Woodstock Lives: Crohn heads for California

Burrill Crohn, right, is California bound. Left is Sangeeta Michael Berardi. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Burrill Crohn, right, is California bound. Left is Sangeeta Michael Berardi. (photo by Dion Ogust)

After 35 years in Woodstock, jazz filmmaker Burrill Crohn is leaving town. His farewell party will be a screening of two of his recent films, Playing with Parkinson’s and Speak to me of Love, Speak to me of Truth, on Saturday, October 26, at 8 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock.

Crohn will be moving to California in November to begin a new life, fueled by family, friendship, climate, and the possibility of reinventing himself. A believer in synchronicities as signposts guiding him through the labyrinth of life, he says there have been too many pointing the way West to ignore.


Even the two films to be shown on Saturday represent connections that have shaped his path forward. Playing with Parkinson’s, subtitled “A Jazz Guitarist’s Journey into Healing,” tells the story of Sangeeta Michael Berardi, a musician who played with such luminaries as Archie Shepp, Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali, Karl Berger, and Pharoah Sanders, before his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease 13 years ago. The condition, which impairs movement and coordination, interfered with his ability to play music until he learned to incorporate the tremors of his body into his playing. “He’s one of the more remarkable beings on the planet,” says Crohn.

The filmmaker met Berardi by chance on a Woodstock sidewalk, and by the end of an hour-long conversation had decided to make a film about him. Crohn, who has made documentaries with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea, Linda Ronstadt (who recently disclosed that she, too, has Parkinson’s), Marian McPartland, and other music giants, knew this project would not be a moneymaker, but it was a film he had to make nonetheless. Berardi lives in California. He has become a close friend and is one of Crohn’s many reasons for heading west.

Part of the filming of Berardi’s inspiring story was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, to which the main contributor was Cobi Narita, an 87-year-old Japanese-American woman, described by Crohn as “a driving force behind jazz in New York City and beyond.” Narita, who has produced jazz concerts and fundraised for numerous artists, also has Parkinson’s.

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