Melbourne recently celebrated its 17th year of hosting the International Jazz Festival. The 10-day event, which took place between May 30 and June 8, showcased spectacular performances by local and renowned musicians, exhibitions and workshops. There was something for everyone.
As part of the festivities, The Australian Centre for Moving Image, (ACMI), held the Jazz on Film Season, showing a range of movies and documentaries of anything jazz related and its impact on the world. Two films stood out. The first being The Pleasures of Being Out of Step. The documentary was a wonderful insight on Nat Hentoff. The jazz critic, the civil libertarian, the anti-abortion advocate and to some, a controversial figure, who over half a century, redefined critical writing. Jazz fans and movie goers alike will enjoy The Pleasures of Being Out of Step.
The other was Charles Lloyd: Arrows Into Infinity provided an in depth look into one of jazz’s most influential musicians. Offering never before seen interviews, films and photos of this eccentric performer who moved through time during the wild counterculture of the 1960s to the black liberation movement of the 1970s. With a legendary career spanning nearly six decades and breaking down racial barriers through music with masterpieces such as, Forest Flowers and Moon Man. Arrows Into Infinity presents a rare insight into one of the world’s most unconventional jazz musicians.
The Man with the Golden Arm is also worth seeing. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, this 1955 classic, staring Frank Sinatra who famously won the role over Marlon Brando, was so controversial for its time that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) refused to certify it. With Sinatra’s gripping performance and the unforgettable jazz score produced by Elmer Bernstein, it is truly a fascinating film. Directed by Otto Preminger, The Man with the Gold Arm tells the story of Frankie, (Sinatra) a heroin addict released from prison, struggling to stay clean while looking for a new start in life.
A fabulous documentary, Bayou Maharajah, explores the life and times of James Booker, one of most influential musicians to hail from the New Orleans rhythm and blues scene. With his eye patch, flamboyant stage presence and personality, James Booker earned many nicknames during his time, but perhaps most famously ‘‘the black Liberace’’. This awe inspiring documentary by Lily Keber, with captivating interviews with Harry Connick Jr amongst others and never before seen footage of the man himself, brings vision to a true musical prodigy.