At the Jazz Band Ball features rare, archival film clips from 1925 to 1933 that showcase a wonderful potpourri of musicians, bandleaders, singers, dancers, and entertainers that characterized the best of the Harlem Rena... more »issance and the Jazz Age. The range of this collection represents early 20th-century Americana, from the hometown charm of the Boswell sisters performing the jazz-scat classic "Heebie Jeebies" to the Al Jolson-like antics of Charly Wellman's take on "Alabamy Snow." Of course, jazz is the heartbeat of this pre-World War II time and it's manifested in many ways. There's the classical sophistication of Paul Whiteman's orchestra rendition of "My Ohio Home" with the young trumpet pioneer Bix Beiderbecke, and the elegant and enduring Duke Ellington swinging like mad on "Old Man Blues" with baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, and an imaginative medley consisting of "The Duke Speaks Out," the evocative "Black Beauty," and Cotton Club Stomp" in which the lovely dancer Fredi Washington--and the innovative mirror shots--steal the show. There's also the "Empress of the Blues," Bessie Smith, with her sorrow-song version of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." But Louis Armstrong, the first major jazz improviser and vocalist, is the prince of this era, as evidenced by his down-home trumpet solos, stage charisma, and gravel-like vocals on "I Cover the Waterfront," the fast and furious "Dinah" (as seen on Ken Burns's Jazz), and "Tiger Rag." Add the dapper Dorsey Bros. Band, the tap-dance wizardry of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Ben Burnie's burning big band treatment of the Harlem Globetrotters' theme "Sweet Georgia Brown" and you know the exuberance and artistry of this brilliant chapter in American history. --Eugene Holley Jr.« less
Outstanding clips from the sunset of the golden age of jazz
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think this video is a must have for anyone interested in the 20's jazz world.The short but wonderful Boswell Sisters film is my favorite because I didn't know such a thing existed and I've been fascinated by their scratchy recordings for years.The films of Armstrong,Ellington,and Bessie Smith are the earliest (and only for Smith) examples of them on film.Of coures they are hot and it's the"20's Ellington sound "and LOUIS the soloist .Still I have to say it's only a faint glimmer of a world we can only view as a dream thats ended.The Ben Bernie and Tommy Christian bands are interesting examples of 20's band styles .The dancing varies from bad chorus line to totally amazing.Not every thing on this video is great or even good but if you can relate to it on its own terms its a peek through the veil to something wonderful."
The Heart of Jazz
Paul Matus | "Metro Brooklyn," NY USA | 06/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What would you rather watch to get a taste of German cabaret in the early '30s, Cabaret (1972) or The Blue Angel (1931)? If you answer the latter you may especially enjoy this interesting compilation that is less polished than many others, especially the big studio productions of later years. I am especially charmed by two productions that might be at the bottom of others' lists--the dance hall performances by Tessie Maize and Ruby Darby. By modern standards, many of the dancers were too heavy and too unpolished to even point a camera at, but they let us see what an ordinary audience of their times could see, not only the numbers, but the unaffected intimacy of the piece, and their cheer and enengy. This DVD is like discovering a treasure in a collector's attic. A must have."
Mixed Bag; For The True Devotee
Thomas Bumbera | Maplewood, NJ USA | 03/04/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A nice selection of rare material is undercut by the presentation here. Many films have been poorly framed so that people's heads are cropped - God, it's annoying, did no one look at this before it was released? Audio is generally as good as source material permits. As for the Bix clip - yep, there he (barely) is, in the brass section, FAKING his way through "My Ohio Home" (watch his fingering, it doesn't match the arrangement, and he stops playing before the rest of the section). So this is not the "only sound film document" of Bix playing - he ain't playing. There is no tray insert with any background info or even a track list, and nothing onscreen to indicate what you're watching, so you'll need to have the box handy. Nobody went out of their way to upgrade this for DVD, that's for sure. If you have the VHS, you don't need this. Four stars for material, docked one star for presentation."
Good Compliation-look for more
J. E. Fox | New York, New York United States | 05/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent compilation of rare material, and it a must have for the great Boswell Sisters material, the shot of Bix in Whiteman's trumpet section (not soloing as the box says), the "dance contest" with Chick Webb's 1929 band (which released only 1 78), closeups of Duke's 1929 band-Wellman Braud, Sonny Greer, young Harry Carney and Johnny Hodges (soloing on soprano), Freddy Jenkins, Artie Whetsol, Cootie Williams...
Collectors should be warned that the version of St. Louis Blues with Bessie Smith is an edited, truncated version. So is the 1929 Duke Ellington material featuring Fredi Washington, great as all this stuff is. So for more, seek out the whole items, available on other collections."
Excellent Hard to find Swing Dance Scenes
J. E. Fox | 12/10/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The quality of this compilation is excellent. This video has Bojangles famous "stair tapping sequence. Also, the only "Shorty George" Snowden swing dance scene in existance that was taped in 1929, which shows how the original Lindy Hop looked more like Charleston than Lindy. Plus a few other scenes of dancers such as the Cotton Club Boys, etc. Some excellent Music scenes of some famous as well as obscure bands. If you are a video collector/historian/Dancer...this is a must have video."