Round Midnight The movie Round Midnight, directed by Bertrand Tavernier, is a very well reflected portrayal of the jazz scene, as it was known in the late fifties. The main character and protagonist of the movie, Dale Turner who is played by Dexter Gordon, leaves New York to go to Paris. Dale leads the audience through the ups and downs of being a working jazz musician. The struggles of business, the 24-hour love for the music, the constant late hours of the night, the run-down residencies jazz musicians are sometimes forced to live in, and especially the fight against drugs. All theses details help the audience realize what the scene was like back then, however, the jazz scene as musicians know it today is completely different from how it was back then.
In this aspect, I wouldn't recommend this movie to any non-jazz musicians, because they would only get a taste for the period of time Tavernier was trying to represent. One must realize that time changes everything, and for a fast evolving music like jazz, one cannot expect this movie to be closely accurate to jazz life as it is today for these reasons. Racism affects everybody on this planet, whether they know it or not. Racism has effect jazz ever since it evolved from the evil within people. This is one of the reasons that this movie is not accurate to present day jazz life. Even though there is still an underlying tension between people of different race today, this tension does not come close to what racism was back in the fifties.
It was ten times harder for black musicians to prosper back then only because of their color. White people did not want to see black people playing white people. If they did it would infuriate them and they would not want to listen to the music. Early in the film Dale describes how when he was in the army he had a picture of his wife who was white. And a fellow officer, who couldn't expect that this black man had a prettier white wife then he did, said a comment to Dale in which Dale responded by punching him in the face. Back then this was obviously unacceptable behavior.
Dale paid the price and was beaten by many black officers. Almost any black jazz musician who lived through the period of time where racism was at an extreme will probably have some sort of story like this to be told. And many left the U. S to go to Europe where they knew they would not be judged by their color, but their music. Today, we have come a long way to fight the problem of racism and are getting closer to completely eliminating it.
Jazz musicians today are never faced with the kinds of problems are mentors did, making this film only accurate for its time. In Round Midnight, Dale Turner is an alcoholic. The way Tavernier presents this in the movie is very true about most cats back then. Many mentors of ours were into many drugs, even worse then alcohol. Heroin, Crack, and cocaine were all part of musician's lives and their struggle to get it.
A prime example that comes to mind is that of Charlie Parker who was extremely addicted to heroin. He was on the road one year with Dizzied Gillespie, and was finally kicked out of the band when he didn't show up for a gig because he was desperately in search for heroin. Musicians back then were mostly all into drugs. Now, most musicians have cleaned up their act because they realize what a horrible impression it gives to jazz and the audience.
Anybody who watch's Round Midnight would probably think every jazz musician today was an extreme junky which is the total opposite from true. The stereotypical jazz druggie, (Dale Turner), is another prime example of how this movie contradicts jazz musicians of the present and future. Finally, this movie shows the virtuoso's of jazz. It shows the players in which jazz comes as a second nature to them. There are many musicians in the world who are very talented players, and may be up there with other giants, but they are yet to be discovered. Most of all jazz musicians struggle to make it to the top.
They base their life on getting better and being heard by the world in order to be hired for gigs. Without recognition from others, you could be the best tenor player in the world and it would mean nothing. Round Midnight shows no struggle of anyone trying to push to the top. The only thing seen is the ease of which this people play and get gigs. Dale Turner has a gig through out this entire movie. Present jazz musicians are constantly searching for work unless their giants of jazz.
This movie does not show the on going struggle that jazz musicians face to find continuing work and be heard by the world. This movie is a good representation of what the scene was like for musicians playing in that time period, but is connected in no way to what the scene is like today. Dale Turner is the typical inspiring father of jazz. Living through the harsh conditions of drug abuse, and unhealthy environments, Dale truly is all about jazz's past. With people such as Bud Powell and Lester young, (whose lives are closely related to that of Dale Turners), jazz has skyrocketed into new area's.
Jazz is all about change and evolution. A teacher of mine would say, "There are things in jazz which you know, there are things in jazz which you know you don't know, and there are things in jazz in which you don't even know you don't know." This is precisely what jazz is all about.