From one of the earliest performances by African American musicians on sound film (1923) to Canada’s first foray with jazz on film (1949), guest curator Marcus Turner explores the interconnected histories of jazz and film as he samples groundbreaking film performances by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, Bessie Smith, The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, Hattie McDaniel, Lester Young, Oscar Peterson and more. Highlighted films this week are:
Snappy Tunes, directed by Lee De Forest (1923, USA 3 min)
Also known as Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake Sing Snappy Songs, Sissle and Blake perform the songs “Sons of Old Black Joe” and “My Swanee Home” in this experimental sound-on-film recording.
Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life, directed by Fred Waller (1935, USA, 9 min.)
Duke Ellington unveils his groundbreaking composition “A Rhapsody of Negro Life” against scenes depicting the filmmaker’s interpretation of life. Featuring the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Billie Holiday’s screen debut.
Begone Dull Care, directed by William McLaren and Evelyn Lambart (1949, Canada, 7 min.)
Two Canadian artists—filmmaker Norman McLaren and piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson—join forces to create Canada’s first jazz inspired film. McLaren painted and etched directly onto film to create a visual that was perfectly synchronized to the music of the Oscar Peterson Trio. The resulting film is an avalanche of constantly changing lines, colors, and textures that seem to vibrate with every note. Presented courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.
In Conversation: Curators Juanita Anderson & Marcus Turner are joined by Grammy Award-winning producer Brian Michel Bacchus.