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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



A Story of Jazz in Europe

EuroArts 2055748




This is Julian Benedikt’s third film about jazz and it targets a better understanding of how jazz came to Europe and how European musicians have influenced jazz both in the USA and the rest of the world. One of the problems in producing a film of this topic is that there is a scarcity of footage available to illustrate the subject. Most of the films that were made of music in jazz clubs were of a very poor quality; not only are the images unclear, but often the sound is even worse! This must have given Mr Benedikt a real problem and this has unfortunately resulted in a film that is more ‘Talk’ your own thing, than ‘Play’ your own thing.

There is an inaccuracy in a film of the Ellington Band where Paul Gonsalves is confused with Johnny Hodges, this is a minor point however as most jazz fans would know the difference. The fact that the film uses several languages without sub-titles requires the viewer to have a degree in modern languages, to get the full benefit.

There is some nice footage of Ben Webster and Kenny Clarke playing together, followed by something much more sombre from Miles Davis.

A very good point is made about many of the instruments used in jazz originating from Europe, particularly from Adolphe Sax, who invented one of the most dominant instruments used in the genre.

Later parts of the DVD are used to try to justify so-called ‘free’ jazz, which is mostly played by people who were not good enough at the ‘real' thing! In some cases however, e.g. Albert Mangelsdorff, they were brilliant jazz players who went off on a weird tangent.

Unlike France and Scandinavia, the UK did not get to hear many of the American Jazz Greats till later in the day, because of the Musicians’ Union ban on visiting American musicians. This did not seem to do the music any great harm; there was a regular if small supply of jazz records, which kept people happy. There were also many British musicians working for ‘Geraldo’s Navy’ on the transatlantic ships of that time. As soon as they docked in New York, the musicians made for the New York jazz scene. Nevertheless world-class performers such as Tubby Hayes, Johnny Dankworth, Cleo Laine, Jimmy Deuchar, Tommy Whittle and many others were produced.

When it comes to Europeans influencing the USA, surely the most important would be George Shearing, who doesn’t even warrant a mention!

To everyone interested in our great music, this film is worth viewing because it stimulates discussion. For me, I would have liked more music.

Don Mather


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