Cry of Jazz
In 1956, a jazz DJ in Chicago named Edward O. Bland began following
Sun Ra and his Arkestra around the city, filming the band in performance
for what would become this visual essay called "The Cry of
Jazz." The film is based around a discussion that takes place
in an after hours jazz spot, someone's apartment renamed the "Parkwood
Within the gathering of mixed race and gender, young enthusiasts
and musicians, the question "what is jazz" is posed
to the group. Over the next 35-minutes one of the musicians begins
to explain what jazz is, who created it, the conditions it was
born out of, and why jazz as an art form is dead, destined only
to repeat itself. Using the Arkestra to illustrate his point,
they, in musical form, reinforce and show examples being explained
by the narrator -- from the sound of New Orleans swing to the
interesting polar differences of jazz being played by black and
white musicians (although the Arkestra plays both roles).
Though Sun Ra and his crew (lots of footage of a young John Gilmore)
are photographed beautifully, their images are slightly obscured,
cast in shadows, as not to show their recognizable faces for fear
of being fined by the Musicians Union for working without pay.
This is the only known footage of Sun Ra during his stint in Chicago,
and features "Demon's Lullaby", "A Call for All
Demons", "Urnack" among other favorites from his
"Sound of Joy" period.
This is the film that Sonny Sharrock, when asked to play with
Ra, was made to watch. Ra never gave him a proper audition, yet
made him sit in a room watching this film, while he rehearsed
his Arkestra in the other. The topics, issues, and point of view
are strong and startling clear for the time period, and some valid
points are made throughout. Ra was the focal point and inspiration
for the film, but when asked years later about Bland's thesis,
he only commented, "He was wrong." You decide for yourself.
Thought provoking, immediate, and recommended! [DG]