Taking the Dog for a Walk
Antoine Prum’s documentary film surveys the British improvised music scene, past and present.
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.
A music documentary by Antoine Prum
LUX/UK 2014, 128 min., Stereo
With Steve Beresford, Adam Bohman, Sarah Gail Brand, John Butcher, Lol Coxhill, Angharad Davies, Rhodri Davies, Max Eastley, John Edwards, Caroline Kraabel, Phil Minton, Thurston Moore, Maggie Nicols, Steve Noble, Eddie Prévost, John Russell, Mark Sanders, Alan Tomlinson, Roger Turner, Alex Ward, Trevor Watts, Veryan Weston a.o.
Stewart Lee conversations
Tony Bevan artistic advisor
Carlo Thiel director of photography
Nikos Welter 2nd camera
Gilles Laurent sound engineer
Antoine Prum, Theo Thiesmeier, Marc Recchia edit
Maikôl Seminatore sound edit
Point of Departure, Issue 51, June 2015
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.
The Wire, Issue 367, September 2014
For one night only, the Rio Cinema in Dalston formed the third point in an East London free improv triangle between Cafe Oto and 14 Downs Road, HQ of Incus Records and erstwhile Derek Bailey residence. As a venue for the premiere of Taking The Dog For A Walk, Antoine Prum’s documentary film about British free improvisation, there was nowhere better. With the final credits rolling, three clear options presented themselves: head to Cafe Oto for a performance of Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, or to the Vortex to hear Matthew Shipp’s Trio, or stay for the post-screening party. From young tigers like Tom Arthurs and Alex Ward to (relatively) old lions like Eddie Prevost and Steve Beresford, all free improvising life was here.
The New York City Jazz Record, November 2015
Taking the Dog for a Walk is the definitive portrait of British free improvisation. Yet, from the first sequence of drummer Mark Sanders improvising alongside a bingo caller, the sardonic humor implicit in the genre isn’t neglected either—note the vintage clip of Lol Coxhill and other improvisers in zoot suit disguise playing at a beach resort. Even the title references the hoary jape that four men and a dog was the typical audience.