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'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Tis Autumn - The Search for Jackie Paris is more than a documentary film about a great but unhearalded jazz singer - it's also a brutally truthful exploration into what it is to live the life of an artist in its least glamorous aspects; the years of ups and downs, the constant hope that success is just around the corner, the humiliation of public ignominy, the private tragedies that grow out of artistic frustration, and the final, self-inflicted wounds which all too often are a prelude to complete obscurity. With interviews by a host of jazz legends including Dr. Billy Taylor, James Moody, Anne Marie Moss, Mark Murphy, George Wein and many others, this DVD boasts over 70 minutes of bonus features that include extended interviews with a number of jazz luminaries, filmmaker commentary, the theatrical trailer and concert footage of Jackie Paris' final performance.

Review

'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris's primary importance is its role in exposing a great talent - who was recognized by other greats - but inexplicably passed over by the god of good fortune. The documentary's pacing effectively captures the celebratory and melancholy aspects of Paris' life, and we are treated to his mellifluous voice.

In his last years, its clears that age robbed him of the tonal silkiness and dexterity he enjoyed as a youth, but that's par for the course for almost any singer. What we see is a somewhat delicate elderly man who still enjoys doing what he does best, but betrays a hint of sadness in his eyes.

As one might expect, the DVD, a single-disc package, comes with a complement of special features, chief among them a series of interviews with various musical figures who worked with or knew Paris. This includes DeFelitta himself, who spent many hours with Paris, and speaks of a "divide in his life", a chasm between his swift rise, unexpected plateau, and rapid downfall.

We also get a photo gallery of Paris in his lush life years and beyond, the terse but effective theatrical trailer for the film, and grainy 1949 footage of Paris' loopy, sombrero-clad performance of "Mexicali Rose". Perhaps the greatest treat among the extras is a video of his comeback performance at the Jazz Standard, a highlight of which is his gentle, heart-tugging rendition of "'Tis Autumn". Perhaps the "Skylark" realized, that evening, that autumn had come for him. -- PopMatters.com, Terrence Butcher, April 3, 2009

A fascination with a particular historical figure, even an artist, can lead a filmmaker in a variety of directions, as Chris Neilson points out in his review of 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris. "In 1991, jazz pianist and filmmaker Raymond De Felitta (Two Family House) heard 'Paris in Blue' on the radio and was instantly mesmerized by the melodious voice of the singer. After discovering that the song was written by Charles Mingus especially for vocalist Jackie Paris, De Felitta set out to find everything he could by Paris, but didn't turn up much beyond one Japanese import. After reading in a noted (but erroneous) jazz encyclopedia that Paris died in 1978, De Felitta mostly abandoned his search until March 2004, when De Felitta happened to read in The New Yorker that Paris, very much still alive, was performing two nights in Greenwich Village at The Jazz Standard. De Felitta showed up with camera in hand and recorded what would turn out to be Paris's last performances. Though Jackie Paris would be dead within three months of bone cancer, he graciously granted De Felitta several interviews over those final months.

"De Felitta's documentary 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris is partly a tribute to the memory of a great jazz vocalist whose fame never matched his talent, and partly an attempt to answer the question why that fame eluded him. In addition to the performance footage from The Jazz Standard and the subsequent interviews with Paris, De Felitta interviews a who's who of jazz performers and journalists, a devoted Jackie Paris fan and amateur archivist, as well as relatives and ex-wives of the performer." -- DVD Talk, Jamie S. Rich, November 2009

As a musically clueless teenager, I had little use for jazz. "That stuff they play in the background of TV shows?", I mused, while giggling at Gopher's insipid bumbling on episodes of that highbrow perennial The Love Boat. I've since evolved into an avid fan of numerous jazz standards, including the lovely "'Tis Autumn", also discovered during prime-time, but brought to me by the gravel-voiced Redd Foxx(!)

Googling that tune led me on a circuitous route to Raymond DeFelitta's 2006 documentary `Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris, and a heartfelt look at the life and times of a man billed as "The greatest voice you never heard". In 1991, while motoring around the beachside burg of Venice, California, jazzman and filmmaker Ray DeFelitta became entranced by a voice pouring from his stereo. It was a Charles Mingus recording, but DeFelitta drew a blank on the vocalist. Informed by a knowledgeable pal that the singer was a chap named Jackie Paris, DeFelitta quickly tracked down every Paris recording he could, desperate to discover more.

His search eventually turned up an obituary - in a reputable jazz encyclopedia - which claimed that Paris died in 1977. DeFelitta was amazed, then, to read a blurb in a 2004 issue of The New Yorker announcing Paris' upcoming club date at Greenwich Village's The Jazz Standard. Not surprisingly, DeFelitta attended the show, glued to his chair while the frail, septuagenarian Paris strolled through some classic numbers. But who exactly was this man, and why had he "vanished"? In the words of a colleague, Paris was "Chet Baker times 10", and a favored interpreter of many giants of mid-century American popular music, including the formidable Charles Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and perhaps, as television stalwart Joe Franklin suggests, Frank Sinatra. Yet he remains largely obscure to generations of Americans, and DeFelitta sets out to unravel this mystery.

Paris was born Carlo Jackie Paris in the `20s to Italian-American parents in suburban Nutley, New Jersey. A handsome boy, he loved tap dancing, and found success in vaudeville, performing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson after being discovered by Harry Mills of the fabled Mills Brothers.

After serving in WWII, Paris, inspired by his buddy Nat King Cole, formed The Jackie Paris Trio, handling guitar and vocals himself. The group took off immediately, playing 52nd St's celebrated Onyx Club for an unprecedented 26 weeks, possibly the longest engagement in "Swing Street"'s history. Soon after, Paris recorded "Skylark", which some consider the seminal version to this day. Even composer Hoagy Carmichael insisted that "the kid sings the hell out of it". Two years following that, Paris achieved the distinction of being the first white vocalist to tour with the renowned Lionel Hampton Orchestra, quite a coup for anyone, but after suffering Hampton's punishing schedule, he declined an invitation from Duke Ellington, as he was simply too exhausted. Duke's son Mercer told him, "You're the only guy that ever turned down my old man".

Jazz aficionados recognize Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" as a totemic example of the genre, a song used as a standard by which to judge myriad others. What many forget - if they ever knew - is that Paris recorded it first. He also served as the only regular singer to travel with the Charlie Parker Quintet, and apparently, it's a sad fact for many serious jazz enthusiasts that no recording exists of the Parker-Paris duo. The early `50s truly proved to be a fruitful period for Paris, as he was awarded New Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine's inaugural poll, fellow winner Ella Fitzgerald counted him among her favorites, and Mingus stroked his ego by naming Paris his favorite singer. He and Mingus had already worked together - 1952's "Paris In Blue" was composed specifically for him - and would collaborate for decades to come.

Perhaps Paris' oddest endorsement came from scabrous, authority-defying comic Lenny Bruce. The two often performed on the same bill, and Bruce had this to say: "I dig his talent. The audience loves him and he gets laughs. He is toooooo much!!" In fact, Bruce penned a salutary three-page letter to his agent, begging him to represent Paris. For reasons unknown, the testimonial was never mailed, only to be discovered years later, after Bruce's untimely demise. Considering the arc of Paris' career after the `50s, the letter's "disappearance" may have been a portent of stormy weather ahead.

For a sharp performer who had future legend written all over him, the `60s were no picnic for Paris, as was true for cocktail society in general. The country's musical tastes were rapidly changing; the youth audience switched to rock n' roll, and some of the celebrated night spots began to falter.

Paris found scant audience for his material, and settled for playing small club tours and recording with his first wife, singer Anne-Marie Moss throughout the `60s and `70s. At one point, Vanishing Point star Barry Nelson finagled an appearance for them on "The Mike Douglas Show". After their divorce, he continued to perform, but derived the bulk of his income from teaching classes and private vocal lessons. His final album, The Intimate Jackie Paris, was released on a small label in 2001, three years before his death.

How does one fathom the dissolution of such a promising career? Many feel that Paris could have been another Johnny Mathis or Tony Bennett, but he never scored any genuine hits, and little filmed record of his countless performances even exists. DeFelitta visits a record convention - popular among those with a fetish for artistic obscurities--in a doomed quest to track down the Paris original "Round Midnight", but has no luck. He questions surviving relatives of Paris. There are claims--not only from relations - that he was temperamental, perhaps egomaniacal, and thus disliked by club owners and promoters. There are suggestions of poor management in the `70s, and one relation contemplates that his career may have stalled because he angered La Cosa Nostra, who reportedly wanted to handle his bookings. If Paris nursed an inner rage that made him difficult, there are potential wellsprings for this. He likely wanted better for his brother Gene, a heroin addict who never accomplished much in his life, and later passed from cancer. DeFelitta also delves into - or attempts to - his early romantic life, uncovering some disturbing secrets that Paris himself seems noncommittal about. Through much of the film, it's implied that Jackie never produced any offspring. However, a later visit to the Florida home of an early wife/girlfriend? of his clearly suggests otherwise. There's also the inquisitive phone conversation DeFelitta has with one Barbara Paris, a young singer who the director seems to think resembles Jackie. She insists no, but Defelitta has his doubts. And, as Billy Vera points out, it can wear on one's soul to be anointed a genius, but still struggle to make the rent, as Paris surely did after the fertile `50s.

`Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris's primary importance is its role in exposing a great talent - who was recognized by other greats - but inexplicably passed over by the god of good fortune. The documentary's pacing effectively captures the celebratory and melancholy aspects of Paris' life, and we are treated to his mellifluous voice.

In his last years, its clears that age robbed him of the tonal silkiness and dexterity he enjoyed as a youth, but that's par for the course for almost any singer. What we see is a somewhat delicate elderly man who still enjoys doing what he does best, but betrays a hint of sadness in his eyes.

As one might expect, the DVD, a single-disc package, comes with a complement of special features, chief among them a series of interviews with various musical figures who worked with or knew Paris. This includes DeFelitta himself, who spent many hours with Paris, and speaks of a "divide in his life", a chasm between his swift rise, unexpected plateau, and rapid downfall.

We also get a photo gallery of Paris in his lush life years and beyond, the terse but effective theatrical trailer for the film, and grainy 1949 footage of Paris' loopy, sombrero-clad performance of "Mexicali Rose". Perhaps the greatest treat among the extras is a video of his comeback performance at the Jazz Standard, a highlight of which is his gentle, heart-tugging rendition of "'Tis Autumn". Perhaps the "Skylark" realized, that evening, that autumn had come for him -- PopMatters, Terrence Butcher, April 3, 2009

Coming across the DVD, " 'Tis Autumn - The Search for Jackie Paris" feels like accidentally stumbling into one of those forgotten bars in a sleepy corner of some big city. A place that was so hip 50 years ago that nobody wanted to change it, until it was too late.

The DVD by documentary filmmaker Raymond De Felitta is filled with black-and-white photos of famous jazz musicians, singers and patrons in 1950s nightclubs. Lots of guys in skinny-brimmed hats and partying ladies in off-the-shoulder gowns. But what makes the disc so timely is its subject - jazz singer Jackie Paris.

In the early 1950s he was coming up in the business just as pop culture sophistication was going down (or moving to Las Vegas). Though his personal timing while singing was impeccable, his timing in the history books was terrible. It is pure tragedy how Paris was exceptionally good at a style of singing no young people wanted to hear.

Unable to keep up with the trends, to re-invent himself as a folk singer, power ballad singer or - worst case scenario - as a sad-eyed country singer, Paris began to fade away. His genius for improvising harmonic lines on smoky saloon songs was too subtle to survive.

But these days, good taste isn't the dirty word it used to be. Plenty of aging boomers are beginning to wonder if there might actually be more interesting crooners around than Rod Stewart. Which means the engaging voice of Jackie Paris is due for rediscovery.

De Felitta is eager to help. While establishing the singer's credentials (his real birth name is Jackie Paris), the praise he received from Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and just about every other prominent bop-head, the filmmaker makes sure to include impressive snatches of Paris' inventiveness as a pure jazz singer.

We hear the old recordings with new ears. Today's jazz audiences are catching up to the sounds that Parker, Gillespie and Mingus were hearing. Paris was the only singer Parker would work with. In 1953, Downbeat magazine named Paris the best new male vocalist of the year.

High praise, indeed, but De Felitta interviewed Paris 50 years later, with Paris saying with only a touch of bitterness "I was called a musician's singer, which became a curse." What he meant was, none of the recording company execs thought Paris was commercial enough to have a hit record.

Searching for other reasons, the determined filmmaker goes rummaging through the singer's ample collection of ex-wives and estranged children. Paris had a quick temper. He became arrogant, difficult to work with. And most damning of all, he refused to let the Mafia manage his career.

What we know for sure, a genius-grade talent was denied the opportunity to take root and grow. Popular tastes were changing from swing bands to rock bands. A perfect storm of conflicts chased away fate's flirtations with Jackie Paris. In that, there is tragedy. But in " 'Tis Autumn - The Search for Jackie Paris" there is a seductive sampler of reasons to prowl the Internet for any forgotten copies of those old albums. -- Tucson Citizen, Chuck Graham, March 19, 2009

Having read that "the greatest voice you never heard" had died years before, filmmaker Raymond De Felitta was shocked to discover that Jackie Paris was making a "comeback" appearance in New York City a decade later. A singer that toured as a vocalist with saxophone icon Charlie Parker and whose take on Hoagie Carmichael's "Skylark" is considered definitive, Paris, who died in 2004, tells his own story. Along the way we're treated to priceless archival footage from the 1940s through the 1970s and insightful commentary from jazz peers Dr. Billy Taylor, James Moody, and singer Mark Murphy. All can attest to Paris' exceptional voice, but they also hint at the foibles that might have held back his career. A thorny personality, anger problems, mismanagement, and plain old bad timing help explain why his career never flourished. Seen here late in life, Paris comes off as a genuinely empathetic but ultimately tragic figure. This fascinating portrait of a long overlooked jazzman contains bonus features that include extended interviews and filmmaker commentary. -- Austin Chronicle, Jay Trachtenberg, April 3, 2009

I've been in touch with an East coast critic who's written a script for a movie about Felix Pappalardi, famed musician (Mountain) and producer (Cream, Youngbloods, etc.), and the enthusiasm this guy presented me with has been responsible for greatly invigorating a sense of the late Pappalardi as a far greater presence than I'd ever suspected. I hope he sells the script, I think the movie would be fascinating, but the very act of devoting so much time and research to the bass player pal of Leslie West prompted me to consider: how many musicians have gone similarly underlauded yet held the potential to transform things. No sooner had the query entered my thinking than I was sent this documentary on jazz singer Jackie Paris, who went almost completely ignored except that he was lauded by Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, and others, and what could more possibly say you've arrived than the admiration of such notables? Yet Jackie Paris, a white guy who'd begun singing with even bigger names he wowed in the 40s -- Charlie Mingus, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, etc. -- was thought to have passed away in 1977 and then suddenly showed up in a comeback effort in March 2004. This is what caught the attention of film-maker Raymond DeFelitta, and a stunningly revelatory documentary was born, becoming an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, when released, ironically received excellent reviews from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and New York Newsday yet, just like Paris himself, too little consumer exposure despite.

You've probably never heard his name, neither had I, but Paris was a drop dead perfect blend of Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, and Chet Baker, maybe even a bit of Paul Anka. He was a gent hugely admired by the greats of his day, and many still consider his take on Skylark to be the toweringly definitive version, and, listening to it, I have to agree. There's such subtlety and elasticity to what he does. Mingus was positive the singer was destined for great things, as Paris became the first vocalist to record Round Midnight. At the Newport Jazz Festival, he proved to be a hit. Yet no matter how titanic the critical and musician regard, one misfortune after another bayed at his heels. Before a record would be released, the company would fold or the date would be mysteriously withdrawn. One label exec even pulled a published album for the extremely flimsy excuse that the cover was "too lurid" sporting a photograph of several young people lying face down on the beach sands and about as salacious as a Gidget movie.

Lenny Bruce loved the guy and rehearsed an act with him, lauding his name to the moon in a long letter to a producer buddySand then never sent the letter, for reasons none can guess at. Lenny was not a mean man and truly loved great art, but the letter was among his effects and discovered after he died. The film-maker started unravelling the backstory, but it still doesn't explain matters, as the movie makes plain. What we find, though, is a story of emotional instability. Paris had once backhanded a club owner, possessed a violent streak earlier in life, and had turned down the Mafia's "desire" to handle him. His brother Gene was junkie, his father a womanizer who beat Gene when the son expressed a desire to train in boxing, and Jackie experienced a myriad of the usual dysfunctionality all too common in the American culture. In an interview with John Slocum in Downbeat, Paris portrayed his own downfall: "I was a louse". On the other hand, he was reflecting an upbringing not that unusual among artists, nor the behavior arising from it. After all, look at Buddy Rich and God only knows how many other jazz lions who were vastly nastier than Paris.

As the singer neared 40, the LP The Song is Paris issued on the prestigious Impulse label and was highly regarded by critics and musicians but failed to register with consumers. It was also issued on the cusp of the 60s British Invasion in rock, not to mention the advent of the reptilian A&R job title new to music circles, the MBA-type who didn't know shit from shinola in art but had connections. At his height, with his greatest LP, by one means or another, fate remained unkind to Jackie Paris after two decades bubbling beneath the Big Time.

The longer the film runs, the harder it is to credit that this guy never made it huge. His life story doesn't explain it, and thus the movie opens the doors on a genuine mystery. Jackie Paris just never got a break, much like Terry Reid, probably rock's most ill-fated singer, and his astonishing history. Paris should've been another Tony Bennett or even a Sinatra but blind destiny had another, a sadder, tapestry to weave. More to the point, his material is still fresh and invigorating yet has not seen CD reissuance except in Japan.

Throughout the footage, Ira Gitler, James Moody, Harlan Ellison, and a number of society and industry luminaries appear, all dumbfounded how such a fine voice and redoubtable talent could possibly have failed to bring the singer fame and riches. Then this DVD edition tacks on a generous 70 minutes of extras: further interviews with musicians, the filmmaker's commentary, and concert footage of Paris' final performance in a comeback at age 79, a failed gambit that was soon after followed by his death. 'Tis Autumn is a great look back at a genuine enigma in jazz history and shines a much deserved light on a figure who should've been a giant but remains almost completely unknown to this day. -- Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (F.A.M.E), Mark S. Tucker, March 2009

Literally written off as dead (in one jazz encyclopedia) before his time, "Tis Autumn - The Search for Jackie Paris" (Outsider Pictures, B) celebrates a singer who clearly deserved better. Fans of Mel Torme and Tony Bennett will sense a kindred spirit here. -- Philadelphia Daily News, Jonathan Takiff, April 28, 2009

Raymond De Felitta, 'Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris (Outsider Pictures).

Jackie Paris may be all the evidence we need that talent is not enough. The remarkable singer had a burst of popularity and was adored by the jazz community when bebop was dominant. Then, except for brief reappearances and a few records, he all but sank out of sight. When Paris was old, Raymond De Felitta found him and made a film that tells Paris's story with the passion of a fan and the cool eye of a documentarian. -- Rifftides (ArtsJournal.com), Doug Ramsey, April 2009

The answers were as varied as the musicians. Some left the scene because of immediate responsibilities to their families, while others couldn't deal with the harshness of the music business. Illness and substance abuse kept some away, and others were blacklisted for their political beliefs. Some artists walked away from their success, while others failed to get any attention despite multiple attempts.

2001's The Legend Of Teddy Edwards (Image) and 2007's Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris (Outsider) tell the respective stories of a bop tenor saxophone pioneer who chose to live and work in Los Angeles, and a singer / guitarist/ tap dancer who, after a promising start, failed to establish a long-lasting career. While both films do an admirable job of telling their subject's life stories, neither film really answers that central question, why? On the Edwards documentary, the question is never directly raised, but we get a clue when Dan Morgenstern tells of his excitement of seeing Edwards live in New York for the first time-in 1964, not with his own band, but as a member of Benny Goodman's orchestra! A link on the Wikipedia bio will take you to an Edwards interview where he emphatically states his dislike of performing in New York. There is also a detailed description in Ted Gioia's book West Coast Jazz that documents Edwards' long string of missed opportunities.

I can't believe that the documentary's director, Don McGlynn, didn't ask the question, but I wonder why there are no answers, or at the very least, some sort of hypothesis. On the Jackie Paris documentary, there are a plethora of theories, but only Paris' notorious temper and violent outbursts are investigated. Other theories posited by filmmaker Raymond DeFelitta include Paris' perfectionist attitude, his printed lashing-out of a critic in Downbeat and-most remarkably-his refusal of career support from the Mafia.

As we've learned to expect from McGlynn, his film is beautifully shot, tightly edited and well-organized, with superb interviews that get right to the point. McGlynn maintains an objective viewpoint, and is only heard off-screen asking occasional questions of Edwards. In contrast, DeFelitta narrates and appears on-camera, documenting his friendship with Paris, and even making comments about his film in progress. The film wanders around aimlessly, picking up and dropping out storylines in a confusing manner. For example, DeFelitta and writer Will Friedwald travel to a New Jersey record fair to look for Paris's rare 1949 recording of "Round Midnight"-the first vocal version of that standard. The sequence goes on for several minutes and they don't find the record. Yet, it appears on the soundtrack, so DeFelitta must have found it. We never find out how. [There's another storyline regarding Paris' family that drops in and out of the film, but I won't spoil that one for you.] -- Jazz.com, Thomas Cunniffe, May 10, 2009

Two skinny, Italian-American guys from New Jersey, both equipped with extraordinary pipes. One, from Hoboken, emerges as the most celebrated singer of the 20th century. The other, from Nutley, builds as long a career, performing alongside the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Peggy Lee, yet remains in relative obscurity. Why did Sinatra soar while Jackie Paris stalled? The Paris portion of the question has long fascinated Raymond De Felitta. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker discovered Paris nearly two decades ago when an L.A. jazz station played Paris' perhaps definitive interpretation of "Skylark" from the 1954 Brunswick album of the same name. It wasn't, however, until March 2004 that De Felitta found Paris, thanks to a New Yorker listing for what would turn out to be his final club performance, at Jazz Standard. Paris, age 77, passed away just three months later. During those intervening weeks, De Felitta lived in Paris' pockets, capturing every chapter of his poignant story, from his rapid rise (in 1953 Paris was named best new male singer in a DownBeat poll) and subsequent slide from label to label (Paris' career output totals less than a dozen albums, all near-impossible to find) to his too-late, too-brief, tooisolated renaissance. Interweaving interviews with relatives (including Paris' second wife, equally underappreciated vocalist Anne-Marie Moss), friends and luminary fans (James Moody, Dr. Billy Taylor, George Wein and Mark Murphy among them), De Felitta poses hypotheses for Paris' failure that range from far-fetched (mob connections gone wrong) to utterly reasonable (Paris' youthful arrogance and fiery temper). The result is a fascinating chronicle of an extraordinary talent kept perennially under the proverbial bushel. -- Jazz Times, Christopher Loudon, May 2009


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Product Details

  • Actors: Gene Davis, Harlan Ellison, Joe Franklin, Frank Whaley, Peter Bogdanovich
  • Directors: De Felitta
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Outsider Pictures LLC
  • DVD Release Date: March 31, 2009
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001OBT3LQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,061 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dean R. Brierly on May 27, 2009
Format: DVD
The career arc of Jackie Paris--widely considered one of the greatest jazz singers of all time--is studded with a tragic succession of "what ifs." What if he hadn't turned down an invitation to join Duke Ellington after being the first white vocalist to tour with Lionel Hampton? What if his live performances with Charlie Parker had been recorded and released? And, not least, what if temperament, bad luck and ineffectual representation hadn't conspired to prevent him from grabbing the brass ring and becoming, say, another Tony Bennett? These are some of the intriguing questions that filmmaker Raymond De Felitta pursues in this engrossing, emotionally compelling documentary. De Felitta became obsessed with Paris after hearing him on a Los Angeles radio station. By that time, Paris had dropped so far off the collective cultural radar that a jazz encyclopedia listed him as having died in 1977. Paris' best decade was the 1950s, during which he was the first singer to record the song "Round Midnight," was named Best New Male Vocalist for 1953 by Downbeat magazine, recorded two albums under his own name, and earned accolades from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Charles Mingus. Yet somehow, mainstream stardom eluded him. Paris also fell victim to changing musical tastes, as the jazz-inflected 1950s made way for the rock-dominated 1960s. Having found Paris living in New York City, De Felitta recorded a number of on-camera interviews with the charismatic singer, and fleshed out his film with archival footage, still photos, audio clips, and interviews with singer Anne Marie Moss (one of Paris' ex-wives), plus musicians Billy Taylor, James Moody, Billy Vera and several others.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brooke B. on September 21, 2011
Format: DVD
I had never heard of Jackie Paris -- before my time -- but found this film to be quite captivating. Like a trainwreck. I could not look away, even though I had a sense things were going to get messy. His voice is fine, it's Jackie who got in his own way. The main reason I watched this documentary was because the director had also made the wonderfully flawed City Island with Andy Garcia. One gets the sense that the director knew he needed something to make this film work -- aside from injecting himself into it -- and he got it. Right at the end. I will not give it away, but it's worth the entire journey just for that surprise. Fascinating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Lee Andersen on May 10, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am related my marriage to the late Jackie Paris, and still close to his ex-girlfriend, who is now in her 80's, and still beautiful! Jackie was a talented guy, in the same vocal range as Frank Sinatra. Very smooth. He was also a miserable ass, and I wanted to see for myself if the movie portrayed him correctly. It did.
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