Black People : Black Film: The Cry Of Jazz (1959).. excellent short film.


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Contextualizer Synthesizer
Nov 2, 2009
theory to application to discussion to percussion
independent thoughtist thinker, context linker
The experimental film is titled The Cry Of Jazz – a fascinating 34-minute critical analysis of Jazz music, directed by Ed Bland
(an African American) – his only film. He went on to a career as a composer, arranger, and producer for the likes of Dizzy Gillespie,
and on films like A Raisin In The Sun, Ganja And Hess, and The Cool World.

Shot on 16mm black-and-white, on no budget, with a volunteer cast and crew, the film is essentially a thesis on the structural
correlation between black life in America and jazz music. Indeed, Bland wrote a book on the matter, titled, The Fruits of the Death
of Jazz, and the characters in the film serve as mouthpieces for his declarations, which must have been startling at the time the film was made, in 1959.

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Well-Known Member
Feb 28, 2009
April 10, 2009

The Cry of Jazz: Q & A with director Edward Bland

What inspired you to tackle the subject matter of jazz and how it relates to race and culture?

Growing up as a jazz musician who later turned to musical composition – so called art music – jazz struck me as a perfect metaphorical construct thru which to formally examine Black American life in the present moment and historically.

The film has a lot of prophetic notions about jazz. Do you think that its ideas have played themselves to the conclusion predicted? Did jazz die?

Currently jazz is yesterday’s news. It is now primarily an academic exercise. In fact it was on it’s way out when we started making The Cry. The first step away was the Delta blues, r&b and Little Richard who gave birth to Elvis and all of rock & roll. The second step away was hip hop.

As to the notion that jazz is dead, similar things have been said about contemporary hip-hop culture. Do you see any parallels with the two genres and how they reflect and respond to black culture?

Hip hop is poetry, not music. It needs music in order to strengthen its poetic message, like opera. It is revolutionary on a number of levels. The stars of hip hop own themselves, their music publishing, their recordings (if they choose to) and have allied businesses like clothing and jewelry lines. The “soft power” of American black culture, with its international impact, has come of age thru hip hop.

Why did you chose The Sun Ra Arkestra to perform for the film?

We made The Cry on less than a shoestring budget. I knew of Sun Ra’s music and that he owned the recordings and his publishing rights. So we licensed it from his company, thus avoiding the costs of recording sessions. Most importantly the music was great for the spirit of the film.

There is an underlying sexual dynamic between one of the white women characters and the African-American lead character. I think that is an interesting element of the the film that creates tension. Is there something that you were addressing by including that dynamic?

There was a sexual dynamic between two of the actors. Yes, we were addressing American sexual racism.

The mixed race dynamic in the film creates a great setting for the discussion that takes place but African-American women are not represented in the film. Was this an artistic choice?

We got 65 people (black & white) to donate their services/labor to the film. They worked for free. We paid their expenses. We paid for film stock, rentals of cameras and sound equipment and motion picture labs. The actors were among the 65 people who were given contracts, in case substantial monies were made. We were unable to find any black actresses who would work for free. This was circa 1958.>>>>

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