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The Last of the Blue Devils - The Kansas City Jazz Story

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Director Bruce Ricker's 90-minute The Last of the Blue Devils chronicles the 1979 reunion of many of these legendary players, combining interviews, vintage film footage, photos, and some inimitably swinging performances by Basie, Turner, pianist Jay McShann, and many others to create an intimate, good- natured portrait of what one old-timer calls the "cool, relaxed sound" of the city. The camaraderie among these men, all of whom are colorful raconteurs (drummer Ernie William's harangues to some bemused local kids are especially entertaining), is palpable. But it's the music, unsurprisingly, that's the main attraction; performances include some familiar tunes, like Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and a Basie big band version of "Night Train" (featuring tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, the tune's composer) that's as greasy as the local barbecue. The Last of the Blue Devils is an absolute delight.

Amazon.com

Kansas City in the 1930s was a wild, wide-open place. Under political boss Tom Pendergast, the booze flowed freely, prostitution and gambling flourished, and the Depression pretty much passed the city by, making it an ideal spawning ground for some great music. Pianist-bandleader Count Basie, saxophone immortals Lester Young and Charlie Parker, and blues belters Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing were all working there, along with a host of lesser- known but equally formidable musicians, and they all played the blues, Kansas City style.

Director Bruce Ricker's 90-minute The Last of the Blue Devils chronicles the 1979 reunion of many of these legendary players, combining interviews, vintage film footage, photos, and some inimitably swinging performances by Basie, Turner, pianist Jay McShann, and many others to create an intimate, good- natured portrait of what one old-timer calls the "cool, relaxed sound" of the city. The camaraderie among these men, all of whom are colorful raconteurs (drummer Ernie Williams's harangues to some bemused local kids are especially entertaining), is palpable. But it's the music, unsurprisingly, that's the main attraction; performances include some familiar tunes, like Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and a Basie big band version of "Night Train" (featuring tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, the tune's composer) that's as greasy as the local barbecue. The Last of the Blue Devils is an absolute delight. --Sam Graham


Special Features

  • 19 minutes of outtakes, including the musical numbers "Honey Hush," "Rose Garden," "Chains of Love," and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" performed by Big Joe Turner and Jay McShann

Product Details

  • Actors: Buddy Anderson, Count Basie, Eddie Durham, Jimmy Forrest, Curtis Foster
  • Directors: Bruce Ricker
  • Writers: John Arnoldy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Rhapsody Films
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2001
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005M2CK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,250 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Last of the Blue Devils - The Kansas City Jazz Story" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on May 14, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If the people pictured in this movie were just local performers in Kansas City with no historical importance, this would still be a wonderful film. However, it isn't. We have some of the most important figures in Jazz and African American music in general, getting together, socializing and reunioning after many years. Even though most were in their seventies or older when this was done in the mid 1970s, there is incredibly lively music and social interaction. The DVD is essential because those of you who do not know who the various participants are by name, can learn a little more, although not enough.

Take one performer, Eddie Durham. Durham plays one great solo on trombone on a blues number. Later he is seen discussing the change of the name of the One Oclock Jump from Blue Balls with Buster Smith. Durham played with the Bennie Moten Orchestra, the great Jimmie Lunsford band, and then with Count Basie. Durham was also the first known electric guitar player (not with Moten as the director wrongly thinks, there were no electric guitars while Moten recorded, with Moton, Basie, and Lunsford Durham used a national steel guitar and a standard acoustic guitar. His electric recordings came on the Commodore Kansas City 5 and 6 recordings.) and it was Durham who convinced Charlie Chrisitian to take up the guitar, and then the electric guitar. But more than that, Durham as one of the greatest arrangers in the history of popular music. Moten Swing played throughout the film by Basie, a Jay McShann Group, and Moten himself was arranged by Durham, as were One Oclock Jump and Jumpin at the Woodside played by McShann and Basie, as was for Dancers Only and a host of other hits for Lunsford.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. G. Macdonald on January 10, 2007
Format: DVD
As an account of the history of Kansas City jazz "The Last of the Blue Devils" is a bit thin on detail. However this nostalgic record of a gathering of aged musicians is very interesting and at times highly entertaining. For those who are seriously interested in tracing the history and influences of Kansas City Jazz there are plenty of other sources to be explored but Big Joe Turner and friends enjoying themselves is something well worth experiencing - and a bit of the Kansas City jazz story creeps in too.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "oldrattler" on February 10, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The Director, Bruce Ricker, may not be a household name in film, but some impressive credits in recent Clint Eastwood films are telltale and their collaboration is the result of the excellent way in which he put this film together.
Ricker resisted any temptation he might have had to "structure" the film and instead just kept the camera rolling on the greatest jazz musicians around at the time (1979), brought together in one of their old KC haunts. The rest is those musicians doing what they do best -entertaining- and some stellar editing on Ricker's part. It's a great film that should be shown again and again and again. Is there really any need to say the music's fantastic? The stories are, alone, worth the price.
Buy this, you will never regret it and it will age like fine wine as the memories of some of the now dead participants fade.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Charley Brown on September 18, 2004
Format: DVD
I have seen this on film and video about 5 times and never got bored.

If you like the Kansas City Blues and Big bands of the 30ties and 40ties this is the DVD for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nikica Gilic on October 16, 2011
Format: DVD
Some will, probably, complain the lack of of structured info on golden era of Kansas City in this 1979. production... But, I don't care; first of all, there's enough of information AND, much more importantly , there's so much, much fabulous music here, with so much jazz, blues and bluesy jazz, that I'd like to recommend this DVD very warmly both to the seasoned jazz fans and to the jazz novices, who would liek to see what it's all about... AND it's about the reunion of jazz masters after 40 yeas in a club they used to gig, it's about Joe Turner wailing (he can be cool and low down dirty at the same time; very few could pull that), Jay McShann on piano, and singing (he had a very much welcome resurge of carreer at that stage of life), plus a Count Basie big band birthday party, with magnificent music (and often short or less short statements) by Eddie Durham, Claude Williams, Budd Johnson, Jimmy Forrest, jesse price, Crook Goodwin, Paul Quinichette, Charles McPHarson, Gene Ramey, Buddy Lovett, Jo Jones and many, many others (as you can see, there are cats of various generations and jazz/blues substyles here).

Camerawork is OK, with split screen (like in the famous Woodstock documentary) contributing somewhat to the dynamism of the whole affair.
Although Basie orchestra is top class, with ole' reliable Freddie Green playing rhythm(with Eric Dixon, Bobby Platter, Al Grey, Curtis Fuller, etc. etc.), and live, which is also fine,
but Jay McShann (piano and vocal) and Joe Turner (vocal) steel the show,
giving some of the meanest blues/jazz performances that camera has ever filmed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 9, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I ordered this movie to supplement a class I am taking about the Culture of Jazz and Oklahoma music. The wonderful footage of some of the founding fathers of Kansas City Jazz, including the Oklahoman Jay McShann, is a treat!

This is a good movie for anyone interested in what musicianship can be...
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