Jazz Greats In Films
“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness”
Defining “Jazz” has perplexed musicians for a long time. An oft quoted definition by Louis Armstrong is, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” There is one thread that defines most jazz: it’s improvisational. Classical music adheres to the written musical score; jazz musicians interpret and vary the melodies differently as they interact with each other. They are less focused on the contributions of the composer, if there is one, and more on the contributions of the performer. A jazz musician can interpret and improvise the melodies and harmonies different ways never repeating the composition twice.
The Jazz Age reached its zenith from 1920 to 1933. With Prohibition and the banning of alcoholic beverages, illegal speakeasies became lively venues for introducing the kind of music that would cheer the alcohol-deprived patrons. Great jazz musicians began to thrive: Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane
IMPORTANT: You do not have to be a jazz aficionado to enjoy the following seven films. In addition to showing what the jazz era was like, these films also depict the kind of lives these musical geniuses endured: bigotry, drug addiction, and, in so many cases, life-ending tragedy. But, oh, what great music they created.
Jazz—Ken Burns PBS Special
Renowned filmmaker Ken Burns reveals the history of jazz in the United States in just ten…
Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things
From her days on the streets of Harlem, to her breakout performance at the age of 17 at Amateur Night at the Apollo…
In 1939, sax-player Charlie “Bird” Parker moves to New York from Kansas City and begins performing at local jazz clubs…
Born to be Blue
In a 1954 performance at Birdland, attended by Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, Chet Baker was the jazz world’s hottest sensation…
Let’s Get Lost
Let’s Get Lost covers Chet Baker’s final year. Fortunately, the film also includes flashbacks and archival footage as Baker looks back on his roller…
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Miles Davis was an African-American born in 1926. His father, a wealthy dentist and farmer, overruled his wife and got Miles…
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
The documentary begins with John Coltrane, a member of the Miles Davis quintet, at the epicenter of the jazz universe…
Coming Soon, Can’t Wait
Opening TBD, 2021: Netflix. Diana: A Musical
Opening TBD, 2021: Netflix. The Crown. Season 4, late 2020; Season 5, 2021.
News Briefs & Commentary
“Day-and-date and other alternative film releasing models have been around for over a decade. Still, most major studios have avoided a strategy that skips the theater altogether, that is, until now. PVOD (Premium Video-0n-Demand) has been tested for a few years in a limited capacity, but it is getting a significant trial run since the lockdowns started.”—FilmTake.com
Rising ticket and concession prices, endless commercials and trailers before each film, and the possibility of sitting next to patrons without masks, are motivating people to watch movies at home. It’s also more economical for studios: Instead of giving theatrical chains 45% of the gross, digital platforms charge 20%. Disney+ will pay no fee as they will be transmitting the films on their own platform. FilmTake.com concludes its article, stating that “It will not be surprising if half of a studio’s slate is made available via PVOD in the future, with a theatrical release being reserved for only the most prominent projects.”
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