‘Enzo Avitabile Music Life’ draws passion from legendary musicianPosted on October 17, 2013 | by Ife Olujobi
“Enzo Avitabile Music Life,” the latest documentary from Jonathan Demme (director of “The Silence of the Lambs”) is aptly named. In his film, Demme captures legendary saxophonist Enzo Avitabile and his music as one unit, and he does so with great respect and admiration.
From the moment Avitabile appears on screen, it is difficult not to be somewhat charmed by his excited, eccentric personality and his one dangling earring. At the start of the film, Avitabile is on his way to a venue to perform songs with some talented musician friends. That performance continues in various spots throughout the film, along with several other musical interludes.
Those who don’t know Avitabile are introduced to him not only as a musician, but also as a talented and passionate lyricist. Avitabile sings about children, poverty, disadvantaged people and world crises in his music, and his Italian lyrics, which are translated to English for the film, are pure poetry.
The same passion apparent in his songwriting runs through all aspects of his life. Anything Avitabile takes on, whether it be performing, composing, teaching or studying music, is done with conviction and enthusiasm. Although he devotes his life to music, he still finds time to spend with his two daughters, acting as a mentor and role model, especially after his wife passed away.
Interviews with his daughters provide some of the few glimpses of Avitabile’s life the audience observes outside of the music. Avitabile also talks candidly about other topics in his life when prompted, such as his relationship with religion and his travels as a young saxophonist. But once he starts discussing music again, he can’t stop. Avitabile is able to talk not only of his own music and style, called Bottari, but he also offers a wealth of knowledge about the foundations of all different types of music.
Although the songs in the film are written and composed by Avitabile, a collection of successful and equally passionate musicians play with him, all of whom contribute their own flavor to his pieces. As a true lover of music, Avitabile welcomes improvisation and personalization from his backing band and collaborators.
“Enzo Avitabile Music Life” isn’t a blockbuster. It isn’t a thrilling drama, gut-busting comedy or a documentary that becomes a big hit because of its shocking or heartbreaking content. It is a film made well and with care, and gives a deeper look at a man who has made music his life — and the successes that have come of his lifelong devotion.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 17 print edition. Ife Olujobi is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.