Coming Attractions,  entertainment,  Film Festivals,  Film Reviews,  TIFF 2022

Sacha Jenkins Reveals Louis Armstrong Was More Than a Grin

As a musical theatre geek, one of the moments permanently etched in my memories is watching that bigger than life grin opposite Barbra Streisand in the film adaptation of “Hello Dolly” and witnessing his hundreds of variety show appearance most notably  alongside Pearl Bailey.  He never seemed have a bad moment onstage or off.  However, this glowing image was just that…an image.  Louis Armstrong, the legendary musician who broke barriers,  had a private side that few were privileged to see or hear…until now.
Documentarian Sacha Jenkins meticulously combed through numerous recorded audio diaries revealing a different side than the showman on camera. Jenkins, a musician/journalist whose work has appeared in VibeRolling Stone, and Mass Appeal,  pulls off a feat covering Armstrong’s expansive career while being rooted in Armstrong’s era and rise to success.  It was wild to witness eclectic footage of him in performance, on the road, and at home, while simultaneously hearing peers and constituents like Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Armstrong’s second wife, pianist Lil Hardin and his last wife, Lucille  ( whom he was married to for nearly 30 years), all share anecdotes of the man very few people intimately knew. 

Surprisingly, I was confused as to why there was little to no mention of his first wife, Daisy Parker.  Yet, Jenkins excels at revealing a comical obsession with herbal laxatives and numerous moments where his language is more than colorful.  Can you imagine???!!!  I couldn’t either.

Most notably, the film strongly wrestles with how Armstrong was perceived by a younger, more radical generation who believing the musician was overly accommodating to white audiences. Ossie Davis, Amiri Baraka, and Wynton Marsalis each admit to being skeptics who ultimately turned into admirers.  No one more than Davis, who delivers a stirring recollection of witnessing Armstrong in one of his quiet moments instantaneously  switch to  ‘Satchmo’ in the blink of an eye.  It was like the clown who didn’t want to be seen without his makeup or costume.

Jenkins also delves deep into the legend’s repertoire, tracing his jazz predecessors, contemporaries, and disciples, while treating audiences to new music composed by Terence Blanchard (who also contributed to two other films screened at TIFF – A Jazzman’s Blues and Sidney).

Louis Armstrong: Black and Blues is not only the later half of this impactful doc’s title, but places Armstrong’s voice in our ear singing, talking, joking, being beyond frustrated in an industry that doesn’t always love us back, and allowing him the respect of letting his own story be told precisely the way he would’ve wanted…in how own words on his own terms.  At the end of the day, he had to be who he was in order to become the person he became.

I love, love love movies, watching them and discussing them...thus the birth of The Curvy Film Critic!!! Host/Producer/FilmCritic,Carla Renata is a member of such esteemed organizations as Critics Choice Association (Co-President Documentary Branch), African American Film Critics Association, Online Association of Female Film Critics and Alliance of Women Film Journalists. My op-eds or features have been seen in VARIETY, RogerEbert.com, Maltin on Movies, The Cherry Picks, IGN Movies, as well as being a frequent Guest Contributor to Fox 11-LA, Good Day LA, ET Live!, Turner Classic Movies, KCRW Press Play with Madeline Brand, The Cherry Picks, The Stream Team (Beond TV) ITV, Fox Soul's The Black Report, The ListTV and more. Catch my reviews on The Curvy Critic with Carla Renata - LIVE!!! Mondays 5pm PST via You Tube or Facebook Live. If you like what you read please shout me out and subscribe to The Curvy Critic on YouTube. You can chat with me across all social media platforms @TheCurvyCritic and as always, thanks for supporting a sista'

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