A feature-length documentary on Jay Bennett, a legendary musician and recording studio savant, who as a member of Wilco, was a large part of the genius behind their three seminal albums (Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — he co-wrote most of Summerteeth and YHF with Jeff Tweedy), as well as the Mermaid Avenue/Woody Guthrie sessions with Billy Bragg. Bennett went on to a critically acclaimed solo career, before dying tragically at the age of 45.
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Where Are You, Jay Bennett? comes to Blu-Ray after a limited theatrical release with a very striking high definition master that suits the film as well as you might hope. The film features a lot of different material in varying degrees of quality. The archival tape footage used seems to be in the best shape possible given the quality of the source material. Newer interview segments look incredibly solid and clear with natural skin tones and some detailed facial features. The colors featured in the film have an impressive degree of vibrancy to them. The transfer has not fallen victim to any compression artifacts or digital nuisances of the sort. MVD Entertainment has delivered a rock solid presentation for fans.
This Blu-Ray disc comes with a LPCM 2.0 track that perfectly suits the source material, but is understandably restrained. As this primarily acts as an interview showcase with talking heads abound, dialogue is the focus right up front in the center channel. The archival clips do not feature much in the way of age-related wear, thankfully, but you can tell there were some limitations to recording in certain situations. Since this is a film focused on music, the sound quality of the songs themselves is pristine and fills the room in a wonderful way. The two-channel presentation is enveloping in its own way, and it maintains the artistic choice of the feature. For that reason, this is a very worthwhile audio track. There are optional English subtitles provided on this release.
- Audio Commentary: Co-director Gorman Bechard discusses the process of creating this film with moderator Sophia Rokas which results in a truly fascinating, free-wheeling conversation. The interview is endearingly shaggy, you even get to hear a dog milling around in the background, but through this you hear what it was like taking over someone else’s project, the logistics of tracking down subjects and organizing your footage, editing the film down from an original eight-hour cut, the stories that did not make it into the film, clarification on certain nerdy footnotes that fans will love, and more.
- Deleted Scenes: An eight-minute collection of unused footage is provided here featuring subjects discussing Jay’s legacy and generosity, the decision to release some of his tracks posthumously, and more.
- Ketchup, Ketchup, and More Ketchup: A six-minute tribute to Jay’s love of ketchup.
- Jay’s Mom Remembers: A 44-minute extended interview with Jay’s mom, Janis, in which she takes you on a journey through her memories as she sorts through old items from his time in Wilco back to his school pictures and drawings he made as a kid. This is a really lovely exploration that gets to the heart of who Jay was as a person.
- The Ken Coomer Interview: The full 57-minute interview with Ken Coomer is provided here which is one of my favorite things on this disc. Coomer is such a lively, honest figure who takes you from his earliest memories of Jay to the end with various invaluable anecdotes peppered throughout that fans will not want to miss.
- The Billy Bragg Interview: An extended 10-minute interview with Billy Bragg in which you get to hear his memories of playing with Wilco, the creative process of writing with the band when Jeff Tweedy was around and when he was not, what Jay brought to the experience and more.
- Q&A with Directors Gorman Bechard and Fred Uhter At The World Premiere: A 28-minute interview from 2021 moderated by Andy Leach of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the two directors of the film in which they discuss the impetus behind making the film, shaping the film into what we have today, the preservation of Jay’s legacy, memories of speaking with Jay Bennett, the attempts to talk to Tweedy and more.
- Q&A with Directors Gorman Bechard and Fred Uhter: Another 28-minute Q&A with the directors, this time conducted virtually by Brian Otting, in which they discuss the origins of the project, what exactly was so special about Jay Bennett, what they learned from the project and more. There is some overlap in information with the previous Q&A, but there is still a good amount of new information.
- World Premiere Tribute Concert: A 63-minute tribute concert from November 2021 at the Carbon Arc Restaurant in Chicago is provided here.
- Trailer: The two-and-a-half-minute trailer is provided here.
Where Are You, Jay Bennett? is an immensely entertaining documentary detailing the life of a musical genius who did not receive the praise he deserved when he could have heard it . The subjects on hand do a solid job of illuminating the great aspects about Bennett without glossing over some of his more irksome qualities. Whether you are already a fan of the artist or are curious to learn more about him, this film should engage most parties. MVD Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray featuring a strong A/V presentation and a fantastic array of additional material. If you are a music documentary fan, you are going to have a blast here. Recommended
Where Are You, Jay Bennett? is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: MVD Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.