'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris

"Jackie Paris" is a name long relegated to the memories of record collectors and jazz columnists; 'Tis Autumn modestly attempts to correct this fact. Paris was a Jersey-bred Italian- American bebop vocalist who spent the '50s at the gates of full-blown superstardom without ever passing through, though he relentlessly gigged 52nd Street, recorded with Mingus and Hawkins, toured with Parker, even opened for Lenny Bruce. Fan and filmmaker Raymond De Felitta discovers that his man—whom he'd thought deceased based on old reference works (though the completeness of his disappearance is certainly played up, anybody with curiosity and Internet access could've learned he was still in circulation)—has just returned to playing club dates in 2004, at age 79. Living in comfortable marginality, frail but well-preserved and entirely with-it, Jackie seems perfect in so many ways: his poise, his name (real), his Park Avenue South apartment, and that voice, which sumptuously upholsters every lyric (copious album selections and "comeback" live footage are given breathing room, allowing non-initiates a sampler). The film, by contrast, is unkempt and sometimes awkward—a homely, homemade labor of love that's loosely structured as an investigative procedural. Admirers, relatives, ex-wives, and Jackie himself are interviewed; the recurring question: What kept Paris from the top? The answers provided rarely qualify as revelation, but this affectionate portrait distinguishes itself from the ongoing epidemic of musician docs by mere virtue of staking out ground that hasn't already been thoroughly tilled.

 
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