Jazz In Film

The Film: They Call Me Mister Tibbs!

The Year: 1970

The Director: Gordon Douglas

The Stars: Sidney Poitier, Martin Landau, Barbara McNair, Anthony Zerbe, Edward Asner, Beverly Todd

The Music: Composed by Quincy Jones

The Story: Detective Virgil Tibbs, now a lieutenant with the San Francisco police, is assigned to investigate the murder of a prostitute. A prime suspect is Rev. Logan Sharpe, a liberal street preacher and political organizer, who insists to Tibbs that he was merely visiting the hooker in a professional capacity, advising her spiritually. Tibbs questions a janitor from the victim’s building, Mealie, as well as another man, Woody Garfield, who might have been the woman’s pimp. Suspicion falls on a man named Rice Weedon, who takes umbrage and is shot by Tibbs in self-defense. Tibbs concludes that Sharpe really must be the culprit. Sharpe confesses but requests Tibbs give him some time to complete his work on one last political issue. Told this wouldn’t be possible, Sharpe takes his own life.


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Jazz In Film

The Film: Carmen Jones

The Year: 1954

The Director: Otto Preminger

The Stars: Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Brock Peters.

The Music: Soundtrack work done by Cozy Cole along with great performances by Pearl Bailey, Max Roach, Richie Powell and Curtis Counce.

The Story: This adaptation of the 1944 Broadway success provided a modern Black version of the Merimee story that retained the original Bizet music. At an all-black army camp, civilian parachute maker and “hot bundle” Carmen Jones is desired by many of the men. Naturally, she wants Joe, who’s engaged to sweet Cindy Lou and about to go into pilot training for the Korean War. Going after him, she succeeds only in getting him into the stockade. While she awaits his release, trouble approaches for both of them.


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Jazz In Film

The Film: Bells Are Ringing

The Year: 1960

The Director: Vincente Minnelli

The Stars: Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Eddie Foy Jr. and Jean Stapleton

The Music: Composed by Jule Styne; appearance by baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan

The Story: Ella Peterson is a Brooklyn telephone answering service operator who tries to improve the lives of her clients by passing along bits of information she hears from other clients. She falls in love with one of her clients, the playwright Jeffrey Moss, and is determined to meet him. The trouble is, on the phone to him, she always pretends to be an old woman whom he calls “Mom.”

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Jazz In Film

The Film: A Man Called Adam

The Year: 1966

The Director: Leo Penn

The Stars: Sammy Davis Jr., Ossie Davis, Cicely Tyson, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra Jr., Peter Lawford, Mel Torme, Lola Falana, Jeanette Dubois, Johnny Brown, George Rhodes and Henry Silva.

The Music: Scored by Benny Carter with Sammy Davis ghosted by Nat Adderley. Performances by Louis Armstrong, Billy Kyle, Buster Bailey, Tyree Glenn, Kai Winding, Jo Jones, Frank Wes and Mel Torme.

The Story: Sammy Davis Jr. does a great job as the film’s central character Adam Johnson, a famous self-destructive, unlikable jazz trumpeter finds himself unable to cope with the problems of everyday life. He finds true love for the first time with a virginal bleeding heart: a sensible civil rights activist who wants to reform the hotheaded musician of his hard liquor and hard living. Adam, carrying around a multitude of shoulder-chips, lashes out at everybody and never seems to land on his feet; after burning all his bridges, he finds himself at the end of his professional rope; yet the faithful are still hopeful he can make a comeback. Much better are Ossie Davis as a friend with a strong center and endless patience, as well as love-interest Cicely Tyson. Mel Tormé stops the show with a terrific rendition of “All That Jazz”, while the superb soundtrack and Jack Priestley’s gleaming cinematography are first-rate throughout.

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Jazz In Film

The Cool World

The Director: Shirley Clarke

The Writers: Shirley Clarke, Carl Lee, Warren Miller and Robert Rossen

The Actors: Rony Clanton, Carl Lee, Yolanda Rodriguez, Clarence Williams III, and Gloria Foster

The Music: The soundtrack of abstract jazz colorings was never officially released, however, this Dizzy Gillespie re-recording is the next best thing.

The Story: This 1964 film is a powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery and a sense of despair due to the racial prejudices of American society. There is no patronizing of the black race in this cinematic cry for justice. A fifteen-year-old boy called Duke is ambitious to buy a “piece” (a gun) from an adult racketeer named Priest, to become president of the gang to which he belongs, and to return them to active “bopping” (gang fighting) which has declined in Harlem. It is a clearly patent allegory of an attempt by Duke to attain manhood and identity in the only way accessible to him – the antisocial one.

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