"Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz" is a story of the trials and triumphs of Jazz in America.
This feature-length documentary showcases Jazz's rich history through candid interviews
with its living legends and original music played by contemporary stars 
of the historically powerful Washington, DC jazz scene. 


"Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz" is a feature-length (90 min) documentary movie about jazz music, its players, its followers, its past and its promising future. Told from the landmark of Washington, D.C., the film shows how jazz history was made and continues to be made in the Capitol today. Through revealing interviews and rare recordings, "Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz" takes the viewers on an emotional journey through historic and present-day jazz moments.

Interviews and Appearances by:

Chuchito Valdes: Valdes is a pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader from one of Cuba's most distinguished latin-jazz families. He is recognized as a master of Cuban music styles, including Mambo, Danzon, Cuban Timba and Guaguanco. His extensive study of classical music, harmony and composition, is apparent. When he is not touring Europe, North and South America, Chuchito lives in Cancun, Mexico where he leads his Afro-Cuban based Latin-Jazz ensemble.
Ravi Coltrane: Soprano and tenor sax and jazz artist extraordinaire, son of legends Alice and John Coltrane, states that his aspiration is "to acknowledge with love my influences while attempting a move forward - to be open and receptive to shifts in the musical terrain - to make music that is relevant to my present day experience".
Esperanza Spalding: Jazz bassist, singer, and composer. First Lady Michelle Obama has invited her numerous times to play at the White House; President Barack Obama has asked her to perform during his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. In 2011, Spalding won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, the first time a jazz artist has won in this category. In October, Spalding won DownBeat Readers Poll Jazz Artist of the Year, and, in November, Jazz Artist of the Year, Boston Music Awards, 2011.
Ben Williams: Jazz bassist and native of Washington DC. In 2009, he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Playing electric bass and piano as well, Williams' musical roots lie in various genres including hip-hop, R&B, gospel, and classical.
Akua Allrich: jazz vocalist and DC native, sets her musical roots in rhythm and blues, soul, and pan-African music, sings in Twi, Xhosa, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English and released an independent album in 2010, A Peace of Mine.
Antonio Parker: Antonio "Hot Potato" Parker is a Jazz alto saxophonist, composer, producer and arranger, and native of Washington DC. One of the finest saxophone players of our generation, Parker plays straight ahead jazz as well as concert music, Latin, Funk, World and contemporary jazz.
Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson: Original Motown Jazz drummer and 20-plus year member of the great organist Jimmy Smith's ensemble, Jackson's On My Way Home, 2006, launched his leading role as a drummer and vocalist.
Maurice "Brother" Lyles: Jazz drummer and native of Washington DC. Brother Maurice played his first gig in a show starring Stepin' Fetchit and went on to play with Billie Holiday, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Heath, Leo Parker, Earl "Fatha" Hinds, Roy Eldridge and Sarah Vaughn. In 1968, Brother Maurice invented the Rhythm Stick, featured in our film footage.
Butch Warren: Jazz bassist and native of Washington DC. With more than 35 Blue Note Record albums, Butch was a jazz superstar and one of the most sought-after bass players of the early 1960s. He recorded with Miles Davis, Hank Mobley, Joe Byrd, Sonny Clark, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean and Stanley Turrentine. After going on tour with Thelonious Monk through Europe and Japan in 1963 and 1964, he moved back to Washington, DC. After an absence of forty years, Warren is now back on the Washington, DC scene with a new CD, French 5tet.
Buck Hill: Legendary "mailman saxophonist" from Washington DC. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Byrd, Shirley Horn, and countless others. Hear through his own words why he declined the offer to go on tour with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.
Lennie Cuje: Jazz vibraphonist. Educated in an elite Nazi music school, Lennie Cuje was finally able to play jazz after he immigrated to the US. He has been a fixture in the Washington DC Jazz scene ever since. Follow as he walks us through the Capitol's jazz speakeasy history.
Joe Byrd: A lyrical bass player, creating melody and rhythm. For over 40 years, together with his brother Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz, Joe Byrd brought the new sound of Brazilian Bossa Nova to the US when they recorded one of the best selling jazz albums of all times, "Jazz Samba", in 1962.
Eric Lewis: Rockjazz pianist, ELEW is known for his energetic piano style, shown recently in the America's Got Talent competition. Eric Lewis has rocked superstars, the jazz world, the TED conference, and the White House during a number of notable performances.
Dwayne Adell: Jazz pianist, one of the jazz stars of Washington, DC.
Luis Faife: Jazz alto saxophonist and native of Cuba, Faife is quickly making a name for himself with his swinging mixture of bebop and Latin jazz traditions.
Andrew White III: Multi-instrumentalist and Jazz saxophonist, White was principle oboist for the American Ballet Theatre 1968-1970 and electric bass player backing Stevie Wonder at the same time. From Washington DC, White is also a musicologist and publisher. Among numerous accomplishments, Andrew White is known worldwide as "The Keeper of The Trane," a leading authority on the music of John Coltrane.
The Bad Plus: Rolling Stone called their amalgam of jazz, pop, rock and avant-garde "about as badass as highbrow gets." This progressive jazz trio rocks the jazz world with their highly syncopated and improvised jazz songs, also in their latest CD, Never Stop.
Donvonte McCoy: Jazz trumpet, DC native and arguably DC's "number one hip-cat trumpeter."
Zach Graddy: house rocking' tenor saxophonist.
Billy Taylor (1921-2010): Jazz pianist, composer, broadcaster and educator. Footage included in Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz, features some of the last footage and interviews recorded with the legendary Billy Taylor. While growing up in Washington DC in the 1930s, he went to see Jelly Roll Morton play at the Jungle Inn on U Street and tells us all about this encounter during his interview. Later in life he played with Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Miles Davis and countless others. Over the course of his life, Taylor had won countless awards, among them an Emmy, Grammy, and Peabody Awards, and received twenty-three honorary doctoral degrees.
Ernie Watts: Grammy award winning jazz artist. While noted for playing "The Mystery Horn" solo on a Frank Zappa album in 1972, Watts has worked on many movie scores and dedicated his life to jazz.
Steve Wilson: Jazz saxophonist and educator. Artist in residence at the University of Maryland.
Chris Royal: Jazz artist and head of the music department at Howard University in Washington DC.
Mark Ruffin: Sirius|XM Satellite jazz program director. With over 25 years in jazz broadcasting and journalism, Mark is a fixture in the jazz world. Mark has won two Emmy Awards for his efforts in bringing stories about jazz to the people.
Larry Appelbaum: Recording engineer, radio host, film curator, concert producer and jazz journalist in Washington DC. Larry is best know for discovering a large number of historic and "lost" jazz records, among them the famous recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane recording at Carnegie Hall.
Colombia Barrosse: Director of the "Rhythm Road Abroad" program at the US Department of State. The Rhythm Road evolved from Jazz Ambassadors, a program established in 1955 by the U.S. Department of State to promote democracy through jazz music in emerging new democracies around the globe.
Connaitre (Connie) Miller: Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Vocal Studies at Howard University in Washington, DC where she also directs the award-winning jazz vocal ensemble "Afro Blue".
Patrick Warfield: Professor of Musicology at the University of Maryland where he teaches classes in jazz history, the blues, concert and rap music.
Bernard Demczuk: Assistant Vice President of D.C. Government Relations, civil rights expert, African- American scholar, and official historian of Ben's Chili Bowl.
Marc Fisher: Senior Writer at the Washington Post and winner of numerous journalism awards. After Butch Warren disappeared for more than 40 years, Marc Fisher went on a mission and found him.
Blair Ruble: Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, Ruble is the author of the book "Washington's U Street: A Biography".

Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz includes footage of the following performers:

Antonio Parker Quartet (local DC jazz artists); Luis Faife Quartet and Trio (jazz artist from Cuba and local resident); Chuchito Valdés (from one of Cuba's most distinguished latin-jazz families); Ben Williams (Thelonious Monk Competition winner 2009 and native DC resident); Dwayne Adell; Tamira Love Jones (vocals), Ernie Watts (Grammy winner, saxophone); Buck Hill (legendary "post man" saxophone player and DC native); Butch Warren (featured on 35 Blue Note Record albums and native DC resident); Eric Lewis (Grammy winning rock-jazz pianist); Esperanza Spalding (Grammy winning jazz artist); Ravi Coltrane (world-famous recording artist; son of John and Alice Coltrane); Steve Wilson (Artist in Residence at the University of Maryland, College Park); Andrew White III (famous saxophone, oboe and electric bass player; native DC Resident); Lennie Cuje (vibraphone artist and DC jazz artists since 1960); Maurice Lyles (legendary drummer, inventor of the "rhythm stick" and native DC resident); Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson (original Motown drummer), Donvonté McCoy (jazz trumpet; DC native); the Bad Plus (modern jazz ensemble) and Wendy Lewis; Larry Appelbaum (Library of Congress, Music Department); Dr. Bernard Demczuk (African American history scholar at George Washington University); Prof. Patrick Warfield (music professor at George Washington University and at the University of Maryland); Prof. Connaitre Miller and Prof. Chris Royal (Jazz Department at Howard University); Mark Ruffin (Jazz Program Director at Sirius|XM Satellite Radio); Mark Fisher (Washington Post); Blaire Ruble (author of the book "Washington's U Street: A Biography"); Dr. Billy Taylor (jazz pianist, composer, educator; Kennedy Center Jazz Club Director; native DC resident), and others.

Footage also includes:
Numerous jazz performances at HR-57, Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues; Twins Jazz; Bohemian Caverns; Columbia Station; Utopia; Atlas Theatre; the Westminster Presbyterian Church Jazz Night; INDULJ Lounge; and the Smithsonian Jazz Cafe venues.

Jazz is lived, seen and heard first through the recordings of giants who made their names, in part, in Washington D.C., including Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Butch Warren and Billie Holiday. The journey continues with living legends, such as Buck Hill, Billy Taylor, Butch Warren, Andrew White III, Maurice "Brother" Lyles, Jo Byrd, and Lennie Cuje, among other greats, who contribute music, show the audience the area's real jazz scene, and tell stories from venues along U Street, such as the historic Howard Theatre. The film captures their personal experiences of how and when, during the 1930s through 60s, famous jazz artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz performed and lived their jazz lives in the Capitol. Contributing to this documentary story, local jazz historians and members of the jazz community recognize jazz's rich history and discuss it's uncertain future. Finally, frank interviews and stunning performances with rising stars, such as Esperanza Spalding, Eric Lewis, Chuchito Valdes, Ben Williams, Ravi Coltrane, Brian Settles, Antonio Parker, Dwayne Adell, Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson, The Bad Plus and others, show that D.C. remains one of today's epicenters of jazz that music bubbles and bursts beyond.

Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz

Director and Executive Producer: Dr Stefan Immler.
A permanent resident of Washington, DC., Immler holds a PhD in Astrophysics. He is currently working as a scientist at The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, as a faculty member of the University of Maryland, and as a professorial lecturer at George Washington University. He is owner and founder of Giganova Productions, LLC.

Associate Producer: Thomas Walker is the Associate Producer of Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz, and has acted as advisor and production assistant for several other film projects.
Producers: Tom Abel, Cathy Abel: Tom Abel is an Associate Professor of Astrophysics and Cosmology at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University. Cathy Abel is an editor and writer.
Written by: Stefan Immler and Thomas Walker
Camera: Stefan Immler, Mike Ratel, Silvina Gattica, Anthony Lafleur, Thomas Walker
Editor: Stefan Immler
Narration: Erik Todd Dellums
Additional Narration: Darryl Tittley, Rita Washington
Sound Recording: Lucumi Studios, Takoma Media
Graphic Design: GIGANOVA Productions, LLC
GIGANOVA Productions LLC, owned by Dr. Stefan Immler, was incorporated in the District of Columbia in April 2009 as a limited liability company, a film production company of high quality documentary movies.

Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz
"Jazz speaks of life. This is triumphant music."
Dr Martin Luther King

Special Thanks:
William P Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographics Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Library of Congress, Music Division
National Archives and Records Administration
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Archives
National Museum of American History Archives
The Historical Society of Washington, DC

All photos on this web site can be reproduced with permission if credited as: "From the motion picture "Oxygen for the Ears", © GIGANOVA Productions LLC"

Copyright © 2011-2012 Giganova Productions LLC