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Jazz and Funk Can Change The World

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 9, 2005 3:11PM

Somewhat lost in the slow news cycle of this year’s Memorial Day weekend was the death of a man some called the “Grandpap of Rap.” But a new documentary screening during this month’s Black Harvest Film Festival at The Gene should shed new light on one of Chicago’s music legends.

2005_08_09_oscar.jpgBorn in the 1920s, Oscar Brown Jr. began his career working in radio dramas before gaining fame in the arts through his work in jazz. Committed to using his notoriety to advance social change, Brown produced two plays that explored the effects of gang violence and poverty within Chicago’s black communities. After unsuccessful runs for public office, Brown poured his soul into his music and used it to further his goals in the civil rights movement.

The film Oscar Brown Jr.: Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress screens this Saturday August 13th at 7:30 PM and explores how Brown’s passions formed his life’s work. It’s followed by a discussion of the film featuring an appearance by the director; a jam session anchored by a performance from Brown’s daughter Maggie and the requisite party. Tickets for the screening and after-party are $25 but if you’re a jazz musician you can take part in the jam session and score free admission too by calling Pam at 847-869-7088 no later than Thursday.

Also at The Gene this week is the final screening of Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth, a look at the life of pioneering Parliament-Funkadelic member Bernie Worrell. Though the P-Funk collective comprised approximately 3673 members over the years, Worrell is one of the few who can lay claim to creating the sound that would become a template for modern hip-hop and bring out the loose booty in rock groups like the Talking Heads. The film starts at 8 PM tomorrow night.