Music Can Change Your Life

Gunnel (Eva Remaeus) serenades a dance hall with her accompanying musicians in SVEN KLANG’S COMBO, a 1976 Swedish film about a small town Dixieland band.

Group dynamics are always a fascinating topic for stories, especially when the focus is the workplace or some social situation. Consider this scenario, for instance, involving a small traveling band that specializes in Dixieland-style dance numbers and popular big band favorites. When a new musician joins their group with innovative musical ideas and the talent to execute them, not everyone is going to be immediately smitten. Such is the case with Sven Klang’s Combo (aka Sven Klangs Kvintett, 1976), a Swedish film by Stellan Olsson, which follows a fateful year in the life of a provincial quintet. They lose a member but gain a hip, new saxophone player from the big city who is heavily influenced by the bebop sounds of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and others. The result is a bittersweet but often amusing look at how some bands either make the decision to go professional (if they are good enough) or content themselves playing for fun the rest of their lives. 

Continue reading

Hot Nocturne

Most Hollywood films about musicians that were made during the studio era were usually biopics and focused on individual artists such as George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue, 1945) and Glenn Miller (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954). It was rare to see a feature film that detailed the ups and downs of an entire band and, in the case of 1941’s Blues in the Night, the featured jazz sextet was entirely fictitious. Originally titled Hot Nocturne, the name was changed just prior to its theatrical release to capitalize on the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer hit song that became its signature tune.

Continue reading