Not many of us have heard of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, who grew up in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century to forge a new kind of music. Fusing blues, ragtime, gospel and an improvisational energy anchored by his cornet’s sensual sound, Bolden essentially “invented” jazz. Filmmaker Dan Pritzker’s visually sumptuous biographical drama stars Gary Carr as Bolden, a haunted figure who recalls his past success from the Louisiana mental asylum where he spent the last 25 years of his life. The cast also includes: Yaya DaCosta as his wife Nora, who endured his self-destructive lifestyle; Erik LaRay Harvey as the manager who took the musician to new highs and lows; Reno Wilson as Louis Armstrong, who learned from Bolden; and Ian McShane and Michael Rooker as the law, who enforced the brutal racial code of the era.
Composer and musician Wynton Marsalis offsets the tale’s tragic outline with a lush score that captures the experiment and excitement of early jazz, making Bolden as much a musical experience as a dramatic one. Rated R. Music/Executive Producer: Wynton Marsalis. Writers: Dan Pritzker, David N. Rothschild. Director: Dan Pritzker. (US 2019) 108 min.