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Bust out a bucket of popcorn and take a seat in your favorite easy chair. We've assembled a prime selection of films on jazz, including history, biographies, and Hollywood films featuring jazz for the discerning hard bop musician. Below are new titles and recommendations. Go here for our Complete Listings.


Ray
Directed by Taylor Hackford -- 2004

Audiences have been amazed by the incredible performance Jamie Foxx gives as Ray Charles in Ray, ever since the film was first released in theaters in October of 2004 from Universal Pictures. Now the film is available on DVD and vidio in several formats, including a special 2-disc set. Foxx's portrayal is a tour de force, an astoundingly accurate depiction of the blind R&B legend who died in June, but not before meeting Foxx and giving the 36-year-old actor his blessing.

Bird
Directed by Clint Eastwood -- 1988

A complex but fascinating look at the later life of Charlie Parker. Eastwood's flashbacks-within-flashbacks can get a bit confusing at times, and thought the focus is on his drug and marital problems, the film still succeeds. 52nd street is recreated in detail, as are the struggles of the bebop musicians. Parker's solos were kept intact--backed by modern jazz musicians--for the terrific Bird soundtrack by Lennie Niehaus. Forest Whitaker, Oscar-nominated Diane Venora and Michael Zelniker star.

Round Midnight
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier -- 1986

What this French film lacks in drama, it makes up for in music. Dexter Gordon plays an aging jazz musician--loosely based on Bud Powell and Lester Young--who is befriended by a young jazz fan in Paris. Gordon was near the end of his life, and while his musical capacities had definitely diminshed, he was nominated for an Oscar. There is an ebulience to the proceedings that is infectious. And what a supporting cast: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Cedar Walton, and Billy Higgins. The film also spawned an Oscar-winning soundtrack album.

The Miles Davis Story
Directed by Mike Dibb -- 2002

A British documentary on the life of Miles Davis. Those looking for complete concert performances should be warned, this is not a concert film, and tantalizing glimpses of performances will be cut short by commentary. But as a detailed look at the life of the influential trumpeter from his beginnings in St. Louis, apprenticeship with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, and on into the realm of Fusion and hip-hop, it succeeds maserfully.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser
Directed by Charlotte Zwerin -- 1989

Produced by Clint Eastwood, this documentary of Thelonious Sphere Monk, is everything the above documentary on Miles is not. The focus here is on complete performances both on the stage and in the studio that had never been seen before, extensive 1968 footage, shot by Michael and Christian Blackwood. Conversations with colleagues and family members attempt to unravel the enigma of the eccentric pianist and composer. A soundtrack album is also available.

John Coltrane: The Coltrane Legacy
Video Artists International -- 1987

TV clips, interviews and performances unravel the web of mystery surrounding John Coltrane throughout his career. Includes rare performance video of his solo work with Eric Dolphy and McCoy Tyner. Interviews with Elvin Jones, Reggie Workman, and more.

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker
Garry Giddins -- 1988

This is the definitive documentary on Charlie Parker. Includes the complete TV appearance with Dizzy Gillespie that was only partially shown in the Ken Burns documentary. Anecdotes by Chan Parker, Gillespie, and Jay McShann are priceless. The documentary also goes in-depth about Parker's early life in Kansas City, including interviews with his first wife. A great companion book is also available.






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Any comments, additions or suggestions should be adressed to:
The Hard Bop Homepage / Eric B. Olsen / ebolsen@juno.com
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The War Film Web            Author Eric B. Olsen