Nicolas Pillai previews JAZZPROJECTOR on April 28th at Vortex Downstairs (free entry), and invites requests for future showings:
It was Oliver Weindling’s idea, conceived on the spur of the moment after one of the Vortex’s midnight sessions last year. A regular film event, hosted by me, which would show off jazz-related rarities. I assented, enthusiastically.
While jazz and narrative film have a long and productive mutual history, the layout of the Vortex Downstairs bar (our venue) didn’t seem appropriate for 90 minute movies with lots of dialogue. Instead, I decided to mimic the ‘two sets and an interval’ structure used by musicians, screening shorter films and TV programmes that foregrounded jazz performance.
Our first JAZZPROJECTOR, in February, contrasted the BBC Dizzy Gillespie Quintet Jazz 625 and an ITV Tempo documentary about Stan Tracey’s Alice in Jazzland.
This month, it’s the turn of Pres, Duke and Monk. We kick off with the classic Gjon Mili short Jammin’ the Blues (1944), groundbreaking in its depiction of jazz musicians as serious artists as well as accomplished entertainers. Famous for his LIFE Magazine photo-spreads, Mili brings his keen compositional eye to bear on the film, which depicts Lester Young and others in an abstract studio setting. Jammin’ the Blues was produced by a young Norman Granz who, later in life, filmed Duke Ellington at the Cote D’Azur (1966). We’ll be watching an extract from this piece, in which Ellington’s trio perform for the artist Joan Miro, surrounded by his sculptures.
After the interval, our main feature is the 35-minute Thelonious Monk Quartet Jazz 625 performance from 1965. I hope you’ll join us this Monday. These events are always animated affairs, with lively discussion between screenings. I’ve taught these films in a university setting but there’s something special about watching them at the Vortex Downstairs. Perhaps it’s simply that, as screen technologies increasingly become less communal, the experience of watching film and television in a group setting becomes more valuable. Or perhaps it’s that when one sees these performances projected and hears them through excellent speakers, new insights can be gained into the most well-known of musicians.
WHAT'S COMING UP: I’ve got some treats in store for the coming months: Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Sun Ra, Carmen McRae, Miles at the Isle of Wight…
We hope to showcase some younger bands in the future, so if any contemporary players have film they’d like us to screen at JAZZPROJECTOR, please get in touch by emailing me.
JAZZPROJECTOR: PRES, DUKE & MONK Monday 28th April, 8pm free entry Vortex Downstairs, Gillett Square, Dalston