John Cassavetes and Shafi Hadi during the recording of Charles Mingus’ original score to Cassevetes’ 1959 directorial debut film ‘Shadows.’ [ciudadsaudade]
What was Charlie Mingus’ role in the soundtrack for ‘Shadows’?
Al Ruban: Mingus worked on a score, but he was more organized than John wanted. And I don’t think that was apparent to John at the beginning. He did all this music, and John loved it, but he really wanted control. John needed to improvise some things because he couldn’t communicate what he wanted to get across. —Out of the Shadows: John Cassavetes
Above: Charles Mingus at the recording session for ‘Shadows.’ Image courtesy photographer Marvin Lichtner.
“In November 1958, John Cassavetes premiered his revolutionary independent film ‘Shadows’ in a series of midnight screenings at the Paris Theater in New York City. Village Voice critic Jonas Mekas immediately proclaimed it a work of genius, calling it ‘the most frontier-breaking American feature in at least a decade.’ Most audience members, including Cassavetes, hated it. Cassavetes reassembled his cast and crew and shot extensive new footage, modifying old scenes and adding new ones. The final version premiered at Amos Vogel’s legendary Cinema 16 on November 11, 1959, and was an overnight critical sensation. One of the myths that propelled ‘Shadows’ to instant notoriety was its improvisational origins. It’s considered by many to be the first ‘true’ cinematic jazz narrative, both for its racially charged subject and its unconventional, unscripted making in the streets of Manhattan. It’s been further celebrated for an original score by one of the all-time jazz greats, Charles Mingus. However much of the legend is deceptive. Little of Mingus’s music appears in the final film. Actual jazz scenes are conspicuously absent. And recent writings by Ray Carney, Tom Charity and others have attempted to debunk or clarify much of the improvisation myth.” —Passing Shadows: Cassavetes And Mingus
Thomas Reichman’s hour-long documentary tribute to the legend below:
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