Joshua Reviews Judy Chaikin’s The Girls In The Band [Theatrical Review]


With a handful of new music documentaries, this very year, shining a light on the world of jazz and blues music, there is one aspect of that genre’s history. Women in the world of jazz and blues have been long forgotten voices, with male artists being the only names that anyone seems to remember or actively discuss. However, that could not be further from the truth surrounding music history, and one new documentary hopes like hell to change the opinions of the general public.

Entitled The Girls In The Band, this new documentary looks at the powerful true stories of various women connected to the world of jazz and big band music, and blending these stories with archival footage, director Judy Chaikin crafts a touching ode to women and their importance within this genre of music.

The stories here take center stage, and they are as moving a collection of true life tales, of everything ranging from sexism to racism, as you’ll hear this weekend. Finding themselves within a musical world that saw women as not much more than an accessory to their performances, with revealing costumes being their customary garb.

Opened up with a discussion about a photograph which features various legendary musicians on the steps of a building, we then become aware that while women were often scoffed away as musicians, a handful of them not only broke through, but became some of the most influential and important voices in the medium. Then, we become privy to various first hand tales about breaking into the music business from everyone ranging from long time legends to up and coming artists all while seeing various bits of archival footage and various photographs giving us a look into the scope of the women we have the pleasure of hearing stories from.

However, it’s Chaikin’s skill behind the camera that truly gives this film gravitas. While a rather underwhelming film aesthetically, Chaikin doesn’t do much to take away from the women speaking and allows their on camera interviews and the footage that she and her team of researchers uncovered do, literally, all of the talking. No hamfisted reenactments or the like, instead we simply let these legendary artists speak about their time in the business, and the struggles that they had to overcome, ultimately leading to one mighty important impact left upon the world that is jazz and big band music.

Overall, clocking in at just over 80 minutes in length, The Girls In The Band chronicles stories that could be enough fodder for a Ken Burns-esque miniseries on any major network. Often a tad too breezy and broadly reaching, the documentary is a thrilling entry point for those not too familiar with the world of jazz music, and especially those women who made it the musical genre it is today. For total jazz novices, the film may go a tad over one’s head, but for anyone with an appreciation for jazz and big band music, this is a must see documentary that many people may simply overlook. Hopefully you aren’t one of those people.

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