Great Black Music Project – Chicago

Black History Month Screenings – Center for Inner City Studies
700 East Oakwood Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois, 60653

Wed., Feb. 6, 5-7pm
Sweet Love Bitter, 1967, Herbert Danska
Comedian and activist Dick Gregory stars as Richie “Eagle” Stokes in 1967′s Sweet Love Bitter. Basically, the Charlie Parker story done as a drive-in flick. Near the end of his career, Eagle battles drugs and “the Man” while staying true to his art. Takes place in smokey Jazz clubs, coffeehouses, and the streets of New York. Based on the book “Night Song” by John Williams. The movie really didn’t do the book justice, but very enjoyable. GREAT soundtrack LP on Impulse! by Mal Waldron.

Wed., Feb. 13, 5-7pm
Thunder Soul, 2011, 88 minutes
A precious scrap of American history, this documentary by Mark Landsman tells the story of Conrad Johnson, an inspiring music teacher at Houston’s predominantly black Kashmere High School who turned the school’s jazz band into a fearsomely hard-charging funk outfit in the 1970s. Most high school stage bands at the time were white ensembles playing ancient big-band numbers, which made Johnson’s innovative combination of original funk tunes and big, muscular horn sections seem even more dramatic. Rehearsals for a 2008 reunion concert, honoring Johnson on his 92nd birthday, give his former students a chance to recall his impact on them as a mentor (particularly the boys, lower-class kids who were galvanized by his passion, discipline, and professionalism). Some of the interviewees tend to oversell the story emotionally, but the band’s electrifying music speaks for itself.
By J.R. Jones

Miles Davis in Dingo
Wed., Feb.20, 5-7pm
Dingo, Australia, 1991
Dingo is a 1991 Australian film directed by Rolf de Heer and written by Marc Rosenberg. It traces the pilgrimage of John Anderson (played by Colin Friels), an average guy with a passion for jazz, from his home in outback Western Australia to the jazz clubs of Paris, to meet his idol, jazz trumpeter Billy Cross (played by legendary trumpeter Miles Davis). In the film’s opening sequence, Davis and his band unexpectedly land on a remote airstrip in the Australian outback and proceed to perform for the stunned locals. The performance was one of Davis’ last on film.

Louis Armstrong
Wed., Feb. 27, 5-7pm
The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong, UK, 1999, 65 min
Directed by John Akomfrah
You would think there couldn’t be anything else to say about Louis Armstrong after Ken Burns’s Jazz, which elevated the trumpeter to the status of the 20th century’s most important musical figure. But this hourlong program (produced in 1999, some two years before the Burns documentary began airing) equals and often surpasses Jazz by taking a less reverential, more personal approach. Not that Armstrong’s monumental innovations and influence are neglected; inevitably, some of the same biographical and musical ground is covered, with several very familiar Jazz faces (like Wynton Marsalis and writer-critics Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch) providing illumination. But we also get more clips from interviews with Armstrong himself (some from television shows hosted by the likes of David Frost, Jackie Gleason, and even Orson Welles) and those who knew him, like second wife Lil Hardin and longtime bassist Arvell Shaw, as well as some wonderful anecdotes (descriptions of Armstrong’s first spouse, a razor-toting prostitute, who kept working after they married, and his audience with the Pope are priceless).

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