@Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
There’s a scene near the end of Immediate Family when several grizzled musicians, now in their seventies, are seen walking through Times Square as they reminisce about the decades they’d spent together as a session band. As the men negotiate a zebra crossing on Broadway, it’s hard not to think—for one brief shining moment—of the Beatles ambling along Abbey Road in that iconic album cover of theirs from 1969.
This is just one of the many scenes in this engaging documentary that juxtaposes opposites as it casts its lens over the pop-music industry of recent vintage: Opposites of a gauzy past and a crystal-clear present; opposites of youthful daring and seasoned reflection; opposites of the way things were and the way things are.
Directed by Denny Tedesco, Immediate Family has been described by its promoters as “a backstage tour spanning multiple areas of musical history. It focuses on the eponymous session band known as The Section that over the years had worked with many of the leading recording artists of the past half century,” including such luminaries as Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor, all of whom appear to offer memories and tributes.
@ Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel, Steve Postel, Russ Kunkel in IMMEDIATE FAMILY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
But the stars of this film are the four men whose background music had launched a thousand discs over the decades: Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, and Waddy Wachtel. As Tedesco so aptly put it: “Collaborating and touring for over 50 years, these musicians really did become a family. Now, in their mid 70s … the group is still playing together, recording, and loving it like they were in their 20s.”
In 2018, some veterans of The Section reunited to form The Immediate Family band, consisting of Kortchmar on guitar and vocals, Sklar on bass, and Kunkel on drums and backing vocals, joined by Wachtel and Steve Postell on guitars and vocals. In addition to hearing their personal testimony, viewers of this documentary can glimpse a capsule history of the evolution of the record industry from the singer-sobgwriter era of the 1960s through the digital revolution of the 1980s and beyond. There’s even footage of Liberace, the eccentric pianist who served as an inspiration to one of the band members.
Immediate Family does a credible job in debunking some of the conventional cliches about the recording industry, such as the notion that it is a heartless, dog-eat-dog world comprised of short-lived bands with ambitions in excess of their talents. Instead, Kortchmar, Kunkel, Nicks, and Sklar are portrayed as a bunch of aging kids who never abandoned their youthful idealism in or out of the recording studio.
@Carol King, James Taylor, Danny Kortchmar in IMMEDIATE FAMILY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
But the best tributes come from some of the legendary artists that The Section worked with over the years. As Carole King put it: “This film is a window into the lives of my musical brothers, whose gold standard is to make sure that every song they play on comes out even better than the songwriter imagined. Now they’re doing that for their own songs, and this film tells their story beautifully.”
And James Taylor singled out the camaraderie he remembered while working with the group: “One of the things about [this] was the knowledge of what it’s like to make music together and to collaborate. on something like that. Like put down a tune and everybody work together as a sort of team or a community on this tune. It’s a bond, it’s such a special thing to be able to do. The creative input of these session guys cannot be overstated. It can’t be overstated. I mean it just can’t be overstated.”
@ A scene from IMMEDIATE FAMILY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo by Joel Bernstein. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
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