Commissioned and published by DVD Beaver in 2007. Last year , Ehsan Khoshbakht and I put together sidebar for Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy, “Jazz Goes to the Movies,” and then a reconfigured version of this a few months later at the Festival on Wheels in Ankara, Turkey, which led both of us to revisit many of these titles and releases. — J.R.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of jazz films — documentary records of particular jazz performances and narrative films that incorporate jazz in some fashion, in their soundtrack scores and/or in their stories. But in some cases, identifying which films belong in which category is simply a matter of personal taste. Consider, for instance, Black and Tan and St. Louis Blues, two landmark jazz shorts directed in 1929 by Dudley Murphy —- a fascinating figure who straddled the avant-garde and the mainstream, having both collaborated with Fernand Léger on Ballet mécanique and Paul Robeson on The Emperor Jones and directed several Hollywood pictures, and who’s been receiving some belated recognition lately thanks to Susan B. Delson’s excellent biography, Dudley Murphy: Hollywood’s Wild Card (University of Minnesota Press, 2006). I would argue that Black and Tan, which stars Duke Ellington, is important chiefly as a narrative film, whereas St.… Read more »