The Whitney Museum of American Art To Present Jason Moran This September

The first solo museum show of Jason Moran (b. 1975, Houston, Texas), the interdisciplinary artist who grounds his work in music composition, will make its New York debut at the Whitney September 20, 2019. Jason Moran, which originated at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in the spring of 2018, presents the range of art Moran has explored, from his own sculptures and drawings to collaborations with visual artists to performance and video.

Jason Moran, STAGED: Slug’s Saloon

An immersive installation will fill the Whitney’s eighth floor galleries from September 20, 2019 through January 5, 2020. The exhibition will be activated by in-gallery musical performances by the artist himself and by other musicians throughout the run of the show. Two marquee events unique to the Whitney’s presentation will include the New York premiere of Kara Walker’s Katastwóf Karavan (2018), a steam-powered calliope housed in a parade wagon, and a special twentieth anniversary concert for Moran’s trio, The Bandwagon.

Jason Moran is overseen at the Whitney by Adrienne Edwards, the Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance, who originated the show at the Walker.

A renowned musician and composer known for jazz styles from stride piano to free improvisation, Moran’s experimental approach to artmaking aligns objects with sound in an effort to underscore their inherent theatricality. Whether executed through the medium of sculpture, drawing, or sound, his works bridge the visual and performing arts. In all aspects, Moran’s creative process is informed by one of the essential tenets of jazz music: the “set,” in which musicians come together to engage in a collaborative process of improvisation, riffing off of one another to create the musical experience.

Jason Moran is one of the most vital and boundary-breaking creative voices of our time, and his wide-ranging collaborations with other visual and performing artists have had a profoundly generative effect on their work as well as on his own artistic development,” remarked Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “This exhibition extends the Whitney’s long and vibrant history of presenting artists who traverse the boundaries of the visual and performing arts and brings together so many artists who are dear to the Museum. We’re thrilled the show marks Adrienne Edwards’s curatorial debut in our galleries and also Jason’s return to the Whitney, following his appearances in Glenn Ligon: AMERICA in 2011 and our Biennial the following year.”

Jazz pianist, composer, and performance artist Jason Moran was born in Houston, Texas in 1975 and earned a degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 1997, where he studied with Jaki Byard. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010 and has been the Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center since 2014. Deeply invested in reassessing and complicating the relationship between music and language, Moran’s extensive efforts in composition, improvisation, and performance challenge the status quo while respecting the accomplishments of his predecessors.

It is heartening to have the national tour of Jason’s exhibition culminate in New York City, where he and so many of his collaborators live and make their work. New York is where jazz has evolved, and the venues that fostered it are referenced directly in the major sculptures that serve as stages within the show,” noted Edwards. “Presenting the exhibition at the Whitney makes for a double ‘homecoming,’ since Jason and his collaborators have long-standing histories with the Museum, having exhibited here or featuring in our collection. Taking its cue from Jason’s art and that of his collaborators, this show questions the boundaries between artistic disciplines and how they are presented. It is a solo show that is also a group show; it takes place in neither a white cube nor a black box theater or nightclub, but rather in an in-between space that is some combination of them all. It is a survey exhibition, yet holds together like a singular art installation—at times a visual art show and at other times a performance venue.

Jason Moran, which originated at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in the spring of 2018, and has traveled nationally to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Wexner Center for the Arts, considers the artist’s solo and collaborative works as generative investigations that further the fields of experimental jazz, performance, and visual art. Shown together for the first time in this exhibition, Moran’s mixed-media “set” installations STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1 (2015), STAGED: Three Deuces (2015), and STAGED: Slugs’ Saloon (2018) pay homage to iconic jazz venues of New York’s past. Collaboration has been central to Moran’s experiments, and among the many artists with whom he has collaborated are Stan Douglas, Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, Lorna Simpson, and Carrie Mae Weems. These collaborative works are exhibited here, many in a synchronized loop arranged by Moran on projection screens. Moran’s original musical scores and a recent selection of his charcoal drawings from the ongoing Run series, which give sculptural presence to sound, are also featured in the exhibition.

STAGED

Sculptural vignettes based on storied New York City music venues, Moran’s STAGED works reimagine the architecture of these cultural landmarks and double as concert stages. STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1 and STAGED: Three Deuces were part of Moran’s contributions to the 2015 Venice Biennale international exhibition All the World’s Future, curated by Okwui Enwezor. The latest sculpture from the series, STAGED: Slugs’ Saloon (2018), was commissioned for this exhibition by the Walker Art Center. Each is integrally connected to the social history and real politics of the venues for which they are named—important sites of invention and innovation in jazz that were also testing grounds of American policies of nondiscrimination at the height of the Jim Crow period of segregation.

The legendary Savoy Ballroom, which operated between 1926 and 1958 on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, was synonymous with the Swing Era and presented legendary big bands and performers, including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, and Count Basie. Moran’s STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1 is lined with an ornate Dutch wax print fabric and features a lush curving wall and overhanging ceiling. The sculpture’s pristine veneer seems counter to the repetitive and droning prison work songs that emanate from speakers. Midtown Manhattan’s Three Deuces club, which operated on 52nd Street from the mid-1940s to 1950s, was an incubator for bebop pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Max Roach. To evoke this seminal venue with STAGED: Three Deuces, Moran uses pale vinyl padding compressed under a barely eight-foot-tall ceiling and focuses on the corner of a room to conjure the compressed dimensions of the original venue.

Similarly, STAGED: Slugs’ Saloon pays homage to the celebrated East Village jazz venue that presented music from 1964 to 1972 on East Third Street. Often referred to as a “jazz dive”, Slugs’ Saloon showcased free jazz and some of the most important avant-gardists of the era, including Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra. While the original space was described as narrow and oftentimes tightly packed, Moran’s Slugs’ Saloon is open with two mirrors flanking the stage and a multitier platform with a wooden floor that holds a vintage upright piano and drum set. The lower level holds a single chair and Wurlitzer Americana II jukebox, programmed with whistling tunes and samplings of audience incantations from the Village Vanguard.

RUN

Moran’s drawings from the Run series, originally shown at Luhring Augustine in 2016 for his first gallery exhibition, offer highly gestural entrees into the artist’s process. To create the works, Moran tapes elongated pieces of paper on the keys of a piano or keyboard and caps his fingers with charcoal. The paper then catches the movements of his playing. Reminiscent of Robert Morris’s series of Blind Time drawings, the works also bring to mind David Hammons’s basketball drawings and body prints or the impromptu drawings created by Joan Jonas during live performances. Achieved through acts of repetition, the Run series reveals the usually private and deliberate process of jazz composition and the artist’s performance practice, offering viewers an intimate view of his body’s movements in relation to the piano.

COLLABORATIONS

Projects and collaborations, central to Moran’s practice, are represented in the exhibition through the presentation of the artist’s work with leading visual artists. Since 2005, Moran has completed four collaborations with pioneering video performance artist Joan Jonas, and the evolution of much of Moran’s visual work, such as his extension of performance techniques to the process of drawing in the Run series or his transposition of traditional cultural forms into contemporary art, can be tracked through his work with Jonas. Moran first collaborated with Jonas on the music for The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, an opera performed for the first time in 2005 at Dia: Beacon, and later on Reading Dante (2007–10), Reanimation (2012), and They Come to Us without a Word II (2015). For his first foray into filmmaking, artist Glenn Ligon tapped Moran to compose the score for Death of Tom (2008), an abstract re-creation of a scene from Edwin S. Porter’s fourteen-minute silent film version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In Stan Douglas’s six-hour, single-channel film Luanda-Kinshasa (2013) depicting a fictional jazz-funk band in a recording session sometime in the mid-1970s, Moran appears as the band leader and worked with Douglas on song sequencing for this intricately composed film.

Exclusive to the presentation of Jason Moran at the Whitney will be the temporary installation of Kara Walker’s Katastwóf Karavan (2018) outside in front of the Museum. A steam-powered calliope housed in a parade wagon featuring silhouetted scenes on all four sides in Walker’s distinctive style, Katastwóf Karavan debuted in 2018 at the Prospect.4 Triennial in New Orleans. Katastwóf Karavan takes its title from the Haitian Creole phrase for “caravan of catastrophe” and alludes to the subjugation, violence, and humiliation of life for African Americans in the Antebellum South. The work also plays songs and sounds programmed by Walker and Moran that the artists associate with the long history of African American protest music. In the Prospect.4 Triennial, Moran played the work live via keyboard for two improvised performances. Moran will present another improvised performance with the work at the Whitney in October 2019.

Moran’s recording and performing activity has included collaborations with masters of the jazz form, including Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell, and the late Sam Rivers. His work with his acclaimed trio The Bandwagon (with drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen) has resulted in a profound discography for Blue Note Records. Moran has a long-standing collaborative practice with his wife, the mezzo-soprano and composer Alicia Hall Moran. For the 2012 Whitney Biennial, together they organized BLEED, a five-day performance gathering that featured more than ninety performers, including Rashida Bumbray, Bill Frisell, Joan Jonas, Lorraine O’Grady, Esperanza Spalding, and Kara Walker. In 2016, Moran and Hall Moran formed the indie label YES RECORDS. Releases include Moran’s critically-acclaimed live solo piano recording, The Armory Concert (2016), as well as Thanksgiving at the Vanguard (2017), and BANGS (2017). Moran, who teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, has produced several film scores and soundtracks, including the scores for Ava DuVernay’s films Selma and 13th.

Moran’s work has been presented by institutions including the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, the Dia Art Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Harlem Stage, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. His first solo museum exhibition Jason Moran premiered in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center from April 26 through August 26, 2018 and traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston from September 19 through January 21, 2019. It was on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts through August 11, 2019 before its U.S. finale in Moran’s hometown of New York City at the Whitney.

This exhibition is accompanied by a 272-page publication, published in conjunction with the Walker Art Center’s 2018 exhibition, which considers the artist’s practice and his collaborative works as interdisciplinary investigations that further the fields of experimental jazz and visual art. Edited by Adrienne Edwards, it features an interview with the artist, and essays by Philip Bither, Okwui Enwezor, Danielle Jackson, Alicia Hall Moran, George E. Lewis, and Glenn Ligon. These texts are accompanied by a photo essay by Moran, a section documenting the creation of Moran’s STAGED sculptures, installation views from the Walker, photographs and other ephemera, and a complete list of works included in the Walker exhibition.

Jason Moran is organized by the Walker Art Center, and curated by Adrienne Edwards with Danielle A. Jackson. The Whitney’s presentation is overseen by Adrienne Edwards, the Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance.

Jason Moran is sponsored by Delta. Generous support for Jason Moran is provided by The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Significant support is provided by Norman and Melissa Selby and the Joyce and George Wein Foundation.

“She Loves Me” from THIRTEEN’s “Great Performances” Kicks Off PBS’s Broadway’s Best Lineup

The critically-acclaimed Roundabout Theatre Company production of She Loves Me comes to THIRTEEN‘s Great Performances, Friday, October 20 at 9 p.m. (check local listings) as the opening presentation of PBS’s fall Broadway’s best lineup. Every Friday night, from October through December, PBS will give theater lovers a front-row seat to some of the best-loved Broadway shows, from glorious, feel-good musicals to captivating dramas. All four titles are productions by the theater streaming service BroadwayHD in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.GP-Logo

She Loves Me joins Present Laughter (November 3), Indecent (November 19), and Holiday Inn (November 24, and also from Roundabout) as part of PBS’s Broadway’s best lineup, directed for television by Emmy Award-winner David Horn, executive producer of both Great Performances and THIRTEEN‘s local Theater Close-Up series.

For over 50 years, PBS has provided audiences locally and across the country with unparalleled access to some of the most exciting and eclectic theater offerings on Broadway and beyond. We’re pleased to continue this great tradition with a diverse mix of recent critically acclaimed productions,” Horn said.

She Loves Me was the first Broadway musical ever to stream live during a performance at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54. In the musical, Tony Award® winner Laura Benanti and Tony Award® nominee Zachary Levi star as Amalia and Georg, two parfumerie clerks who aren’t quite the best of friends. Constantly bumping heads while on the job, the sparring coworkers can’t seem to find common ground. But little do they know, the anonymous romantic pen pals they have both been falling for happen to be each other. Will love continue to blossom once their identities are finally revealed?

Critics unanimously embraced this latest production. Mark Kennedy of Associated Press, for one, remarked, “An astounding cast, a nifty story and memorable songs turn this revival into a celebration of classic musical construction.

Marilyn Stasio of Variety raved, “The enchanting Broadway revival is so charming, you kind of wish it would follow you home.”

For BroadwayHD this performance of She Loves Me was produced by Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley and captured by BroadwayHD in June 2016, in association with Ellen M. Krass Productions, Inc. and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC FOR WNET. It was directed for television by David Horn.

Part of Roundabout’s 50th Anniversary Season, She Loves Me also starred Byron Jennings (Maraczek), Gavin Creel (Kodaly), Tom McGowan (Sipos) and Jane Krakowski (Ilona) with Nicholas Barasch (Arpad) and Peter Bartlett (Head Waiter).

The production was directed by Tony Award® nominee Scott Ellis, choreographed by Warren Carlyle with musical direction by Paul Gemignani. This classic musical comedy features a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock.

This marks the second presentation of She Loves Me on Great Performances which aired a well-remembered British studio version starring Robin (“Poldark”) Ellis and Gemma (“The Slipper and the Rose”) Craven which delighted viewers.

The celebrated score features favorites such as “Vanilla Ice Cream,” “A Romantic Atmosphere,” “Dear Friend,” and “She Loves Me.” The musical is based on a play by Miklos Laszlo, whose well-known romantic story was the basis for the 1940 James Stewart film “The Shop Around the Corner,” the 1949 Judy Garland and Van Johnson musical “In the Good Old Summertime,” and the 1998 Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan film “You’ve Got Mail.

Roundabout’s Associate Artistic Director Scott Ellis previously directed Roundabout’s ten-time Tony-nominated revival of “She Loves Me” in 1993, which marked the first Broadway musical in the company’s history and launched the Musical Theatre Program at Roundabout.

The production started previews on February 19, 2016, and with the official opening on March 17, 2016. The creative team includes David Rockwell (sets), Jeff Mahshie (costumes), Don Holder (Lights), Jon Weston (Sound), Larry Hochman (Orchestrations), David Krane (Dance Arrangements & Incidental Music).

Major support for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of She Loves Me is provided by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation. The stage production of She Loves Me also benefits from Roundabout’s Musical Theatre Fund with lead gifts from The Howard Gilman Foundation, Perry and Marty Granoff, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and Michael Kors and Lance Le Pere.

The Full Schedule:

GREAT PERFORMANCES: She Loves Me

Friday, October 20, 9 p.m.

(See Above) Continue reading

Lifestyle Network, Feast It Forward, Provides Major Funding for “Chefs Flight” on THIRTEEN’s American Masters Series May 2017 on PBS

“Foodie Film Festival” Will Features Four Documentaries On Iconic Chefs: James Beard, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin And Alice Waters

American Masters has announced that Feast it Forward™ has provided major funding for aChefs Flightof four documentaries on culinary legends James Beard, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Alice Waters, premiering May 2017 on PBS as part of the series’ 31st season. New documentaries American Masters – James Beard: America’s First Foodie and American Masters – Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft will be paired with encore presentations of American Masters: Julia! America’s Favorite Chef and American Masters: Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution, respectively.feast-it-forward-logo-fif_black-2-10-3-16

Exploring beyond the plate, bottle and guitar, Feast it Forward Network, the new online lifestyle network featuring all things food, wine and philanthropy with a taste of music, seeks to feed the soul with entertaining, inspiring and educational programming. As their Ultimate Airstream Film Lounge continues to hit the road and engage viewers while hosting unique lifestyle events, its flagship “Live Studio Showroom” will open in downtown Napa Spring of 2017. A two story experiential estate, it will feature a 16 premier vintner tasting collective, a full demonstration studio kitchen, educational outdoor entertaining space, performing music stage, interior design showroom and much more. Beyond the growing online network programming which features master chefs, actors, tastemakers, and musicians, this live studio will truly bring Feast it Forward Network to life as viewers will be able to personally experience all things food, wine and philanthropy…with a taste of music. (More information can be found at feastitforward.com)screen-shot-2016-01-07-at-9_37_54-am

We are thrilled to be able to bring the savory stories behind these culinary geniuses to viewers thanks to Feast It Forward’s generous support. Collectively, they set America’s dinner table, and I think people will enjoy seeing the connections between each of these chefs and how we eat today,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters.

We are elated to be supporting such important programs. The food world is beyond grateful for these iconic chefs and we are indebted to them for the path they helped pave for us to walk. Our online network tells the story of people, places and experiences that connect us to one another in ways that are beyond the plate and bottle, so it was a natural fit to be part of this impressive series. Along with celebrating the work of James Beard, Julia Child, and Alice Waters, it’s a true honor to say we took part in sharing Jacques Pépin’s story. I think it is safe to say I speak for masses who grew up watching him with such admiration; this is our way of saying thank you. It’s time to give something back for all those years he shared with us,” said Katie Hamilton Shaffer, founder and president of Feast it Forward.

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Chef James Beard. Credit: Dan Wynn

American Masters – James Beard: America’s First Foodie

Premieres Friday, May 19, 9-10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

Experience a century of food through the life of one man, James Beard (1903-1985). Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times, Beard was a Portland, Ore., native who loved and celebrated the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. He spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the vernacular. At a time of “all things French,” Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table, and was the first chef to go on television to teach not only women, but men, how to cook. A cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher, Beard helped to pioneer and expand the food media industry into the billion-dollar business it is today. Written and Directed by Elizabeth Federici. Produced by Elizabeth Federici and Kathleen Squires. A production of Federici Films LLC and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Presents the World Premiere of Patsy Cline Documentary Beginning March 4 on PBS During Women’s History Month

Features Exclusive Access To The Cline Estate, Rare Performances And New Interviews With Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Wanda Jackson, Beverly D’Angelo And Others, With Narration By Rosanne Cashscreen-shot-2016-01-07-at-9_37_54-am

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, The late Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932-March 5, 1963) defined modern country music by using her singular talent and heart‐wrenching emotional depth to break down barriers of gender, class and genre. In her music and her life, she set a standard of authenticity towards which artists still strive. After years of hard work to overcome industry gender biases and her own personal hardships and professional missteps, she achieved success, only to have it punctured by uncanny premonitions and her untimely death at age 30. The new documentary Patsy Cline: American Masters premieres nationwide beginning March 4 on PBS (check local listings) during Women’s History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. 2017 marks the 85th anniversary of Cline’s birth.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

Cline boldly bucked female conventions of the 1950s with her fashion sense, her decision to divorce, her support of fellow female artists, and her assertive ambition to get opportunities equal to those of her male Nashville peers, such as the same kind of headliner billing and radio airplay, particularly after breaking free of her unfavorable contract with Four Star Records. Six years after her national breakthrough on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS, 1957), she died in a plane crash returning home from a benefit performance. Her many posthumous honors include being the first solo female performer to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a U.S. postage stamp. She was also portrayed in the Oscar-winning feature film Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) by D’Angelo and in Sweet Dreams (1985) by Jessica Lange.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

Narrated by Rosanne Cash, Patsy Cline: American Masters examines the roots of Cline’s impact in both personal and cultural terms to illuminate how she arrived at a pivotal moment in the evolution of American culture and, with Decca Records producer Owen Bradley, synthesized country, pop and rock in a new way to create the Nashville Sound. With exclusive access to the Cline estate, the film features rare performances of such Cline classics as “Walkin’ After Midnight” “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” “Come On In,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy,” “You Made Me Love You” and more.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

The documentary also features exclusive archival interviews with Cline’s contemporaries and new interviews with a wide range of artists who have been influenced by Cline: LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Rhiannon Giddens, Wanda Jackson, Bill Anderson, Beverly D’Angelo, Callie Khouri, Reba McEntire, Mickey Guyton and more.

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Country music singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, who was influenced by Patsy Cline, is interviewed in “Patsy Cline: American Masters.” Credit: Peggy Sirota

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Country music singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, who was influenced by Patsy Cline, is interviewed in “Patsy Cline: American Masters.” Credit: Peggy Sirota

It’s been such a privilege to tell the story of Patsy Cline. For me, her story exceeds her musical accomplishments. She is in a rare class of women who simply set out to achieve their dreams and through those efforts left an indelible mark,” said Emmy-nominated director and producer Barbara J. Hall. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Presents Exclusive U.S. Broadcast Premiere of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, February 21 on PBS During Black History Month

First Feature Documentary On The Author/Activist Features Exclusive Interviews With Dr. Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Bill And Hillary Clinton, And Others

Year-Long #InspiringWomanPBS Online Campaign Launches This Week At pbs.org/americanmasters

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Dr. Maya Angelou on the set of “Oprah’s Master Class,” circa January 2011. Credit: OWN

Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House), she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. The first feature documentary about her life, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) during Black History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN‘s American Masters series. PBS Distribution will release the film on DVD the same day, with additional bonus features, and on Digital HD February 22. The film title is based on one of our favorite poems by Dr. Angelou, “Still I Rise” from her poetry collection And Still I Rise (Random House).

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Dr. Maya Angelou, circa late 70s/early 80s. Credit: Getty Images

MAYA ANGELOU

Dr. Maya Angelou is best known for her best-selling autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (Random House), photo taken November 3, 1971. Credit: © WF/AP/Corbis

With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise reveals hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments. The film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including (in alphabetical order) Diahann Carroll, actress; Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State; Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the U.S.’ Common, hip-hop artist/actor; Jules Feiffer, writer/cartoonist; Nikki Giovanni, writer; Louis Gossett, Jr., actor; Guy B. Johnson, Dr. Angelou’s son; Quincy Jones, musician/producer/composer; Robert Loomis, Dr. Angelou’s editor; Don Martin, dancer/opened for Dr. Angelou; Louise Meriwether, writer; Eugene Redmond, professor of English literature; Valerie Simpson, singer/songwriter; John Singleton, director; Cicely Tyson, actress; Alice Windom, friend/roommate in Ghana (1963-65); Oprah Winfrey, global media leader/philanthropist and Alfre Woodard, actress.

Photo of Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, circa 1970. Credit: Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Dr. Maya Angelou called Sonoma, California, home in the late 70s/early 80s. Credit: Magnum

“It was a unique privilege to be the first filmmakers to tell Dr. Angelou’s full story and exciting to uncover stories that most people hadn’t heard,” said co-director and co-producer Bob Hercules.

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Louis Gossett, Jr., is interviewed in “American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise.” He and Dr. Angelou were part of the casts of off-Broadway play “The Blacks” (1961) by Jean Genet and TV miniseries “Roots” (1977). Credit: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders | Photo credit required at all times.

The film reflects on how the events of history, culture and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life, and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism,” said co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack.

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Dr. Maya Angelou. Credit: Getty Images

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Dr. Maya Angelou. Credit: Ron Groeper

Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, San Francisco, CA, circa 1970. Credit: Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS. Courtesy of Caged Bird Legacy

It is bittersweet that Dr. Angelou takes her rightful place in the American Masters series posthumously,” said executive producer Michael Kantor, Co-Executive Producer and American Masters series Executive Producer. “We are fortunate that Bob and Rita captured these insightful interviews with her just prior to her death so we can all learn from her wisdom firsthand.” Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Kicks Off Season 31 with Exclusive U.S. Broadcast Premiere of By Sidney Lumet, Tuesday, January 3 on PBS

Exclusive Interview With Treat Williams, Star Of Lumet’s Prince Of The City, And Emmy-Winning Filmmaker Nancy Buirski Follows The Documentary

Prolific and versatile filmmaker Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) made 44 films in 50 years, earning the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement after four Oscar nominations. Considered a quintessential New York filmmaker, Lumet frequently used New York City’s urban mettle to infuse his films with a realism and intensity that kept audiences in suspense while prodding them to consider their own morality. In American Masters: By Sidney Lumet, he tells his own story in a never-before-seen interview shot in 2008 by late filmmaker Daniel Anker and producer Thane Rosenbaum. With candor, humor and grace, Lumet reveals what matters to him as an artist and as a human being. Launching Season 31, American Masters: By Sidney Lumet premieres nationwide Tuesday, January 3 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and features a new, exclusive interview with Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-nominated actor Treat Williams, who starred in Lumet’s Prince of the City, afterward.by-sidney-lumet_poster_goldposter_com_1-jpg0o_0l_800w_80q

Peabody and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski (Afternoon of a Faun, The Loving Story, Loving) weaves Lumet’s personal stories and commentary with scenes from his films to create a portrait of one of the most accomplished, influential and socially conscious directors in the history of cinema. Clips spanning his canon, from 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Prince of the City, The Verdict, and many more, reveal the spiritual and ethical lessons at the core of his work.

Looking back over his career, Lumet speaks intimately about the experiences that informed his work, which he loved. His Depression-era, working-class Lower East Side beginnings as a child actor with his father in Yiddish theater, on Broadway, and his gradual transition to directing live TV, informed the stories he chose and his ability to translate important stage works into film, such as The Sea Gull, The Fugitive Kind and Long Day’s Journey into Night. In clips from these films, American Masters: By Sidney Lumet underscores Lumet’s own journey: his relationship with his father mirrored in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Daniel, Running on Empty and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Marching for workers’ rights in the 1930s, standing up to McCarthy-era blacklist interrogation and finding ways to employ his blacklisted friends, Lumet developed an appreciation for people who question authority. His movies often featured characters fighting for justice, standing up to the crowd and questioning personal responsibility. First and foremost a storyteller, Lumet’s strongly moral tales captured the dilemmas and concerns of a society struggling with essentials: how does one behave to others and to oneself? (You can read the full biography here.) Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Tells the Story of Legendary Bluesman B.B. King During Black History Month on PBS

B.B. King: The Life of Riley Premieres Nationally Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. (check local listings)

Features interviews with Bono, Eric Clapton, Aaron Neville, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, and more

B.B. King, born Riley B. King, was one of the most influential and celebrated blues musicians of all time. From his roots as a sharecropper’s son, working in the cotton fields of Mississippi, he rose to become a living legend — the most renowned blues singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer of the past 40 years — earning the moniker ‘King of the Blues‘. King’s story of struggle and triumph is chronicled in American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley, premiering nationwide during Black History Month on Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listing). Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman narrates and appears in the film.

 B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

B.B. King performing on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Made with the full cooperation of The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, B.B. King: The Life of Riley was filmed in locations across America, as well as the United Kingdom. Award-winning Producer/Director Jon Brewer worked on the film with King for two years. Filming was completed shortly before King passed on May 14, 2015.

The bio-doc explores King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the man himself, his family, longtime friends, and fellow music contemporaries such as Bono, George Benson, Eric Clapton, Aaron Neville, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, Johnny Winter, and more.

Born September 16, 1925 on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola, King was raised by his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr in nearby Kilmichael. After she died, his father brought him to live in Lexington. There, for the first time, King experienced segregation. A mob hung a black boy and dragged him behind a car to the courthouse in Lexington. King witnessed the boy being dragged; it was an image he would never forget. Like so many blacks of his generation, King was subjected to bigotry, racism, hatred and denial. But he never allowed it to destroy his spirit or his music.

King candidly reminisces about memorable people in his life such as preacher Archie Fair, the first person he heard play an electric guitar; cousin Bukka White, who taught him about being a blues singer; the musical influence of bluesman T-Bone Walker and French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt; his stint as a disc jockey where his radio names (Beale Street Blues Boy and Blues Boy King) were eventually shortened to B.B. King; and how and why he came to name his guitars Lucille. A bittersweet moment in the film is King’s reflection on marriage. King had two wives, Martha Lee Denton, and then Sue Carol Hall. The failures of each marriage were attributed to King’s relentless touring schedule.

Rare archival footage is interspersed throughout the film, including his 1968 performance at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West where he was billed with some of the hottest rock stars, who idolized him and helped to introduce him to a young white audience.

Among the highlights from the film is footage of King’s collaboration with Bono, where King reveals that he “does not do chords,” and the story behind King and Eric Clapton‘s recording of Riding with the King. Though he made an exception for Clapton, King admits he doesn’t like to play acoustic guitar.

The ‘King of Blues,’ who delighted audiences around the world with such classic R&B hits as Three O’ Clock Blues, Paying The Cost To Be The Boss, Every Day I Have The Blues, and of course his most popular cross over hit, The Thrill Is Gone, died at age 89. The city of Memphis, where he had performed so many times, held a funeral procession for him down Beale Street, with a brass band marching in front of the hearse, playing When the Saints Go Marching In.

Play the best that I can. Reach as many people as you can, as many countries,” says King. “In other words, I’d like the whole world to be able to hear B.B. King sing and play the blues.

B.B. King became America’s most recognizable and influential blues musician,” says Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “The thrill isn’t really gone yet – I think anyone who sees this film will be thrilled and inspired by this legendary artist.”

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

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