From the Chicago Reader (May 1, 1995). — J.R.
There are only a few great jazz documentaries, and each has a style all its own. This one-hour 1994 dissection of a 1958 group photograph of 57 key jazz musicians is special both as oral history and as a survey of the art. If you wanted to introduce someone to what jazz is all about, this would be an ideal place to start, a labor of love by jazz enthusiast and former Chicago journalist Jean Bach, who did an awesome job of tracking down the surviving participants in and witnesses to the picture taking, even locating some silent home-movie footage by bassist Milt Hinton and his wife. Included are elegant thumbnail profiles of such musicians as Lester Young, Jo Jones, Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Russell, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Horace Silver, Jimmy Rushing, Coleman Hawkins, Dicky Wells, and Stuff Smith, most of them offered by fellow musicians, along with samples of their music and comments on their placement in the photograph. (JR)
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The 2013 Richard Pryor retrospective held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music made me think that it was worth reposting this ancient article of mine, which I regard as one of my better pieces about comedy.
It would obviously be hyperbolic for me to claim that the editorial evisceration originally suffered by this article was comparable to some of the curtailments experienced by Richard Pryor when he appeared on TV or in the Hollywood mainstream, but that’s more or less what it felt like to me at the time. I recently and very belatedly uncovered all but the last paragraph or so of my original version (after posting mainly the published version several months earlier), which I’ve just reinstated here [on November 14, 2011]. The fact that the editor who placed this article in a lead section of Film Comment’s July-August 1982 issue entitled “The Coarsening of Movie Comedy” also changed my title to “The Man in the Great Flammable Suit” may give some notion of what his evisceration felt like at the time.
My working assumption in restoring original drafts on this site, or some approximation thereof, isn’t that my editors were always or invariably wrong, or that my editorial decisions today are necessarily superior, but, rather, an attempt to historicize and bear witness to my original intentions.… Read more »