and eight brains requires more than technical ability in playing and writing, although it must have plenty of that. It demands an understanding of and feeling for the underlying impulses and emotions in the music. [The Audience] was feeling what the musicians felt in the profundity, beauty and joy of Evans’ music.

The Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra’s repertoire still includes interpretations of Evans, but Israels also applies his methods to other music. A new film portrait by Elijah Hasan captures Israels’ insistence on meticulousness as the band prepares for performance. It also allows the viewer glimpses of his home life, even unto salad-making. I suggest that you schedule adequate time for this 36-minute film. If you can watch it full-screen, so much the better. If you are asked for a password, use: Swing

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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