That the Fort Lauderdale-based Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble is one of the most highly regarded high school jazz bands in the country may not be news to local music lovers. But the discipline and sacrifice that these students and their families invest to achieve such excellence may be.
“You don’t have to like each other, but you are going to respect each other.” That’s longtime DCA band director Christopher Dorsey, speaking to the rainbow of young musicians seated in front of him during a rehearsal that he has brought to a halt in the opening scene of the documentary film “Sweet Dillard.”
The man referred to throughout the film, by young and old, as Mr. Dorsey has a problem with a distracting moment of cliquishness. He has stopped to call out self-segregated pockets of black and white musicians “doing their own thing,” playing without regard for the rest of the band or, worst of all, for the music.
It’s a contradiction of what Mr. Dorsey is trying to teach these young people, a way of living that requires unity and responsibility to achieve a greater goal. Most important, he demands that they listen to each other.
It’s not a point Mr. Dorsey needs to harp on. He’s made it before. He cuts off his lecture abruptly, with a quiet “Here we go. One, two, one, two, three, hah!” as the band swings into an infectiously upbeat take on Coleman Hawkins’ “Body & Soul.”
“Sweet Dillard” is a 54-minute profile of the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble shot over the course of the 2014 school year that culminated in a New York City appearance in the Essentially Ellington competition, an annual high school jazz-band battle for 15 finalists from around the country chosen by Jazz at Lincoln Center and artistic director Wynton Marsalis.
The film, which premieres Sunday afternoon at O Cinema on Miami Beach as part of the Miami International Film Festival, was directed by Jim Virga, assistant professor in the Cinema and Interactive Media department at the University of Miami. Its producers and cinematographers are Mike and Susan Stocker, Sun Sentinel photographers whose son, Ben, played saxophone in the DCA band. Dia Kontaxis is the editor of the film.
A celebration of remarkably precocious music performed by local students who have made a name for themselves on the national jazz scene, this also is a film that touches on race, socio-economics and arts funding in public schools. Several of the students end up with scholarships to prestigious music programs, such as Michigan State University and the University of Miami. The other hero of the story is Mr. Dorsey.
“It can be about different things to different people,” Virga says. “Those issues are a very important part of the story, but it’s how Mr. Dorsey handles those things that makes it powerful. What he does is amazing.”
And, in the end, what he has done is create a group that does seem to genuinely like and respect each other, illustrated in the extraordinary synchronization they achieve onstage, but also in more personal, quiet moments at home. If we all could live with such harmony ...
The current DCA jazz band, led by Mr. Dorsey, is scheduled to perform at 1 p.m. Sunday, a roughly 30-minute set leading into the "Sweet Dillard" screening at O Cinema (500 71st St., Miami Beach), with some members of the 2014 band also expected. Tickets are $13. Info: 2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com. The band also is set for a free performance at 8 p.m. Saturday at the ArtsPark in Hollywood. Info: VisitHollywoodFL.org. More info: DCAJazz.com.
THE MARSALIS VIBE
Wynton Marsalis’ youngest brother, vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, will bring music from his latest LP, “The 21st Century Trad Band,” to the Arts Garage (94 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach) at 8 p.m. Saturday. The album, which includes glockenspiel, xylophone and marimba, shows off Marsalis’ “wonderfully crisp technique and a flair for inventing catchy melodies. As for the title number, you’ve never heard ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ sound anything like this” (The Guardian). Tickets: $25-$50. Info: ArtsGarage.org.
RAY OF HOPE
Ray LaMontagne on Friday releases his sixth studio album, “Ouroboros” (RCA), and also puts tickets on sale for its supporting tour, stopping at the Fillmore Miami Beach on Saturday, Aug. 13. The first song released from the Jim James-produced album, “Hey, No Pressure,” finds LaMontagne again testing our assumptions of what he sounds like, his trademark tenderness dripping in thick, syrupy bass and a throbbing layer of fuzzy guitar as he offers the quietly euphoric refrain: “Anything you want to be, you can be. Anything you want your life to mean, you can mean.” Tickets for his Fillmore show are $39.50-$54.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at the Fillmore box office (1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) LiveNation.com and at 800-745-3000. Info: FillmoreMB.com.
YOUR WEEKEND BEER
Saltwater Brewery (1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach) on Thursday (March 3) releases the minimally hoppy Lighthouse Lager, if you are in the mood for something light on Saturday, when the brewery will have live music from T-Wave. Info: Facebook.com/SaltwaterBrewery. Wednesday (March 9) brings the release of another beer entirely, the bourbon barrel-aged 88 Shilling Scotch Ale at rapidly expanding Due South Brewing (2900 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach). Info: Facebook.com/DueSouthBrewing.
TINY DESK CONTEST WINNER
No, you didn’t win NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. Out of more than 6,000 entries from around the country, the winner is Gaelynn Lea from Duluth, Minn. “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen announced the choice of Lea Thursday morning in a note on the show’s website. He said the judges (Boilen and co-host Robin Hilton, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Arcs, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius and Son Little) found Lea “so compelling we're thrilled about this announcement.” It’s hard to argue with their call. A classically trained fiddler, Lea’s video of an original song, "Someday We'll Linger in the Sun," doesn’t have much in the way of production values, which is just as well. Less to distract from the aching beauty of her poetry and her performance. Hit the link to watch the Gaelynn Lea Tiny Desk Contest entry.
News came this week that the third annual CrawDebauchery Food & Music Festival will include a Krewe Competition, with krewes vying for “best booth” awards and nominating one of their own to be the first King and Queen of the event. CrawDebauchery is two days this year, April 2-3, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, with headliners Galactic leading a lineup that includes Maggie Koerner, Geno Delafose, Rockin’ Jake, Dwayne Dopsie and Chubby Carrier. For more information on the festival and the krewe competition, visit CrawDebauchery.com.
THE BIG SHORTY
Warm up for all that Louisiana-ana with a mess of hard-edged, funked-up jazz from the Crescent City by one of the best, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, at 8 p.m. Friday at Revolution Live (100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Tickets: $28, $30. Info: JoinTheRevolution.net.
Founding member of the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney and Wings, guitarist Denny Laine is likely to channel music from both bands when he plays the Culture Room (3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale) on Thursday (March 10). Local singer-songwriter Jim Camacho, no stranger to Paul McCartney’s catalog, will open the show with a set that includes a new song, “Make it to the Morning Light,” inspired by his recent trip to South Africa. Info: CultureRoom.net, JimCamacho.com.
EAT, SMOKE, RAP
Action Bronson, the New York-based rapper and former chef, is the star of the premiere episode of “F*uck, That’s Delicious” on the fledgling Viceland network Thursday night (March 3). This episode of the smokey, foodie travelogue, which follows Bronson and crew on a tour supporting the album “Mr. Wonderful,” stops in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami Beach, where the delicacies prepared by Executive Chef Conor Hanlon at the Dutch leave his mind particularly blown. Catch the show at 10 p.m. Info: Viceland.com.
BAR AND GIRLS
Cupcake Burlesque will rock as only they can Saturday night in a new location, American Rock Bar and Grill (1600 E. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach), with favorites Miss Jenna Beth, Isadora Bull, Candy Muldune and the Fabulous Francean Fanny doing the dirty work. Remy Connor is the mystifying emcee, with two-for-one drinks providing additional distraction. Info: Facebook.com/CupcakeBurlesque.
Saturday’s 6:45 p.m. screening of the trippy Peruvian noir mystery “The Vanished Elephant” at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood (2008 Hollywood Blvd.) will include a Skype Q&A with its director Javier Fuentes-León (“Undertow”). Over at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale, “Son of Saul,” this year's Oscar winner for best foreign film, has been extended one more week, through March 10. Info: FLIFF.com.
Wednesday (March 9) is National Meatball Day, an occasion that will be treated with all proper solemnity at Fork & Balls (1301 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), with its second annual meatball-eating contest beginning at 7:30 p.m. It’s $20 to enter (on-site registration begins at 7 p.m.), with prizes including $500 cash (first place) and a free tour on The Brew Bus South Florida (second place). To make sure you get a seat at the table, register in advance at 954-771-2257 or via email to email@example.com. To further honor the day, Fork & Balls will offer $1 meatballs all day and two-for-one drinks 4-7 p.m. Info: ForkAndBalls.com.
NEW COLOR RUN DATE
The Color Run in downtown Fort Lauderdale has a new date, April 23. The family-friendly and famously pigmented 5K originally was set to take place March 19, but organizers took a step back. “Due to increasing feedback, the weekend we chose is just too busy with Spring Break activities,” read a statement at TheColorRun.com. “To accommodate more of our returning Color Runners we’ve decided to move the date.” The event, open to teams and individuals of any (or no) running ability, begins at 7:30 a.m. at Huizenga Plaza (32 E. Las Olas Blvd.), with festivities running through noon. You can register now for $34.99, $14.99 ages 5 and younger. Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale is a partner charity for the event. Info: TheColorRun.com, GoRiverwalk.com.