Author Krin Gabbard sets aside the myth-making around bassist Charles Mingus to argue that he created a unique language of emotions—and not just in music. After exploring the most important events in Mingus’s life, Gabbard’s book takes a careful look at Mingus as a writer as well as a composer and musician. Classically trained and of mixed race, he was an outspoken innovator on his instrument as well as a bandleader, composer, producer, and record-label owner.
Even the best jazz artists were not filmed under the circumstances they themselves might have chosen, since commercial entertainment was often the overriding concern of film producers. Nevertheless, jazz enthusiasts should be grateful for any film of jazz musicians, if only because so little of it exists. Much can be learned from those bits of film that preserve the images of the artists along with their music. Our pleasure in these images can be greatly enhanced when we know where they come from and why there were made.
1. Hollywood films
Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989.
Attali, Jacques. Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985.
Baldwin, James. The Devil Finds Work. New York: Dial, 1976
Berg, Charles Merrell. "Cinema Sings the Blues." Cinema Journal 17.2 (1978): 1-12.
------.[as Chuck Berg] "Jazz and Film and Television." The Oxford Companion to Jazz, ed. Bill Kirchner. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 706-721.
African-American Studies, Anthropology, and Film
1) Regular attendance and participation
2) Attendance at film showings
3) Read all assigned texts
4) 1-page paper on each week's film, due in class the week of the showing, beginning Sept 19
5) A short classroom presentation on one of the scheduled films or related material
6) Final paper of 15-20 pages (based on a topic that has been discussed with the instructor)
University of Kansas
How you'll be graded: On the basis of: a (probably take-home) final exam (34%); a 2000-word, documented research paper on a topic you select and I approve, due by beginning of class on 28 November (34%); a combined grade based on the quality of your participation in class, and the quality of your response papers (frequently assigned in class, and due via the class Blackboard site by noon the following Tuesday) on the books and films screened (33%).
Monk's image in various cinematic biographies is puzzling and contradictory. Gabbard argues that films on Monk tell us as much about the inherent difficulties of documentary filmmaking-particularly with respect to jazz-as they do about Monk's life and music. In addition, he suggests that, like many African-American artists, Monk successfully "held up a trickster's mirror to his observers," allowing them to see precisely what they wished to see.
This resource is the Introduction to Locke and Murray's edited volume "Thriving On A Riff." The editors note that there is "a distinction between the study of jazz itself (in a nuts-and-bolts musicological sense) and the study of things that are jazz related" and that "Thriving on a Riff belongs to the latter category and sharpens its focus further to examine two of the many cultural forms affected by African American music: literature and film." The Introduction surveys the contributions found in the full volume.
The movie "Paris Blues" and album "The Great Summit" are the only collaborations between Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Gabbard offers a critical appraisal and behind the scenes glimpse of both works. By studying the film's discarded footage, Gabbard reveals decisions by its producers to expunge images of racial and sexual self-expression and tolerance, along with their sonic equivalents.
To view the complete resource, download it as a PDF.