Jammin' the Blues (1944)

Approved   |    |  Documentary, Short, Music


Jammin' the Blues (1944) Poster

Created under the guidance of jazz impresario and Verve Records founder Norman Granz, this short captures the spontaneity of a jam session and is one of few film records of black jazzers of the day including tenor sax legend Lester Young.


7.9/10
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Director:

Gjon Mili

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2 May 2009 | jlewis77-1
10
| Great "one-of-a-kind" experimental short from a mainstream studio
Each of the major studios cranked out jazzy one-reelers throughout the thirties and forties (with Universal taking the lead). While most looked as cheap on screen as they were to make, Warner Bros. (which abruptly stopped making them in 1946) often distinguished theirs with offbeat camera angles, mirrors and optical effects, thanks to some creative directors like Jean Negulesco. It is fitting that the best of this genre should come from this studio.

What sets "Jammin' The Blues" apart from the rest of the pack is that it more closely resembles an avant-garde experiment than a Hollywood musical. Filmed in July 1944, it transforms an ordinary jam session into a "trippy" dream-escape from war-time troubles, highlighted by the tune of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street". Gjon Mili and cameraman Robert Burkes (later to work with Hitchcock) were allowed plenty of artistic freedom, perhaps because Lester Young was not Glenn Miller and the studio could care less how he and his fellow musicians were presented. The optical printer is put to good use, with multiple images of the same performer appearing at once. (Norman McLaren really milked this process two decades later in "Pas De Deux", while Linwood Dunn's team achieved different effects in "Citizen Kane".) The strong emphasis on silhouettes and lit cigarette smoke was also ahead of its time; in some ways, this predated the psychedelic sixties, but with a distinctly forties film noir style.

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