What is music? Various members of the Philadelphia Orchestra respond with stutters and groans, finally admitting that it can only be felt, not verbalized. From that humble start, Music From the Inside Out follows the group during an international tour, giving an anecdotal sketch of life as a classical musician. Performance is elided in favor of the personal, as the subjects detail their escape into the freedoms of Latin jazz and bluegrass and ponder melody’s inherence in memory. The film is a revealing portrait of painfully withdrawn artists navigating the tug between the divine harmony of an orchestral synthesis and the sweaty glow of individual experimentation. The ovation they give a Cologne street accordionist’s version of The Four Seasons has them leaning toward the latter.
Make It Funky! shows no such ambiguity. Celebrating the idiosyncrasy of New Orleans and its musicians with impunity, it’s structured around a 2004 concert that booked legendary local artists (Earl Palmer, the Meters, the Neville Brothers, and more) to celebrate the town’s diverse musical history. Interspersed with this footage is the dry enumerating of this history (aside from a tale of Little Richard lifting a table with his teeth), but one impatiently waits for the performances to return, and there are some stunners. Walter “Wolfman” Washington growls his way through a rollicking version of “Barefootin’,” Snooks Eaglin wails to his baby to “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll),” and Keith Richards slurs his way through a truly rocking version of “I’m Ready.” A love letter to New Orleans, Make It Funky! reminds us of what has been lost in the flood, and of an artistic spirit that will never dissipate.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 30, 2005