450

Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon

By

Sign in to view read count
Jack Sheldon
Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon
Bialystock & Bloom, Inc./February Films
2009

Born in 1931, the near-legendary West Coast jazzman Jack Sheldon—trumpeter, singer, comedian, actor—has played and recorded with Stan Kenton, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Red Norvo, Bill Harris, Art Pepper, Anita O'Day and Tierney Sutton, as well as leading his own groups. His horn has been heard on movie soundtracks, he was featured on the Merv Griffin Show and had his own short-lived television series, Run, Buddy, Run. Sheldon has a large group of devoted friends: musicians (Ken Peplowski, Uan Rasey, Dave Frishberg, Bill Henderson, Terry Gibbs, Ross Tompkins) and famous non-musicians (James A. Baker, Billy Crystal, Clint Eastwood, Dom DeLuise, William Claxton) with anecdotes in profusion. Add to this Sheldon's irrepressible story-telling, his striving towards sobriety, dissatisfaction with his own playing (source of the film's title) and vulgar humor and anyone would assume that this would add up to a compelling film.

The performances included here show that Sheldon is a splendid mainstream trumpeter, lyrical and fleet-fingered. His singing is touching, his comedy lively. "Stardust," "The Joint is Jumpin,'" "Don't Blame Me," his own "(I'm My Own Worst) Enemy" and "It Had To Be You" are fine, moving jazz, even when the camera angles are unflattering. And what we learn of his insecurities and self-destructive behavior is revealing indeed.

But the film is often heavy-handed. When Sheldon mentions Carnegie Hall, we get a lengthy shot of it, as well as too much stock footage of California scenes. Worse, the documentary quickly feels like a celebrity roast with no enlivening sarcasm. Sheldon's friends ramble; only Frishberg, Peplowski and Crystal can tell a story. The documentary seems unedited but everything is offered in snippets, whether it's an anecdote or a song, as if someone thought the audience would be extremely impatient. Unfortunately, that prediction comes true. Only the most devoted Sheldon fanciers will be able to watch this in one sitting though there are rewarding segments throughout.

Production Notes: 89 minutes.

Post a comment

Tags

View events near New York City
Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon

More

Interview with Lynyrd Skynyrd: Live At Knebworth '76
Interview with Buster Williams: Bass to Infinity
Interview with Sylvie's Love
Film Review
Sylvie's Love
Interview with Billie
Film Review
Billie
Interview with Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story
Interview with Zappa
Film Review
Zappa
Interview with Ronnie Wood:  Somebody Up There Likes Me

Popular

Read Tony Bennett: A Hero's Journey in Authenticity
Beauty, Love and Justice: Living A Coltranian Life
Tony Bennett: A Hero's Journey in Authenticity
Read Steve Reich: Humans Love to See Other Humans Play Music
Read Top Jazz-Rock Fusion Recordings
Read Joe Lovano: Finding New Adventures
Read Dean Brown: Global Fusion on Acid
Read Instrumental Duos
Building a Jazz Library
Instrumental Duos

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.