USA / France 1996
Dir: Robert Altman
72 min., 35mm, 1:1.85, Color, engl. OV
Produktion: Sandcastle 5 Productions, Inc., CIBY Pictures, Inc., London. Kamera: Oliver Stapleton. Ausstattung: Richard Johnson. Schnitt: Brent Carpenter, Dylan Tichenor. Musik-Produzent: Hal Willner. Musik-Supervisor: Sue Jacobs. Musik-Coproduzent: Steven Bernstein. Dirigent: Butch Morris. Toningenieur: Eric Liljestrand.
Mit: Jesse Davis, David 'Fathead' Newman (Alt-Saxophon), Ron Carter, Christian McBride, Tyrone Clarke (Baß), Don Byron (Klarinette, Bariton-Saxophon), Russell Malone, Mark Whitfield (Gitarre), Victor Lewis (Percussion), Geri Allen, Cyrus Chestnut (Klavier), James Carter, Craig Handy, David Murray, Joshua Redman (Tenor-Saxophone), Curtis Fowlkes, Clark Gayton (Posaune), Olu Dara, Nicholas Payton, James Zollar (Trompete), Kevin Mahogany (Gesang), Harry Belafonte (Erzähler).
Uraufführung: Juli 1996, TV-Festival, Montreux.
Weltvertrieb: CIBY Sales, 10 Stephen Mews, London W1 P 1PP, Tel.: (44-171) 336 4664, Fax: (44-171) 333 8878.
Thu 20.02. 00:15 Delphi Mon 24.02. 22:45 Arsenal
'Hosts of Freedom'(by Karl L. King). 'Tickle Toe' (by Lester Young). 'Indiana' (by Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley). 'Moten Swing' (by Bennie Moten and Buster Moten). 'Blues in the Dark' (by William 'Count' Basie and James Rushing). 'I Surrender Dear' (by Harry Barris and Gordon Clifford). 'Pagin' the Devil' (by Walter Page and Milton Gabler). 'I Left My Baby' (by William 'Count' Basie, Andy Gibson and James Rushing). 'Froggy Bottom' (by Joe Williams). 'Yeah Man' (by J.Russel Robinson and Noble Sissle). 'ASCAP' (arranged by Geri Allen). 'Lafayette' (by William 'Count' Basie and Ed Durham). 'Solitude' (by Eddie De Lange, Duke Ellington and Irving Mills).
For his recent film, KANSAS CITY, Robert Altman invited 21 of the best young contemporary jazz musicians to perform the classic music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Marie Lou Williams, and Bennie and Buster Moten in a once-in-a-lifetime gathering. While not playing note for note the music of the earlier era, these musicians kept the integrity of the original while adding their own voices. In JAZZ '34 Robert Altman presents the music from KANSAS CITY for its own enjoyment.
The music was simultaneously shot in 35mm with three cameras on the film's location, which recreated Kansas City, circa 1934. Much of it is used in the film itself but is seen and heard in extended versions in this performance piece. Among the film's highlights is an excerpt of a legendary 'cutting session' between Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, watched by 14 year old Charlie Parker, a Kansas City native. The musicians worked together in a three-week jam session, performed at the Hey-Hey Club, the site of the film's jazz activity, participating in what has been termed 'The Jazz Event of the Decade'.
Among the headliners are Joshua Redman, Ron Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Christian McBride, James Carter, Don Byron, Mark Whitfield, Nicholas Payton and Craig Handy. Also, David Murray, Jesse Davis, David 'Fathead' Newman, Olu Dara, James Zollar, Curtis Fowlkes, Clark Gayton, Victor Lewis, Geri Allen, Tyrone Clarke, Russel Malone, and singer Kevin Mahogany.
15 songs are featured in the 72 minute theatrical version. In addition to Harry Belafonte's narration, Altman also recorded memories of Kansas City citizens and musicians of the period which are interspersed throughout the film.
For the first half of this century, Kansas City was the crossroad of commerce for one-sixth of America and for the best musicians travelling throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
It was off the beaten path for the early New Orleans jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Sidney Bechet, who moved to Chicago for better work in 1917, and it was also isolated from the influences of the New York publishers and recording companies who controlled the music industry.
So, from the beginning Kansas City Jazz was a grass roots movement. The bedrock of its support came from the city's Afro-Americans, who in the 1930's represented 10-15% of the 500,000 population. For black urban Americans of the '20's and '30's, jazz and blues were cultural necessities, not luxuries, and the men who played the music were their own people.
Entering this mix was an unlikely catalyst, a man who scarcely listened to music at all. 'Boss' - Tom Pendergast ruled Kansas City between 1926 and 1936, having in his pocket both the political machine and the racketeers, led by John Lazia. Although he always was in bed by 9 p.m., Pendergast made sure Kansas City never slept. It was a wide-open town of dance halls, nightclubs, honkey-tonks and after-hours spots. The gangsters who ran the clubs and brothels respected jazz for they understood its value in attracting customers. At its peak, between 50 and 100 nightspots were in operation, the greatest concentration in America.
Pendergast's policy kept the economy flowing through Prohibition (nobody bothered taking the signs down), the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression. Mid-America was loaded with great jazz orchestras but Kansas City had the best - Bennie Moten's Orchestra, the area's leading band since its 1923 recording debut. Moten's success allowed him to bring in such immortals as Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing and Bill Basie, later called 'Count'.
The hard times that forced most of the nation's jazz clubs to close drew all the big-time musicians to '18th and Vine'. The city was jumping!
The infusion of these great players with Kansas City's own talents produced a jazz renaissance that rivaled New Orleans' founding years. The blues were urbanized, melodies were streamlined into infectious riffs and the beat was elevated to new levels of swing. This lighter, looser, more elegant variation of the big band style provided the standard for an entire era of popular music.
Today, when people speak of the jazz mainstream, they are really talking about Kansas City Jazz.
One Kansas City specialty was the jam session with their all-night 'cutting contests'. No city engaged in these sessions with such enthusiasm and competitive spirit, with many jams divided into contests of the first, second and third class, like sporting events. For musicians like Lester Young and native Charlie Parker, the after hours jam sessions became a way of life. Often, their paid jobs were just extended warm-ups for the real business of the evening that began when their regular gigs ended.
(...) A sort of Olympics of jazz musicians summoned for Altman's ode to the hopping city of his youth, pic provides extended versions of many of the instrumental interludes seen and heard in Kansas City. Movie tells us repeatedly that Kansas City was the place to be in 1934 and, judging from the 12 magnificent musical numbers brought to life here in their sparkling entirety, no one with ears could doubt it.
Kicked off by Harry Belafonte's scene-setting offscreen narration and shots of the exquisitely restored '18th and Vine' neighborhood that once boasted the greatest concentration of nightspots in America, pic subtly sketches the cycle of one very long night of very good music.
The expert give-and-take among musicians is inspired, as is the unobtrusive yet probing camerawork. Lensing and cutting perfectly support the performances, whether reverent and melancholy or boisterous and bursting with bravado. The director used three 35mm cameras, edited on tape and struck the present print from a tape-to-film transfer. Due to the occasional barely glimpsed smeared or skipped frame, result is slightly 'off' in a way that only enhances the dreamy, intoxicating atmosphere.
Sound quality is rich and distinct. Musicians are obviously not only thrilled to be challenging their colleagues to ever greater heights but are also willing conspirators in the act of impersonating their talented forebears. Period dress, including highwaisted trousers, suspenders, vests, ties and, especially, felt hats worn indoors, reinforces the vintage feel.
(Lisa Nesselson, in: Variety, New York, September 23-29th, 1996)
Robert Altman was born on February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, USA. He is a director, scriptwriter and producer. He first began to work in film in 1947 in his hometown at the Calvin Company, a large production company for industrial films. From 1957 to 1965 Altman worked in Hollywood where he directed a number of television programs, a.o. Combat, Alfred Hitchcock presents and Bonanza.
1957: The Delinquents; The James Dean Story. 1968: Countdown. 1969: That cold day in the park. 1970: Brewster McCloud; M*A*S*H. 1971: McCabe and Mrs. Miller. 1972: Images. 1973: The long good-bye. 1974: California Split; Thieves like us. 1975: Nashville. 1976: Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's history lesson. 1977: 3 Women. 1978: A Wedding. 1979: H.E.A.L.T.H.; A Perfect Couple; Quintet. 1980: Popeye. 1982: Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. 1983: Streamers. 1984: Secret Honor. 1985: Fool for love. 1987: Beyond therapy; O.C. & Stiggs. 1988: Aria. 1990: Vincent & Theo. 1992: The player. 1993: Short Cuts. 1994: Ready to wear/Prêt-à-porter. 1996: Kansas City; Robert Altman's Jazz '34.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.