In Search of the Man Who May Have Created Jazz (Documentaries)





NO one is really sure what this city’s first “cornet king,” Charles (Buddy) Bolden, sounded like 100 years ago, much less what made him tick. The lore says a single wax recording of Bolden’s namesake ensemble was demolished with the old shed in which it was stored in the early 1960s. What is probably the most reliable rendering of his trademark tune, “Buddy Bolden’s Blues,” came from Jelly Roll Morton, who had heard it performed and put it on a record years after the master’s death. But even the song’s own lyrics warn against trusting too much. “I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say,” runs the remarkably tentative opening line.

Yet this elusive character, who some aficionados say invented jazz before lapsing into ultimately fatal insanity before the age of 30, has been coming into focus in recent weeks as a troupe of seasoned filmmakers and impassioned amateurs struggle to capture Bolden and his world in not one but two, related, movies.

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