The almost great Jackie Paris makes music again in ’Tis Autumn.
’TIS AUTUMN: THE SEARCH FOR JACKIE PARIS (Raymond De Felitta). 100 minutes. Opens Friday (August 15). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
There's a dual charm to this marvellous low-key documentary about late, almost-great bebop singer Jackie Paris.
First, there's the mystery of how a skinny white kid from Jersey who once verged on jazz superstardom - he played with Mingus, Parker, Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee, was a favourite of Ol' Blue Eyes and was compared to Chet Baker and Johnny Mathis - disappeared into obscurity. One standard jazz reference book even has Paris dying in 1977, when in fact he was still very much alive (and apparently working as an elevator operator).
Underscoring that is filmmaker and jazz aficionado Raymond De Felitta's obsession with Paris, a performer even the most ardent crate diver has likely never heard of.
De Felitta manages to track down the then 79-year-old at a New York nightclub, where he was trying to jump-start his singing career. Their lengthy in-depth interviews form the backbone of this profile, revealing a musical genius of tremendous ego who had a self-destructive streak and violent temper as great as his talent.
The production is, for the most part, quite modest, and has an almost homemade feel. But thankfully, it's also full of Paris's music (he recorded a handful of records back in the 50s, notably his version of the Hoagy Carmichael standard Skylark, which remains the quintessential rendition), making 'Tis Autumn essential viewing for jazz fans.