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JazzTimes 10: Jazz on Film

Ten great examples of what happens when jazz goes to the movies—and the movies go to jazz

6. Jivin’ in Be-Bop (1947)
Plot? Ha, you don’t need a plot when you have music this good. That’s what I imagine the pitch was for this film, which features Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Helen Humes, Ray Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie tearing through 19 musical and dance numbers. Call it the movie-as-revue. It’s also a little surreal, as M.C. Freddie Carter keeps trading jokes with Gillespie—just a couple dudes hanging out and having a time, like they’re you and me taking in a show: Look, there we are! There is some debate whether Gillespie’s cuts were prerecorded, but they were not, so dig in for some prime live bop-era Diz. Bop didn’t last as long as you might think, with the war cutting into everything. This is the moment when it was at its most protean. Dig the hoodoo fires and tell me what music blazes more than Gillespie’s when he was dead-centered on tearing it up, between bouts of cracking (jive) wise.

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Originally Published

Colin Fleming

Colin Fleming writes fiction and nonfiction on myriad topics—art, film, music, sports, literature, current events—for a wide range of publications, and talks regularly on radio and podcasts. His most recent books are an entry in the 33 1/3 series on Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963, a volume about the 1951 film Scrooge as the ultimate work of cinematic terror, and the story collection, If You [ ]: Fabula, Fantasy, F**kery, Hope. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com (where he maintains the unique online journal, the Many Moments More blog) and on Twitter @colinfleminglit. He lives in Boston and has contributed to JazzTimes since 2006.