"Jammin' the Blues" with Lester Young
Quick Note: I uploaded the legendary short film, "Jammin' The Blues" starring Lester Young to YouTube to share it with you. But Warner Bros has seen fit to disable the audio in my YouTube upload. So instead of recommending Warner's release of this classic film on DVD, I am going to point out that the same short is available on Norman Grantz's Improvisation. The print isn't quite as clean as on the Warner Bros DVD, but it contains rare outtakes from the making of the film. The YouTube video above is from Grantz's DVD.
Animation is anything but an improvisatory medium. Every frame is painstakingly created by hand, and animators time the action down to a 24th of a second. Only the very best animators are able to overcome the constraints of frame by frame filmmaking and imbue their work with a feeling of spontaneity. Chief among these rarified breed of animators is Ralph Bakshi. I've written about him twice already in my stint here as guest blogger, but it's not just because he's my pal. It's because he is so unique. Ralph's first three pictures, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin are intensely personal- just like Lester Young's sax solos. He accomplishes his results in the same way- by constructing his films as a real-time performance with virtuoso animators. Scenes are animated and laid down and another scene takes its place. The result might not be as polished as other animated films, and the narrative can become quite fragmented, but it's a hundred times more honest than talking dogs and princesses.
"Jammin' the Blues" may just be the most beautiful film about Jazz ever made. I don't need to say anything more than that.