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Sonia Dada guitarist Dan Pritzker’s film on jazz pioneer finally in theaters

Writer-director Dan Pritzker (left) with Wynton Marsalis, who wrote, arranged and performed music for the movie. | Abramorama

More than two decades after the seed was planted in Dan Pritzker’s mind to make a movie about jazz cornetist Charles “Buddy” Bolden, the world is finally getting to see the story he’s been trying to tell.

The writer-director’s film “Bolden,” which opened Friday, reimagines the life and music of a musician, of whom little is known, though many consider him the father of what we now know as jazz.

It stars Gary Carr (“Downton Abbey”) as Bolden, who was born in 1877 and died in Louisiana’s state asylum in 1931. It features the musical talents of Wynton Marsalis, who wrote, arranged and performed music for the movie.

“This is a poetic, tragic story about a guy who changed everything about American music. Let’s be clear, though, it’s not a biopic. It’s more of an allegory about the soul of America in my view,” says Pritzker, a guitarist and songwriter for the Chicago band Sonia Dada.

“There are no known recordings of him. None of his music exists, and it’s left to people’s imagination of what he might have done. And there’s just one photo of him. Up until Donald Marquis’ book ‘In Search of Buddy Bolden,’ people questioned whether he was even real,” says Pritzker, who hadn’t heard of Bolden until 1997, when a promoter offhandedly mentioned him as “having invented jazz.”

“We want people to know who Buddy Bolden was and know some of the early takes on jazz music,” Marsalis says. “He’s the inventor of the music. He invented a new way to play.”

Gary Carr portraying jazz pioneer Charles “Buddy” Bolden in “Bolden.” | Fred Norris/Abramorama
Gary Carr portraying jazz pioneer Charles “Buddy” Bolden in “Bolden.” | Fred Norris/Abramorama