They Died Before 40--New Jazz Film To Make History


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The Music Kept Them Alive… And Killed Them!

Which jazz musician’s funeral attracted 10,000 mourners and an 80-car funeral procession?

Which African American musician was forced to play at the other end of the recording studio with white musicians?

The website for the film has 40 Hot Points and more.

More than two dozen gifted jazz artists died before reaching the age of 40. Most of them are relatively unknown, some even to jazz fans. Many of them made significant contributions to this art form. All of them had much more to give and, individually and collectively, would have made a greater impact on this music had they lived full lives. It is important that their contributions be made known, their music heard and that we show how and why they died.

Many people may have heard of Bix Beiderbecke (who died at 28) and Charlie Parker (who died at 34). But others, such as Herschel Evans, who died before reaching 30, are very little known and their stories untold. For example, Jo Jones, drummer and an integral part of the Count Basie band for many years, has called Evans the greatest musician he ever played with. He said that Evans made everyone he played with better.

Who was this giant, what made him an important creative artist, how and why did he die so young? These are questions that this film will answer concerning Evans and many more. In addition to Evans also featured will be Bunny Berigan, Chick Webb, Fats Waller, Charlie Christian, Jimmy Blanton, Clifford Brown and Chu Berry. About two dozen others’ ages and causes of death are included.

Through their music, some archival film footage, photographs, reminiscences and expert discourse we learn more about these artists, develop an appreciation of their artistry and reveal how and why their careers were cut short.

The film will expand our cultural heritage for this internationally renowned art form and also help us to understand the unique lifestyle that these artists led.

A “rough cut” of 93 minutes has been produced. However, a Kickstarter campaign has just launched to raise the necessary funds to pay for music and some photograph licenses and to produce the “final cut.”

This campaign runs until Wednesday, April 6 2016.

Back This Project

Howard E. Fischer
Producer, Director, Writer

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