Herre are a few of my faves: (unless otherwise noted, all available
in home video)
I note, much to my consternation, that a number of my faves are no
longer in distribution--or at least in limbo (among them: "Bird
Now!" and "Celebrating Bird", "Blue Note: A Story of Modern
Jazz," "Let's Get Lost" [Chet Baker])
Jazz Innovators: From Bebop, to Hard Bop, to Cool and More.
Charlie Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog
The first comprehensive documentary of Afro-American jazz bassist,
bandleader and composer Charles Mingus who led a tumultuous life
filled with trauma and frustration, joy and creativity. Nine years in
the making and exhaustively researched, virtually everything used in
the film is extraordinarily rare. Abundant clips of Mingus in
performance in the 1960s and 1970s perfectly illustrate the many
faces and tortured heart of a musical genius. 1997. 78 min.
A Great Day in Harlem
Commentators: Art Kane, Robert Benton, Gerry Mulligan, Bud Freeman,
Mike Lipskin, Nat Hentoff, Milt Hinton, Soville Browne, Eddie Locke,
Horace Silver, Art Farmer, Robert Altschuler, Art Blakey, Mona
Hinton, Steve Frankfurt, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Marian
McPartland, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Hank Jones, Max Kaminsky,
Buck Clayton. A documentary about a photograph taken in 1958 by Art
Kane of the jazz greats of the period. Includes home movie footage of
that day of the musicians arriving and greeting each other the
morning of the shoot. Also includes conversations with musicians and
archival performance footage. 60 min.
Jazz On a Summer's Day
Performers: Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Chuck Berry, Dinah
Washington, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Jimmy Giuffre, Anita
O'Day, Jack Teagarden, Chico Hamilton, Sonny Stitt, George Shearing,
Big Maybelle and other performers. Presents the music, musicians, and
spectators at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1958; a dazzling display
of rich human observation and some of the most remarkable scenes of
live jazz ever brought to the screen. A film by Bert Stern. 1959. 84 min
Mingus: Charles Mingus, 1968.
A portrait of this great bassist/composer and some of the hard times
that came his way. Includes scenes of him conducting his big band,
composing, singing and reciting his own poetry. 58 min.
Straight No Chaser.
Documentary about the life and works of Monk. Includes extensive
archival footage by Michael and Christian Blackwell, made in 1968, of
Monk performing his own compositions in studio, on tour, and behind
the scenes. With newly added interviews. 90 min.
The World According to John Coltrane.
The definitive and only authorized film on jazz saxophonist John
Coltrane. 59 min.
>1. New Orleans: The Birthplace of Jazz
Didn't We Ramble On.
Film examines how West African people have passed down their rites
and spiritual fervor, generation by generation, through the black
marching band. As long as 700 years ago, the Yaruba's had
musicalprocessions at funerals. By the 17th century, African
musicians were seen in Turkish marching bands and admired and copied
by the monarchs of Europe. During both World Wars black military
bands played a major role in maintaining troop morale. In the U.S.
today, the tradition of the black marching band continues on the
football fields as exemplified by the Forida A&M Marching Band. In
New Orleans today, a jazz procession, a direct cultural link to the
Yoruba ceremony of 700 years ago, is an integral part of the
Afro-American funerals. By the 17th century, African musicians were
seen in Turkish marching bands and admired and copied by the monarchs
of Europe. During both World Wars black military bands played a major
role in maintaining troop morale. In the U.S. today, the tradition of
the black marching band continues on the football fields as
exemplified by the Forida A&M Marching Band. In New Orleans today, a
jazz procession, a direct cultural link to the Yoruba ceremony of 700
years ago, is an integral part of the Afro-American funeral
observance. 1989. 15 min.
VHS: Filmakers Library
>3. The Jazz Swing Era
The Last of the Blue Devils
A documentary recollection of music and musicians associated with
Kansas City, Mo. in the 1930's, featuring Count Basie and his
orchestra, Joe Turner, and Jay McShann.
Songs: South (Bennie Moten Orchestra) -- Piney Brown blues (Big Joe
Turner & Jay McShann) -- Jay's blues (Jay McShann) -- Jesse's blues
(Jesse Price) -- Moten swing (Count Basie Orchestra) -- Jumpin' the
blues; Hootie's blues; After hours (Jay McShann's Big Band) -- Lester
leaps in (featuring Paul Quinichette, Eddie Durham, Charles
McPherson) -- Jumpin' at the woodside (Count Basie Orchestra; Eric
Dixon, Jimmy Forrest, saxophones) -- Until the real thing comes along
-- Hot house -- Shake, rattle & roll (Big Joe Turner) -- Roll 'em
(Big Joe Turner and the Jay McShann Big Band) -- Night train (Count
Basie Orchestra; Jimmy Forrest, saxophone) -- Piney Brown Blues
(reprise) (Big Joe Turner & Jay McShann) -- One o'clock jump (Jay
McShann Big Band) -- One o'clock jump (Count Basie Orchestra) --
Moten swing (Bennie Moten Orchestra) -- Honey hush; Rose garden;
Chains of love; Shake, rattle & roll (incomplete) (Big Joe Turner &
Jay McShann). 1979. 90 min.
On the Road with Duke Ellington: A Rare Visit Behind the Scenes with
an American Jazz Legend
Filmed at the peak of his career, this serves as perhaps the most
revealing and intimate portrait of the artist ever recorded. Gives an
unobtrusive look inside the colorful and transient world of the
American Jazz legend, exposing the key elements that characterize and
define him. Presents Ellington as the artist performing, composing
and ruminating about his life and career. Originally produced as a
motion picture in 1974. Special features: Duke Ellington biography;
Ellington photo gallery; filmmaker biography; catalog/trailers for
Docurama; interactive menus; scene selection. 60 min.
>4. The Women of Jazz
Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection.
Features rare TV and film performances by Billie Holiday, an
especially rare radio interview with Mike Wallace, an audio-only
rehearsal session with pianist Jimmy Rowles, audio interviews with
friends and fellow musicians, an interactive timeline and an
evocative photo-document gallery featuring hundreds of images, from
rare photos to personal letters, plus Lady Day's complete recording
history for major record companies. Performance highlights include
three from 1956's Stars Of Jazz TV that are seen here for the first
time since their original broadcast, Holiday's first appearance on
film, Duke Ellington's "Saddest Tale," and the classic "Fine And
Mellow" with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and other jazz greats.
Special features: Timeline: hundreds of images and interactive
features; complete recording history for OKeh, vocalion, Brunswick,
Aladdin, Columbia, Commodore, Capitol, Decca, Clef and Veve. Film and
TV performances. Saddest tale; The blues are brewin'; Do you know
what it means to miss New Orleans; Please don't talk about me when
I'm gone; Billie's blues; My man (Mon homme); Fine and mellow; What a
little moonlight can do; St. Louis blues / Bessie Smith; I cover the
waterfront / Louis Armstrong -- Audio performances. Swing! Brother,
Swing!; They can't take that away from me; Do nothing till you hear
from me; I'll get by; I wonder where our love has gone -- Audio
interviews. John Hammond, Jo Jones, Roy Eldridge, Barney Josephson,
Tiny Grimes, Billy Eckstine, Jimmy Rowles, Sylvia Syms, Corky Hale;
1955 audio rehearsal : Billie Holiday and Jimmy Rowles for "Jeepers
Creepers"; 1956 audio interview : Billie Holiday with Mike Wallace,
International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
Focuses on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female
multi-racial jazz band of postdepression years with a strong brass
section, heavy percussion and a deep rhythmic sense. Includes
interviews with former band members, other musicians, and fans. 30 min.
vhs: Cinema Guild
Jazz is My Native Language: A Portrait of Toshiko Akiyoshi.
A vibrant, fast-paced documentary which provides an in-depth look at
the music and personal life of jazz composer/pianist/bandleader
Toshiko Akiyoshi. Includes performances of her work by her band and
commentary by jazz critic Leonard Feather. 58 min.
for Asian American Media catalog description
A documentary exploring the history and legacy of the anti-lynching
protest song made famous by Billie Holiday. The film examines the
history of lynching, the courage of those who fought for racial
justice, and the interplay of race, labor and the left and popular
culture as forces that would give rise to the Civil Rights Movement.
It also presents the story of the composer Lewis Allan, a Jewish
schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who wrote the poem
and later set it to music. c2002. 58 min.
VHS: California Newsreel
Tiny & Ruby: Hell Divin' Women.
This tribute profiles the jazz trumpeter Ernestine "Tiny" Davis, and
her lesbian partner of 40 years, drummer Ruby Lucas (aka Renee
Phelan). Includes interviews with Tiny and Ruby in their Chicago
home, archival material, lively musical performances, and narration
by poet Cheryl Clarke. 28 min.
VHS: Cinema Guild
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1. New Orleans: The Birthplac= e of Jazz
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