The silent Louis



Anthony Coleman as LouisIt might seem odd, since jazz is an aural experience, that Dan Pritzker has made a silent film of Louis Armstrong's early years. There's also a little irony in that unlike that other towering trumpeter in jazz, Armstrong is not remembered for following the silent way, the carefully crafted reticence that often typified Miles Davis.

Nature and jazz abhor a vacuum though, and showings of Louis in the eastern US, 25-31 August last year, were accompanied by a 10-piece band led by none other than sometime Louis-reincarnation Wynton Marsalis. The screenings also featured pianist Cecile Licad, playing music by the 19th half-Creole New Orleanian virtuoso Louis Gottschalk.

At the London Jazz Festival on 13 November, when the film receives its UK première, the music will come from Wycliffe Gordon (tb, tu), Wes Anderson, Adrian Cunningham (s), Philip Dizack, Jumaane Smith (t), Ehud Asherie (p), Reginald Veal (b) and Herlin Riley (d). Licad will also appear, presumably playing Gottschalk.

Pritzker took his inspiration from a showing of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights accompanied by a live symphony orchestra in 2001. He has also shot a similar film on New Orleans trumpeter Buddy Bolden which is currently in production.

The film's website describes Louis as a "homage to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, beautiful women and the birth of American music," in which "the grand Storyville bordellos, alleys and cemeteries of 1907 New Orleans provide a backdrop of lust, blood and magic for the 6 year old Louis."


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