It is with regret that we have to report the passing, last week, of jazz composer and pioneering filmmaker Ed Bland at his home in Smithfield, Virginia at the age of 86.
A Chicago natïve Bland was a jazz protégé and started first composing music using Arnold Schoenberg's atonal 12 tone system and worked his entire life as a composer, producer, concert impresario musical director and arranger for every major jazz artist and funk, soul and blues musician of the 20th century. Bland, as well, recorded and worked for every major record label and television network and served on the National Endowment of the Arts Recoding Panel.
His music was even sampled by Beyoncé and Cypress Hill and even used in video games.
His countless compositions ranged from jazz to modern classical music works that were performed by major symphony orchestras to funk, and he was considered by many musicians to be “the great-grandfather of hip-hop because of the confrontational quality of his musical film work.”
But also what made Bland so unique and important was his seminal 1959 experimental documentary film made in Chicago, The Cry of Jazz, which he wrote, produced and directed, and which is not only considered a true classic film of historical importance, but is credited as being "the first true hip-hop film."
As documentary filmmaker and former curator of films at the Museum of Modern Art, Willard Van Dyke, once said about Cry of Jazz, that it was “the most prophetic film ever made “
With music by jazz innovator Sun Ra, the film, in just 35 minutes, through different approaches from dramatic recreations to musical performance to direct intellectual arguments, makes the case that the African American experience shares a symbiotic and cultural bond with the history of jazz.
And in 2010 the film was selected for preservation by the U.S Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being a film that is "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is now regarded as one of the most influential example of African American independent filmmaking.
And just recently Northwestern University professor Jacqueline Stewart screened the film at the Black Cinema House in Chicago as an example of a historically significant representation of black independent filmmaking.
Here’s a clip from the film: