Sunday, October 30, 2011
Thelonious Monk Documentary
The story behind 'Straight, No Chaser' began in West Germany in 1967 and ended more than two decades later in Kansas City, Hollywood and New York. It had its beginnings in 1967, when the film-maker Michael Blackwood was commissioned by West German Television to make a film about Thelonious Monk. Over a six-month period of time that stretched into 1968, Michael and his brother Christian Blackwood, acting as cinematographer and co-director, followed Monk around, capturing him on and offstage, in the studio and on the road, at work and at rest in New York, Atlanta and several European cities.
In total, fourteen hours of film was shot and edited by the Blackwoods down to a film that was broadcast only once in Germany and never again anywhere else. From time to time, talk would surface in the jazz community about the existence of this precious footage, often described as 'the Dead Sea Scrolls of Jazz'.
In 1981 the Blackwoods, joined with director Zwerin and producer Ricker, planned on turning all this material into a film. But they had to wait until 1987 for their (financial) breakthrough. Clint Eastwood, a lifelong jazz fan, was producing and directing the movie 'Bird' about Charlie Parker and heard about this project.
After viewing the samples, he was prepared to step in as executive producer, arranging for the financing to complete and for its eventual release through Warner Bros in the summer of 1988.