A Great Day in Harlem | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A Great Day in Harlem


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There are only a few great jazz documentaries, and each has a style all its own. This one-hour 1994 dissection of a 1958 group photograph of 57 key jazz musicians, one of the opening attractions of the four-day Silver Images Film Festival, is special both as oral history and as a survey of the art. If you wanted to introduce someone to what jazz is all about, this would be an ideal place to start, a labor of love by jazz enthusiast and former Chicago journalist Jean Bach, who did an awesome job of tracking down the surviving participants in and witnesses to the picture taking, even locating some silent home-movie footage by bassist Milt Hinton and his wife. Included are elegant thumbnail profiles of such musicians as Lester Young, Jo Jones, Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Russell, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Horace Silver, Jimmy Rushing, Coleman Hawkins, Dicky Wells, and Stuff Smith, most of them offered by fellow musicians, along with samples of their music and comments on their placement in the photograph. On the same program, Kevin Segalla's Notes (1994), Natalie Cash's Blues in C (1994), and one of the other great jazz documentaries, Gjon Mili's arty but exciting Jammin' the Blues (1950), which includes prime performances by Lester Young and Jo Jones. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Thursday, May 18, 9:00, 281-4114 or 881-8491.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Still.

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