Jazz and me.

The question of how I first became interested in listening to jazz came up today. Well I believe that it was listening to the Duke Ellington score for the Martin Ritt film Paris Blues that really got me hooked. This was back in the early sixties in Ireland when there was no opportunities of seeing jazz live, and when the opportunities of listening to it record were almost non-existent.  Of course, I had by this time seen films about jazz, but what I’d never seen was a film in which the playing of jazz was central to the story.

I had seen films like Pete Kelly’s Blues, The Gene Krupa Story, and Young Man With a Horn, all of which dealt with jazz, but it when I saw Paris Blues, which dealt with two characters to whom the playing of jazz was a way of life rather than a way of being successes in showbiz,  that I really began to listen to the music for its own sake.

After seeing that film – about a dozen times, I have to say- I deliberately sought out films which had jazz scores or were scored by jazzmen.  I don’t know how many people have fond memories of Robert (To Kill a Mockingbird) Mulligan’s film version of the Garson Kanin play The Rat Race starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. I do, but not because of the film itself was especially good, but because some of the music was supplied by the youthful Gerry Mulligan 

Irish audiences were left in the dark about one of the final twists in  Otto Preminger’s courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder because the censor had removed a key scene in which semen stained panties are brought into court as evidence, but that never bothered me. The marvellous Ellington was enough to make me want to see the film over and over again. (Eventually I did find out what the twist was, but by then I’d watched the film over a dozen times) 

That’s more or less how my lifelong engagement – such as it is – began.

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