The historically significant CRY OF JAZZ
Marc Minsker | Washington, DC | 01/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thanks to the efforts of Atavistic, Ed Bland's historically significant film, THE CRY OF JAZZ has finally made it onto DVD. Adapted from Bland's book, THE FRUITS OF THE DEATH OF JAZZ, and produced by the innovative KHBT Productions, THE CRY OF JAZZ is a fascinating analysis of the state of jazz music in the late 1950s and its relationship to African-American life. No other film of the 1950s probes as deeply into the evils of racism and the appropriation of African-American art forms by white jazz musicians.
Bland's film is divided into two, alternating segments. The first features dramatic scenes of a racially-mixed party wherein the subject of jazz comes up in conversation. The white individuals are skeptical of one African-American's claim that "jazz is dead." In the alternating sections, a voice-over discusses the foundation of jazz and what makes the art form African-American by nature. The philosophical musings on the "paradox of jazz" are quite thought-provoking: Bland argues that the form of the music (repeating chorus or head) is restraining while improvisation allows for freedom. This paradoxical element of jazz is elaborated on as Bland relates the form/changes to the "suffering, futureless future" for African-Americans while identifying improvisation/solos as the eternal present and hope for change. Here are a few quotes that are representative of the tone and direction of this controversial film:
"The jazzman must be constantly creating, otherwise the dehumanizing portrait of him in American life will triumph"
"The American Negro produces an oblique musical product and a damaging commentary on the human wastelands of America."
"The cry of joy and suffering in jazz is based on the contradiction between freedom and restraint. The feeling of freedom is based on the negro's view of what life in America should be, why the feeling of restraint is based on the actual inhuman situation in which the Negro finds himself."
All of the music here is beautifully done by Sun Ra and his Chicago Arkestra of 1958. Although Ra himself is rarely seen in the film, some of the great Arkestra players - like John Gilmore and Julian Priester - are seen up close on the stage.
What makes this film historically significant is Bland's overt commentary on blatant racism and his clear condemnation of whites who appropriate jazz music without truly understanding the art form.
Jazz is Dead!
SBLove99 | New Orleans, La. | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a most excellent critical analysis of Jazz. Brutally honest and totally factual. This 35 minute film packs more of a wallop than the ENTIRE 10 disc Ken Burns Jazz documentary. The Ken Burns story of Jazz only exceeds in its rare footage of great Jazz men and their participation in the film.
The Cry of Jazz succeeds in its dramatization of a discussion between blacks and whites where the blacks participating in the dialouge actually carry the story rather than being the by-standers listening to whites tell our story.
However, the advertisement of Sun Ra's name on the package is misleading. Sun Ra is only used during one segment. If you look at the state of Jazz today, it truly is in a dormant, dead state... Slayed by two Cosmic African Warriors, namely Sun Ra & Sir Miles D. Davis."
For the completist
Christopher B. Eddy | Other Planes OF There, CT USA | 08/13/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Unheard Music could have fit both of their DVD releases onto one disc with room for many extras, but this is Sun Ra, so fans pay alot for very little in most cases. For an enthusiast 15 dollars is a small price to see footage of a young Arkestra.
That aside, the stregth of this release is the very clean transfer of both image and audio, compared to underground VHS tapes that circulate in collectors circles.
the message of the film is an intersting reflection of the times.
"Jazz is Dead!""