Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
The year 1959 is the most famous year in jazz.
The releases of Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis album that continues to influence the jazz world, and Take Five, the Dave Brubeck masterpiece, would make the year memorable all on their own.
It also included the deaths of singer Billie Holiday, saxophone great Lester Young and another sax great, jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet.
In August 1959, a film hit cinemas that captured the buzz that jazz created in popular culture during the late ‘50s. Jazz on a Summer’s Day documents the inaugural Newport Jazz Festival, which includes performances by titans such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Anita O’Day and Dinah Washington.
The film, directed by fashion photographer Bert Stern and film editor Aram Avakian, provides a snapshot of life in America at the time. The festival took place in Newport, R.I., a seaside resort in New England. Audiences were mostly rich and white and the performers were mostly Black.
Jazz on a Summer’s Day also includes an ominous few minutes that portends the genre’s eventual decline. That comes from duck-walking rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who was at the peak of his musical fame in 1958; fans are dancing and having a great time in the evening, far from the quiet and respectful reception given to performers during the heat of the day.
The 61-year-old film has been given a 4K restoration for its 2020 re-release and that updated version is the centrepiece of the Jazz Film Festival at Cinematheque, which is held in conjunction with the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. Jazz on a Summer’s Day kicks off the festival at the Exchange District cinema tonight and runs until Oct. 14 but it will also be available for rent via the Cinematheque at Home program from Oct. 22-Nov. 19.
Four other documentaries are part of the festival. They include Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got (Oct. 15 and 18); Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Oct. 16-24, Cinematheque at Home Oct. 29-Nov. 26); Back in the Day: The Legendary Arrows Club (Oct. 25), which tells the story of the Halifax music club that rose to significance in the 1960s as one of the first Black-owned nightclubs in Halifax and a portrait of Canadian jazz guitar legend Nelson Symonds; and Say Amen, Somebody (Oct. 28-31, Cinematheque at Home Nov. 4-24).
Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got is a 1985 Canadian documentary by director Brigitte Berman that went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary feature. It shows an older version of the clarinetist who hit it big with the song Begin the Beguine and also vied with Benny Goodman and Chick Webb for the title King of Swing.
His remembrances of the 1930s and ‘40s in the film are as vivid as the life he led. Shaw was married eight times, including to short-lived unions with actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. He pretty much retired from the music business in 1954 but was able to live off his Swing Age success until his death in 2004 at age 94.
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Low Budget Rock Star is more than a cool band name. It’s become the credo by which the rock trio from The Pas lives by.
"The image and name sat well with our life story as musicians travelling and touring around Canada, doing the gigs and living the life of a low-budget rock star," says vocalist and guitarist Kennie Henderson. "Fate was meant to make it happen that way, I guess."
At the same time, drummer Richie Cudmore, who has performed with Jim Kale of the Guess Who and Fred Turner of Bachman-Turner Overdrive during his career, had a similar idea.
"Originally, I was doing my last album, someone sarcastically said, ‘Oh you still think you’re going to be a rock star,’ and I replied, ‘I am a rock star, just a low-budget rock star,’" Cudmore says.
Low Budget Rock Star is also the band’s first single, which came out earlier in October after a recording session in Winnipeg produced by Chris Burke-Gaffney.
"First and foremost, it’s a gig almost every weekend at your local pub, your crazy bars," Henderson says, adding he remembers as a teenager learning the musical ropes by playing five gigs a night.
"There’s a lot of eating of cheap noodles and stuff like that and drifting into new towns on fumes of gas and perhaps busking to get by, but it’s the love of the music that draws you to it," Cudmore says.
Naturally, there are going to be some tough times living the life that Henderson, Cudmore and bassist Harley Whitehead lead. The trio came together in 2017 when Cudmore was battling cancer.
"It’s about the experience how these young guys, took me when I was 125 pounds and took me on a little tour of B.C. to bring me back to life and save my life. I owe a debt of gratitude to both of them," says Cudmore, who acts as a musical mentor to the younger Whitehead and Henderson, who grew up in nearby Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Low Budget Rock Star has been sidelined by the pandemic, but they did get a chance to play again at the West End Cultural Centre during the Sakihiwe Festival in late August.
"We actually were very fortunate. It was a dream come true playing there, such a nice venue," Henderson says.
Next up is a virtual show that’s part of The Pas Arts Council’s Culture Days Oct. 21-22.
Arts and Life Editor
Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.
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