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May 2022

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Even though it’s still considered primarily a classical instrument, the cello has been lurking in jazz’s back corners for more than a century. Today, a small but growing group of musicians are giving it a more central role in the music. Geoffrey Himes unearths the instrument’s jazz history and consults with modern practitioners Abdul Wadud, Erik Friedlander, Akua Dixon, and Hank Roberts.

Approximately three decades ago, in the smoke-filled environs of Augie’s Jazz Bar on New York’s Upper West Side, organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and drummer Bill Stewart coalesced into a trio that was clearly built to last. In conversation with Ted Panken, the three musicians discuss their origins and the distances they’ve traveled since.

It’s on anyone’s short list of the all-time great jazz films; that it’s being reissued on DVD and Blu-ray by Criterion calls for a celebration. Colin Fleming revisits this 1986 Bertrand Tavernier masterwork starring the inimitable Dexter Gordon and notes that it gets about as close as any movie can to understanding the essential life force of jazz.

The saxophone section of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, whose story is told in Judy Chaikin’s film The Girls in the Band (Courtesy of Judy Chaikin)
The saxophone section of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, whose story is told in Judy Chaikin’s film The Girls in the Band (photo courtesy of Judy Chaikin)

For the past decade or so, we’ve been living in a golden age of jazz documentaries, from Chasing Trane and I Called Him Morgan to It Must Schwing! and Ronnie’s—plus many, many more. In some ways it’s easier to make films like these nowadays, but in other ways it can be more of a struggle than ever. Lee Mergner talks to several distinguished documentarians about the state of their art.


JT Notes
Opening Chorus: Honoring the sound of Contemporary Records on its 70th anniversary; Jacob Riis’ 19th-century New York photographs inspire a suite by Anders Koppel; and farewells to Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch, Jim Harrison, Joe Diorio, Mickey Bass, Askia Muhammad, Ernie Andrews, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Isao Suzuki, and Ron Miles
Chronology: Eight great jazz movie soundtracks 
Before & After: Ryan Keberle
Overdue Ovation: Azar Lawrence

Chops: The messy matter of music royalties
Audio Files: Brent Butterworth on “Chi-Fi” earphones
Coda: Classic jazz moments on film

Reviews: Albert Ayler’s final performances boxed, 25 composers address Black lives, Catherine Russell, Brad Mehldau, mid-’80s Chet Baker, Michael Weiss, Ilhan Ersahin, Júlio Resende, and more 

Cover image of Dexter Gordon in 1981 by Brian McMillen