ED BLAND.....Urban Classical Funk

                                    The Cry of Jazz


 
 

THE CRY OF JAZZ

 "The most prophetic film ever made...it predicted the riots of  the '60s and '70s, and gave the basis for them."

Willard Van Dyke - Pioneer American Documentary Filmmaker - Curator of Films, The Museum of Modern Art 1971

 

                 This long sought-after film is now available through:

 

cryofjazz.com

 

THE CRY OF JAZZ, a semi-documentary film, was completed in 1958 in Chicago by KHTB Productions. Long before the concept of Black Culture existed, THE CRY OF JAZZ argued that Black American life shared a structural identity with jazz. It is one of the earliest documentary films made by Black Americans. Shot on a very low budget, the film was entirely financed from the paychecks of the filmmakers. Some 65 people worked on the film for free.

 

British drama critic Kenneth Tynan called THE CRY OF JAZZ a historical document because it marked the first time that Blacks openly challenged Whites in film. London Observer, February, 1960.

 

THE CRY OF JAZZ is structured in seven parts. Parts 1, 3, 5 and 7 consist of dramatic scenes in which the significance of jazz and Black American life is discussed by an interracial cast. Sandwiched between these discussions are parts 2, 4 and 6, in which the structure, history, and future of jazz and Black American life are presented in documentary form, along with a jazz soundtrack. Most of the music is composed and performed by the late jazz great Sun Ra and his Arkestra. The music is vintage Sun Ra from his '50s Chicago years.

 

KHTB Productions was formed by composer Ed Bland, urban planner Nelam Hill, novelist Mark Kennedy, and mathematician Eugene "Titus. The films were produced by Ed Bland and Nelam Hill, directed by Ed Bland, and written by Ed Bland, Nelam Hill, Mark Kennedy, and Eugene Titus. All except Ed Bland are deceased.

 

Through 50 years of its existence THE CRY OF JAZZ has been shown at film festivals, art museums and universities throughout the United States and abroad.

 

The Hip Hop periodical, waxpoetics, published an article about the making of THE CRY OF JAZZ in issue #21 Feb/Mar 2007, pages 80-86. (www.waxpoetics.com)

 

One comment among the thousands we've had:

 

"It is a rhetorical tour de force. You successfully blended music, image, musicology, history, philosophical and dramatic elements, into arguments of great convincing strength.

 

The historical and the musicological structural analyses of jazz combined to create a driving, relentless argument, which seemed to have nearly the force of a mathematical proof. The argument struck me as high Tragedy, that a musical from which allows creative spontaneity/improvisation as its essence, should yet be doomed by structural limitations, so as not to allow further evolution of the form itself. The poignant statement that "Jazz? Jazz is dead!" carried the Neitzschean shock of "God is dead." The argument then reasserted itself at an even higher pitch and as relentlessly as a geometric proof.

 

Jazz then seemed doomed to triviality, still retaining a few valuable uses, among them the education of the white culture. An ironic and disturbing tragedy."

 

Ed Bland Responded:

 

"There are at least two simultaneously competing values at work in a jazz situation.  One is the idea of swinging and vitality, another is spontaneity, and another is improvisation.  Often these values are interchanged and at times confused with one another.

 

Improvisation can occur in any musical style or genre. In fact the most adept improvisers are protestant church organists, one of whom was Bach.

 

Improvisation doesn't mean that the results are good, only that a certain portion of the piece was supposedly created on the spot. Its value is primarily a musical political one and not a statement of musical worth.

 

Spontaneity is a quality of performance and also can be a quality inherent in the composition. It is usually considered a desired quality. One of the charms of jazz and most Black American popular music is a high degree of vitality and spontaneity.

 

Big band ensemble jazz from the mid twenties to the mid 50s was very written out. With more time given to the ensemble reading their written parts than the time given to the improvised solos.  Yet those bands were famous for their swing and vitality.

 

So swing and vitality are not at all necessarily connected to the improvisatory nature of jazz.

 

A sense of swing seems to be of the essence of what makes jazz and all Black American music attractive (Ragtime Blues, Funk, Gospel, Soul, R&B, Jazz, and Hip Hop).

 

The objective basis for the swing is based on the conflict between two types of rhythm, namely of stress and of length. This conflict makes for rhythmic structures that are polymetric.

 

Except for a small work by Charles Ives CA 1919, polymetric structures did not exist in western music prior to the infusion of Black American music into the West.

 

The aesthetic gain from the swing created, is an emphasis on the celebration of the nowness of existence. This emphasis is evident in West African Drumming and the attendant Pagan religious ceremonies.

 

By the virtue of the importation of the slaves into the Americas. A different way of coping evolves or another way of putting it another culture is formed.

 

Thus the basis for the cultural warfare that Pat Buchanan and Harold Bloom notice.

 

The warfare really became evident with Ragtime until now the whole world is captured by Hip Hop and funk."

 

 

 

 

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