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Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon

Randall Robinson By

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This is a must-see for all jazz aficionados as well as those who never understood the deep meaning of this music, opening a portal into the world of the West Coast jazz scene.
Jack Sheldon
Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon
Trailer

2008

Finding Validation



Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon is a film that tells the story of trumpeter- vocalist-actor-comedian Jack Sheldon's remarkable life and career. Beginning with his impoverished childhood in segregated Florida and proceeding to his formative Hollywood teenage years with the legendary Chet Baker, the film follows Sheldon's career as he swings through the Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman bands, creating a signature sound which still captivates audiences and fellow musicians to this day. With sidebar trips into the comedy world of Lenny Bruce and his own CBS sitcom, Run Buddy, Run, Jack Sheldon's story is the tale of a serious artist with a decidedly non-serious persona.

A personal story with an infectious and swinging musical score, archival footage of early Sheldon performances, and original scenes of Jack's electrifying 17-piece "Jack Sheldon Orchestra," Trying To Get Good takes the audience into the head of a highly complex man whose brushes with tragedy often derailed but could not extinguish his inspiring commitment to his art.



Sheldon's story is told in his own words and through on-camera interviews with friends and musical associates, including: Clint Eastwood, Billy Crystal, Merv Griffin (in his final on-camera appearance), trumpeter Chris Botti, jazz vocalist/Grammy nominee Tierney Sutton, vibes great/big-band leader Terry Gibbs, three-time Academy Award winning songwriter Alan Bergman, songwriter/jazz pianist Dave Frishberg, Academy Award winning film composer/arranger Johnny Mandel (Indiana Jones, The Bourne Identity, The Sandpiper for "The Shadow of Your Smile"), producer Frank Marshall and many, many more.

On Wednesday, March 5th the film debuted for an invited audience of 500 at the Crest Theater in Los Angeles, California. Since then, it has played at several film festivals and received screenings at Newport Beach, Mendocino, Florida and Indianapolis. For its second distribution phase, the film opens Friday, May 30th at the Crest in Westwood, California for an exclusive two week engagement.


Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon Trailer

Screening the picture, you are immediately drawn into the film by the classic, vintage footage of early Hollywood and greater Los Angeles—during an era when life was simpler and easier, the city seeming almost lazy as crowds of young and crazy surfers hit the beaches. The Swing Era had ended, but it was replaced by the cool and refreshing refrains of West Coast jazz, which served as a soundtrack for the new generation beginning as early as the late 1940s and extending into the 1960s.

Sheldon was a major player in that scene, his horn an unmistakable presence on all the leading soundtracks to viewers with sensitive ears—from The Sandpiper, which introduced Mandell's "The Shadow of Your Smile" as played by Sheldon's trumpet, into the 1980s, when the same distinctive sound can be heard throughout Francis Coppola's One From The Heart. And he could be heard, as ensemble player and soloist, on the major recordings of the big stars- -Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Sammy Davis Jr., Rosemary Clooney, the Hi Lo's, Tom Waits and even The Monkees.

The documentary was written, produced and directed by actress Penny Peyser and Doug McIntyre, screenwriter and producer, well-known talk radio host of McIntyre In The Morning on KABC in Los Angeles. Made on a shoe-string budget over a course of several years, the project amounted to a genuine labor of love. As Penny Peyser reflects, "We learned a lot along the way about raising money for films—that basically, you don't raise money for films. We did this mostly out of pocket."

Exposition



When asked how the pair became interested in the project, Doug McIntyre explained, "I was executive producer on the Mike Hammer, Private Eye television series starring Stacy Keach. The show was low-budget and we shot up the coast in Ventura trying to make it look like New York, so I was shooting every brick wall I could find. I came up with this idea for an episode of a night club-jazz murder that we called "Song Bird." Jack seemed right for the part, so we had him come up, and it was easy for him because he had been in so many films already."


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