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Home / DVD Review: Various Artists – Jumpin’ & Jivin’ Volume 1
A great collection of rare musical film clips.

DVD Review: Various Artists – Jumpin’ & Jivin’ Volume 1

Jazz fans that love to get their swing on will thoroughly enjoy Jumpin’ & Jivin’ Volume 1. The DVD features 27 filmed performances by jazz greats of the 1940s and ‘50s. The collections features short subjects, excerpts from film and television, and “soundies,” which were shorts films that played on Panoram visual jukeboxes. These clips are the ancestors of music videos.

The impressive lineup begins with Cab Calloway’s classic “Minnie the Moocher.” He and his band return later with “Blues in the Night.” Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five perform three numbers, which were originally part of a short subject called “Caledonia.” For “Tillie,” the band is inexplicably dressed like clowns. Tying Jordan for most appearances on this disc is Fats Waller three appearances: “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the latter which finds Waller joined by an unknown female, who shoos away other girls from Waller and then makes the song a duet.

The makers of “Take Me Back Baby” by Count Basie Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing get creative with their piece. Beyond playing the number, there’s a funny sequence as Rushing falls asleep on the bandstand, dreaming about getting his girl back. As a singing quartet, Delta Rhythm Boys have a much easier time capitalizing on the medium of film by using costumes and sets. They appear to sing Duke Ellington’s “Take the “A” Train” on a subway car. Lena Horne, the only featured female of the roster, sings “Unlucky Woman” with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra. Her clip, part of short subject “Boogie Woogie Dream” made the best use of film with its double-exposed sequence.

The big names just keep on coming. Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra performs “Oop Bop Sh Bam” taken from the film Jivin’ in Be-Bop. In the liner notes, Milt Jackson is credited on vibes, but there was no one on screen playing vibes. Billy Eckstine sings the title track from the film Rhythtm in a Riff. Art Blakey backed him on drums.

Three performances were recorded in the early 50s for some new fangled thing called television. Lionel Hampton delivers “Ding Dong Baby,” with Quincy Jones on second trumpet, and “Airmail Special.” Ellington and his Orchestra perform the instrumental “Sophisticated Lady,” demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be played fast for a song to swing.

Artie Shaw closes out the DVD with “Class in Swing,” a nine-minute short subject by Paramount from 1939 that claims to “show you what swing is all about.” The elements of the band are explained as they play “Hold Your Hats.” They are joined by singer Helen Forrest for “I Have Eyes,” and then perform “Shoot the Likker to Me, John Boy.”

Other performers on this collection include Teddy Powell, Gene Krupa, Anita O’Day, Roy Eldridge, The Treniers, Will Bradley, Al Donahue, Ralph Flanagan, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons.

Unfortunately, this rare footage hasn’t been taken care of well. Scratches and dirt can be seen on some prints. The sound quality on “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is poor, and a couple of the clips have the audio out of sync. Through no fault of the product, there is also a reminder of America’s racial past. It’s extremely rare that the musicians mixed, and the audiences gathered to listen and dance didn’t. However, none of these issues affect the pleasure of the music.

Jumpin’ & Jivin’ Volume 1 is a great collection, working well for both the individual viewer as well as playing during a party. I’m all ready for Volume 2.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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