The Jazz Films of Les Blank

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Experience jazz greats on the big screen with hosts of New England Public Radio's legendary Jazz à la Mode program, Tom Reney and Peter Sokolowski.  Enjoy 20 minutes of LIVE jazz before each performance, and stick around to discuss the history, the personalities and the music after each show.

DIZZY GILLESPIE (1965)

Rare images of immortal bebop jazzman Dizzy Gillespie as he talks about his beginnings and music theories — and blows a lot of hot music on his famous bent horn.

22 minutes. NR.

 

ALWAYS FOR PLEASURE (1978)

An intense insider’s portrait of New Orleans’ street celebrations and unique cultural gumbo: Second-line parades, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest. Features live music from Professor Longhair, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, the Neville Brothers and more. This glorious, soul-satisfying film is among Blank’s special masterworks.

58 minutes. NR.

 

LES BLANK, who died earlier this year at the age of 77, was an exuberant documentarian of the most distinctive sights, sounds and flavors of American culture.  As Bruce Weber noted in the New York Times' obituary pages, his films are "rife with deftly framed portraiture, cunningly observed social scenes, beautiful nature photography and the poetic juxtaposition of imagery and sound." For nearly 50 years he created mainly short films with such idiosynchratic subjects as garlic, gap-toothed women, and most famously, the equally discriminating filmmaker Werner Herzog.  But throughout his career, he celebrated the diverse sounds of Americana, which, in addition to the music presented in this Jazz à la Mode program, includes portraits of Ry Cooder, Lightnin' Hopkins, Huey Lewis and the News, zydeco performer Clifton Chenier, and Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell amongst many others.