Between 1951 and 1960, an American phenomenon called 'The Music Inn' attained legendary, even iconic status in jazz circles, but continued to evade recognition by the American public, for many decades. Now, with his documentary Music Inn, American film producer Ben Barenholz (Miller's Crossing, Requiem for a Dream) makes his directorial debut, and climbs inside of this legacy for a protracted cinematic exploration of it. Via interviews with jazz legends, vintage photographs, and period archival footage, Barenholz tells the story of visionary American couple Stephanie and Philip Barber, who in 1950 launched the titular summer haven for jazz and folk musicians in the Berkshires. The Music Inn featured both 'Jazz and Folk Roundtables' (or academic discussions of music history, theory and craft led by Professor Marshall Sterns) and 'Jazz Workshops,' where musicians gathered to practice and explore their craft on collective instrumentation. In seemingly no time at all, the site became a magnet for musical giants from across the U.S. Barenholtz's documentary recounts this story by intercutting vintage photographs, archival footage, soundtrack recordings from the Inn, and interviews with both Stephanie Barber and the surviving musicians who participated in the original collective. Subtopics include: race relations as they impacted the club (and the inn as a respite from segregation); The Music Inn as a retreat for both musical artists and their families; the politics of the organization; and its impact on subsequent musical expression, via an investigation of the music that preceded and succeeded it.
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