Raymond De Felitta makes amends for 2005’s intolerable The Thing About My Folks with ‘Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris, an involving inquiry into the career of the late jazz crooner Jackie Paris. A “singer’s singer” who collaborated with, and was adored by, the likes of Chet Baker and Charlie Parker, Paris became a hot property in the post-war New York Bop scene, making a series of albums for various labels that produced, in his rendition of “Skylark,” at least one bona fide gold standard. Yet despite the fact that everyone agreed he was unbelievably talented, Paris never achieved the stardom of his peers, a peculiar failure that the jazz-loving De Felitta, having become intrigued by the singer after hearing one of his songs on the radio, investigates by searching out old records, acquaintances, and Paris himself. Working not only as director but as narrator and on-screen guide, De Felitta is confounded by Paris’s mainstream obscurity—so pronounced that recordings of him are scarce, and at least one jazz encyclopedia states that he died in 1977—and ‘Tis Autumn‘s study of his life eventually becomes an investigation into what differentiates gifted but unknown artists from their spotlight-illuminated brethren. To some extent, what it uncovers is the fickle nature of success, fame, and achieving one’s dreams, as bad luck played an omnipresent role in Paris’s personal and professional setbacks. Yet as De Felitta probes deeper, what he uncovers is a history of familial violence that spawned in Paris a hostility and volatility that may have frustrated his attempts to hit the big time, and certainly scarred both his numerous ex-wives and the son (now heavily tattooed with, among other things, a German SS symbol on his knuckles) that he denied having until his dying days. That the film also makes a convincing case for Paris as one of last century’s most underappreciated singers and paints a vivid picture of the be-bopping ‘40s and ‘50s jazz scene are icing on the cake of this first-rate documentary, which compassionately locates in Jackie the pain of unfulfilled aspirations, and also the wellspring of anger that helped thwart his ambition.
- Outsider Pictures
- 100 min
- Raymond De Felitta
- Raymond De Felitta
- Jackie Paris, Norman Bogner, Joe Franklin, Billy Vera, Howard Rumsey, Will Friedwald, Harlan Ellison, Ruth Price, Gene Davis, Anne Marie Moss
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