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Sounds for Silence: Jazz & Silent Films

Jazz and silent film collide in Louis and projects by Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot

Bill Morrison and Dave Douglas (photo: Robert Cable)

The little man with the toothbrush moustache and the waddling walk looks familiar, but the scheming Judge Perry finds himself in situations that even Charlie Chaplin’s hapless Little Tramp managed to avoid: fathering a child with a New Orleans prostitute, say, or running afoul of a young Louis Armstrong and his street-urchin friends.

This odd mash-up of 1920s cinema and jazz history is Louis, one of two new films by director Dan Pritzker that take inspiration from the life of mythic trumpeter Buddy Bolden. The first-time filmmaker initially heard of the legendary bandleader in 1995 as “the guy who invented jazz,” and the mystery of his tale became an obsession. “It struck me as a very beautiful and tragic story,” Pritzker says. “In the course of studying Bolden I went to see Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, and decided that I wanted to make a companion piece that would be a silent film about a little boy name Louis who wanted to learn how to play the trumpet in New Orleans in 1907.”

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Originally Published

Shaun Brady

Shaun Brady is a Philadelphia-based journalist who covers jazz along with an eclectic array of arts, culture, and travel. Brady contributes regularly to the Philadelphia Inquirer and JazzTimes and Jazziz magazines, with subjects ranging from legendary artists to underground experimentalists. His byline has appeared in DownBeat, Metro, NPR Music, and The A.V. Club, among other outlets. He studied filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago and continues to spend too much time in the dark.