Reviewer’s grade: B
Writer/director Raymond De Felitta discovered jazz singer Jackie Paris in the early Nineties, almost 40 years after Paris’ small star had set. De Felitta spent the next 10 or so years believing Paris to be dead, until he saw a listing for a Paris performance in The New Yorker. After meeting, De Felitta decided to make this documentary, trying to discover why a man who played with many of jazz’s early greats spent his own career in virtual obscurity.
As those issues are explored, the film becomes less about Paris and more about how knowing too much about one’s idols can shake that idol status. Paris wasn’t the nicest guy in the world, and despite his association with Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and others, he wasn’t the greatest singer, either.
What we wind up with is the fully human portrait of a man who could have risen to the middle, but didn’t and was slowly broken by the disappointment. Fascinating but depressing. Screening Thursday and Friday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. NR