Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kansas City

There are several ways to make a film about jazz. It is obvious to start with the documentary, using original shots with the original musicians; colleagues tell their stories about the subject of the film. A good example is Ken Burns's Jazz. That's not the type of film I want to talk about; I want to draw a parallel between films that use actors and do have a story. There are several classical examples, like Hello Dolly or Young Man With A Horn, but I love to introduce you some films that were released in the 1990s like Kansas City, Bird and Round Midnight; Three, complete different, productions I have in my collection.

This first part is about the Robert Altman film Kansas City.

The story told in the film Kansas City is a thriller about gangsters and the jazz is used as an element with a lot of atmosphere. The musicians in the clubs, dressed like 1930s Kansas City musicians, are real and won their spurs on stage in the 1990s and 2000s so far. The shots of the bands, used in the film. are short and it is good to learn that the complete performances have been used in a documentary, called Robert Altman's Jazz '34 Remembrances of Kansas City Swing.
In this documentary you can find the complete performances. The musicans, like Cyrus Chestnut, Nicholas Payton, James Carter, David Fathead Newman and Josua Redman ( to name some musicans I was able to see in a live performance myself) are playing a role being 1930s Kansas City musicians, but their music is real and it gives a thrilling image of that time. In the 1995 film Kansas City, the musicians play a role, not as an actor, but as part of the story: Geri Allen plays Mary Lou Williams, Chyrus Chestut as Count Basie, Victor Lewis as Jo Jones, Nicholas Payton as Hot Lips Page, David Fathead Newman as Coleman Hawkins, James Carter as Ben Webster and Joshua Redman as Lester Young. Albert J Burnes, an actor, playes the role of a young Charlie Parker.


For me the 1996 Robert Altman Jazz '34 documentary, edited from footage originally shot for the 1995 Robert Altmans Kansas City is a very valuable film that gives me the opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of improvisation and to share my passion of jazz .

KANSAS CITY - USA/France 1995 – fdir Robert Altman
Music by: (producer) Hal WillnerMusic Directed/Conducted by: Butch MorrisSue JacobsMusic Arranged by: Steven Bernstein, CraigHandy, Geri Allen, Don ByronSongs: "Tickle toe" by Lester Young; "Indiana" by Ballard MacDonald, James F. Hanley;"Moten swing" by Bennie Moten, BusterMoten; "Blues in the dark" by Count Basie,Jimmy Rushing, arr Steven Bernstein; "I surrender dear" by Harry Barris, Gordon Clifford,arr Craig Handy; "Pagin’ the devil" by WalterPage, Milt Gabler, arr Don Byron; "I left mybaby" by Count Basie, Andy Gibson, JimmyRushing, arr Steven Bernstein; "Froggy bottom" by Joe Williams, arr Geri Allen, StevenBernstein; "Yeah man" by J. Russell Robinson,Noble Sissle, arr Steven Bernstein; "Lullaby ofthe leaves" by Joe Young, Bernice Petkere, arrGeri Allen; "Lafayette" by Count Basie, EdDurham, arr Craig Handy; "Solitude" by EddieDe Lange, Irving Mills, Duke Ellington.With: Hey-Hey Club musicians:- Olu Dara,Nicholas Payton (as Hot Lips Page), JamesZollar, tpt; Curtis Fowlkes, Clark Gayton, trb;Jesse Davis, David Fathead Newman, as; JamesCarter (as Ben Webster), Craig Handy(as Cole-man Hawkins), David Murray, Joshua Redman(as Lester Young), ts; Don Byron, clar, bar sax; Geri Allen (as Mary Lou Williams), Cyrus Chestnut (as Count Basie), pno; Russell Malone, Mark Whitfield, gtr; Ron Carter, Tyrone Clark, Christian McBride, b; Victor Lewis (as Jo Jones), drs; Kevin Mahogany, voc. Also, Albert J Burnes as the young Charlie Parker. (Source: Jazz In The Movies - David Meeker)


ROBERT ALTMAN’S JAZZ ‘34 REMEMBRANCES OF KANSAS CITY SWING - USA/France 1996 – fdir Robert Altman
Music by: (producer) Hal WillnerMusic Directed/Conducted by: Butch MorrisSusan JacobsMusic Arranged by: Steven Bernstein, CraigHandy, Geri Allen, Don Byron.
Soundtrack Personnel: narrator: Harry BelafonteSongs: "Tickletoe" by Lester Young; "Indiana"by Ballard MacDonald, James F. Hanley;"Moten swing" by Bennie Moten, BusterMoten; "Solitude" by Eddie De Lange, DukeEllington, Irving Mills (arr SB); "Blues in thedark" by Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing (arr SB);"Harvard Blues" by Count Basie, Tab Smith,George Fraizier (arr SB); "Lafayette" by CountBasie, Eddie Durham (arr CH); "Lullaby of theleaves" by Joe Young, Bernice Petkere (arrGA); "Piano boogie" by Geri Allen, StevenBernstein, Cyrus Chestnut; "Pagin’ the devil"by Walter Page, Milt Gabler (arr DB); "Queernotions" by Coleman Hawkins (arr CH); "Yeahman" by J. Russell Robinson, Noble Sissle (arrSB).With: Olu Dara, Nicholas Payton, James Zollar, tpt; Curtis Fowlkes, Clark Gayton, trb;Jesse Davis, David "Fathead" Newman, as;James Carter, Craig Handy, David Murray,Joshua Redman, ts; Don Byron, clar, bar sax;Geri Allen, Cyrus Chestnut, pno; Russell Malone, Mark Whitfield, gtr; Ron Carter, ChristianMcBride, Tyrone Clarke, b; Victor Lewis, perc;Kevin Mahogany, voc.Edited from footage originally shot for the feature "Kansas City" (1995) (q.v.).(Source: Jazz In The Movies - David Meeker)

The other two film discussed are
Round Midnight and Bird


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