Saturday, August 13, 2011

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
A jazz documentary film festival
for a summer's day

This week, we're taking a break from the usual routine of previewing upcoming shows and showcasing St. Louis musicians for a sort of summer vacation post, featuring a half-dozen full-length jazz documentaries for your late summer viewing and listening pleasure.

Kicking off our little film festival up above is Jazz On A Summer's Day, the famous movie made at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island by photographer Bert Stern and film director Aram Avakian. The film offers views of picturesque scenery and the festival crowd as well as performance footage of Jimmy Giuffre with Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall, Thelonious Monk with Henry Grimes and Roy Haynes, Sonny Stitt and Sal Salvador, Anita O'Day, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Big Maybelle, Chuck Berry, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars with Trummy Young, Danny Barcelona and Jack Teagarden, and Mahalia Jackson.

Speaking of Thelonious Monk, down below you'll find Straight No Chaser, a 1988 documentary by Charlotte Zwerin about the unique pianist and composer, featuring performance footage and interview with friends and family. Below that - think of it as a double feature of sorts - there's an embed of Storyville: The Jazz Baroness, a movie by filmmaker Hannah Rothschild about her great aunt Pannonica de Koenigswarter who, for 28 years, acted as muse and helper to Monk. Known as "the Jazz Baroness," she left behind a privileged life in England and moved to New York to become "the untiring patron of bebop" and "a flagbearer for civil rights and feminism."

Below that, you'll find The Universal Mind of Bill Evans, a 1966 film by director Louis Cavrell that looks at the musical philosophy and influences of another great 20th century jazz pianist and features some fascinating interviews with Evans.

We conclude today's screenings with two films about the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus: the 1968 film Charles Mingus by director Thomas Reichman that features, among many other things, the infamous footage of Mingus getting evicted from his NYC apartment; and Triumph of the Underdog, made 30 years later by director Don McGlynn, with Mingus' wife Sue as co-producer, and offering a more comprehensive overview of the bassist's career.

(Several of the films were uploaded to YouTube by a blogger named Rick Stolk; you can check out his blog Jazz Pages here, and his YouTube channel here.)

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