JAMMIN’ JAZZIN’ and JIVIN’: JAZZ ON FILM
Exhibition of classic film posters now at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
In 1927, the success of Warner Bros.’ The Jazz Singer, the ﬁrst so-called “all-talkie feature,” launched not only the “sound era,” but also initiated a three decade period during which some of the greatest names in jazz music – Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman – appeared on ﬁlm.
After major ﬁlm studios began exploiting the popularity of jazz, both black and white independent ﬁlm producers began the production of black cast ﬁlms, intended for distribution to theaters catering to black audiences. However, due to the method of distribution, the ﬁlms themselves have often become lost over time and, in these cases, the paper promotional materials are the only evidence we have of their production and release.
Concern for detail, often striking use of color, stylized presentation of the ﬁlm’s content, and use (or avoidance) of the racial and ethnic stereotypes of the period make these posters worthy of our critical study, appraisal and appreciation.
Three nights of film screenings will take place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland this month, in celebration of Black History Month. FREE with a reservation. Visit www.rockhall.com to RSVP.
1. Rock Hall Jazz on Film Exhibit
2. St. Louis Blues, 1929 RKO/Sack Amusements FREE Screening (one of several shorts), Feb. 26th, 7:30pm, Rock Hall – This sixteen-minute short film shot in Astoria, Queens, New York City, is blues singer Bessie Smith’s only screen role. In it, she plays a long-suffering wife of an uncaring gambler. Co-produced by W.C. Handy, author of the title song, the film also features Isabelle Washington (sister of actress Fredi Washington) who plays the “other woman.” Pianist James P. Johnson and the Hall Johnson Choir accompanied Smith and added to the overwhelming pathos of her singing, making this dramatized interpretation of the blues a true film classic.
St. Louis Blues, 1929
FREE Screening (one of several shorts), Feb. 26th, 7:30pm, Rock Hall – This sixteen-minute short film shot in Astoria, Queens, New York City, is blues singer Bessie Smith’s only screen role. In it, she plays a long-suffering wife of an uncaring gambler. Co-produced by W.C. Handy, author of the title song, the film also features Isabelle Washington (sister of actress Fredi W
3. Rock-n-Roll Revue
Rock ’n Roll Revue, 1955
Studio Films Inc.
Another musical compilation of the world’s finest musical and stage performers, this film was originally produced by Ben Frye for 13 television episodes of Harlem Variety Review. It features Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Lionel Hampton and his drumstick juggling, the Nat “King” Cole Trio, Honi Coles and his high speed rhythm tap dancing, Ruth Brown, Dinah Washingto
4. Listen Up The Lives of Quincy Jones
Listen Up: The Lives of
Quincy Jones, 1990
Free Screening, Feb. 19th, 7:00pm, Rock Hall – In the world of show business, few men are as talented and influential as the producer, musician, composer and Hall of Fame inductee Quincy Jones. The entire narrative of this documentary unfolds in a collage of interview snippets, backed by stock footage featuring Jones, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine
Although jazz and rhythm-and-blues star Louis Jordan periodically left the bandstand to make movies – Caldonia (1945), Beware (1946), Look-Out Sister (1946) and Reet Petite and Gone (1947) – he always carried his music and a horn with him. Caldonia, an 18-minute extended short, with Jordan sporting a zoot suit with its characteristic “reet pleat and a drape shape,” became enormously pop
6. Cabin In The Sky
Cabin in the Sky, 1943
Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Free Screening, February 12th, 7:00pm, Rock Hall – This film was an exceptional all-black, all-star, musical fantasy and morality tale about the eternal struggle of Little Joe Jackson (Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) who is caught in a tug of war between heaven and hell. Good and evil take on human form and compete for the favor of Little Joe, who is torn between the loyalty