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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Colin Fleming

Colin Fleming writes fiction and nonfiction on myriad topics—art, film, music, sports, literature—for a wide range of publications. He also talks regularly on the radio for the likes of NPR and Downtown with Rich Kimball. His most recent book, Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls (Tailwinds), was published in 2019, with an entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series on Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club to follow in 2020. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com (where you’ll also find his unique online journal, the Many Moments More blog) and on Twitter @colinfleminglit. He lives in Boston and has contributed to JazzTimes since 2006.