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Blood on the Fields

A Film by Susan Shaw

Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Picture Format: 16:9
Audio Language: GB, FR, DE
FSK: 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK 109214 [DVD 54 minutes]



Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)

Blood on the Fields is a 1996 filmed documentary by Susan Shaw, in which trumpeter Wynton Marsalis takes the viewer on a journey to New York, to his home town of New Orleans and to his rehearsal studios, where he and his assembled band of musicians record the album Blood on the Fields. The first half of the documentary is in black and white, where Marsalis and his musicians talk about jazz and about their music making. The second half of the documentary, in colour, features Marsalis in his hometown, where his father Ellis and brother Delfeayo also speak. Wynton Marsalis talks a little about his upbringing. As expected, there is a lot of footage of Wynton Marsalis playing and also of his band of musicians rehearsing, as well as his father playing the piano at home.

On my DVD player and 42” flat screen TV, the black-and-white portion actually looks better than the full-colour portion. Throughout the disc, the conservations are played back at a considerably lower volume than the musical excerpts, which makes it hard for me to hear clearly what is being said, without making the music too loud. As a result, the lack of subtitles is a hindrance, particularly for those who are not familiar with the African-American accent. Since optional voice-over in German and in French are provided, I feel that providing subtitles as an option wouldn’t have required extra resources.

This is an interesting documentary on Wynton Marsalis as a jazz musician. Except for the opening background track, a Handel aria with trumpet obbligato, there is no classical music featured. The play time of 54 minutes is quite short, and there is not enough time to go deep into the musicians’ opinions on jazz and blues or to show extensive footages of the artists. One would hope if this documentary was more extensive.

Wai Kit Leung

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