After Sunny’s time now, his authoritative portrait of the American Free jazz drumming legend Sunny Murray, Luxembourg filmmaker Antoine Prum turns his attention to the British Free Improvised Music scene in this new feature-length music documentary. Branching out from a three-day festival in Berlin conceived and organised for the purpose of the film, Taking the Dog for a Walk maps the scene of British Improvisers, past and present, retracing the road that led from its emergence and emancipation in the 1960s to the recent (albeit small) surge in popularity as talented new players and dynamic venues are coming to the fore.
In his search for the ‘Britishness’ of British Free Improvised Music, Prum is assisted by bass sax player Tony Bevan and stand-up comedian Stewart Lee, who talk to musicians from different generations and backgrounds to uncover the specifics of a genre that refutes the very notion of genre. Alternating with extended live music sequences, the conversations gravitate around the idiosyncrasies of improvisation, from playing in front of the proverbial ‘four men and a dog’ to pursuing a career in a milieu where success is not measured by mainstream criteria.
You can probably count on one hand the number of films about improvised music that don’t focus on particular individuals. From Imagine the Sound to Jazz is My Religion, few are the filmmakers who get the collaborative, longue durée shapes that scenes and communities take, with the indelible changes these entail for music-making. - Jason Bivins