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Sundance 2014: Flea brings soulful artistry to ‘Low Down’

February 1st, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Ben Hansen and Paul Christensen; photo by Ben Hansen

PARK CITY — Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, has been at the forefront of the entertainment industry over each of the last four decades. His contributions to the arts have been vast, from composing Grammy-award winning music with his band Red Hot Chili Peppers and being elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame through acting in a number of critically acclaimed films.Flea and Glenn Close Sharing an Embrace

Although Flea’s presence in the movies has been on hiatus for several years, he was excited to return to the screen in the role of Lester Hobbs for the movie Low Down, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie, which focused on the struggles of jazz musician Joe Albany and his daughter Amy, interweaves the beauty of music with the devastation that parental drug addiction and incarceration can have on their family.

Flea spoke very passionately with us about what created his desire to be a part of this film: “Grew up in the ’70s with a drug-addict jazz-musician parent, and that’s what the script is about. Amy (the movie’s subject), who’s my same age, grew up in Hollywood in the ’70s with a junkie jazz-musician parent; I couldn’t believe it when I read the script and how it just resonated with my own personal life so intensely that it brought up a lot of emotion and really made me really, I really wanted to be a part of it and was grateful that they trusted me to be a part of it.

“I didn’t know a lot about Joe Albany when I was a kid, but it was more the jazz scene and the ’70s in Hollywood that I grew up in — not him specifically, but there are many great musicians who come the ’70s that weren’t getting any work because no one cared, and they were absolutely brilliant musicians,” he said. “They grew up developing this incredibly sophisticated art form, and come the ’70s, no one cared. It’s a kind of a remarkable, beautiful and sad story, and I’m so happy it came to life. It’s a big part of my growing up, and I’m so grateful to be a part of this film.”

The evening of the screening, a select crowd was treated to a small performance by Flea in jazz fashion, as he, film composer and saxophonist Ohad Talmor, and pianist David Virelles gave an intimate jazz concert at the small Sundance House. Award-winning actress and co-star of Low Down, Glenn Close, joined star Elle Fanning to read passages from Amy Jo Albany’s memoir to the themed music, after which a jazz jam by Joe Albany was appropriately delivered.

Those that were hoping for a surprise Red Hot Chili Peppers show will have to wait, but not as long as they might think. When asked about a new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Flea stated, “We’re getting ready to make a new record real soon.”

Whether onscreen or onstage, Flea continues to impress with his creativity and artistry. One can only imagine what his next chapter has in store for us.


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