Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Paris Blues"

Today I found a mono record album of "Paris Blues" (1961), taken from the film with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier, and Diahann Carroll. The music is by Duke Ellington, with a guest appearance by Louis Armstrong. I saw the film on video cassette some years ago, but it has not been released in the US as a DVD.

The music is superb, and features a small combo version of "Take the A Train" and take of "Mood Indigo" featuring trombone. Besides Ellington and Armstrong, no musicians are named on the album, although I recognize Johnny Hodges, who sounds like no other alto (or other) saxophonist I have ever heard. His slurs, articulation, and dynamic precision are astounding and instantly recognizable.

This was quite a find (for $5), since the CD on Amazon goes for over $40. I purchased it at Wax Trax in Denver, an excellent and affordable store for jazz albums. (However, I cannot say much for the music they usually play in the store [mostly punk and metal], and you better be prayed up before going into the bathroom). I found the trailer for the film on YouTube. The basic plot is that a two jazz men--one white, one black--go to Paris to find their musical muse. Paris was more welcoming to black jazz musicians in that day as well as more appreciative of jazz. (Not a few jazz musicians--such as avant-guarde drummer Sonny Murray and post-bebop tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon--found sanctuary there.) Newman and Poitier also find supernaturally beautiful lovers. There is sexual intimacy without commitment (otherwise known as sin), producing some broken hearts in the process. I'd like to watch the film again now that I know more about jazz. As a cultural artifact, it would be fascinating; it likely displays some Existentialist themes, given jazz and the time period.

Let me know if you have seen the film and if you have any commentary on it.

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