The Neal Miner we admire is a superb jazz string bassist and composer:
The composition is Neal’s TIME LINE: his colleagues are Michael Kanan, piano; Greg Ruggiero, guitar.
Fewer people know Neal as a fine record producer, a splendid videographer (the evidence is here, now a gifted documentary-maker.
I was privileged to be in the audience last Thursday night when he showed his film about the engaged and engaging drummer / photographer Jimmy Wormworth to a very receptive audience. Neal has put the film on YouTube for all of us to enjoy at our leisure, for free.
Although I tend to glance at my watch during documentaries, I sat rapt, and it wasn’t only because the stories were delightful. Neal has not resorted to fancy film tricks (although you HAVE to wait for the coda); he has gently stayed out of the way of his subject.
And the stories! Tales of Paul Chambers, Charlie Rouse, George Braith, Lou Donaldson, Dizzy Gillespie . . . all the way up to the present, with Tardo Hammer, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Dwayne Clemons, and other friends. In the Fifties Jimmy bought a Brownie camera and began to take candid photographs of his heroes and colleagues, and they are priceless, as is the cheerful commentary. The film is as close as we will get to sitting down with an amiable jazz legend who graciously unrolls fascinating anecdotes of his first-hand experience. At the end of the documentary, the audience stood and cheered.
I said to someone on the way out, “Much better than a memorial service.” Neal has done something beautiful and lasting by celebrating and chronicling a great artist while that person is alive. I would like to see him get grant money to do more of these films, although I would hate to see him put the string bass in the closet.
Here’s Neal’s commentary:
For the past five years I have been experimenting with video and audio recording. After getting my feet wet with a few projects, I decided to undertake the challenge of documenting a person’s life, career and, in this case, some very unique photographs.
Since 2005 I have had the good fortune of playing regularly with master drummer, Jimmy Wormworth on a weekly show with the iconic Annie Ross. On one of our first gigs together Jimmy pulled an old snapshot out of his pocket, handed it to me with a playful grin and said, “Who’s that?” After examining the slightly tattered photograph I realized that it was none other than my bass hero, Paul Chambers, sipping from a bottle of Gordon’s gin backstage while standing next to the legendary pianist, Wynton Kelly. Every week thereafter, Jimmy showed me more shots that truly amazed me.
I then learned that when Jimmy was in his early twenties he was the drummer for the hot, new vocal group, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. He was on tour with them from 1959 to 1961, sharing concert bills with all the top jazz groups of the day. Backstage Jimmy was not only rubbing elbows with the giants of jazz, he was also snapping photographs with his Brownie camera, documenting these legends in a very candid light.
I was immediately intrigued and inspired to do something to help Jimmy share these photos and his stories with the world. This documentary is strictly a labor of love and not for profit in any way. My only goal is to share Jimmy Wormworth’s fascinating life story and his beautiful photographs.
I hope you enjoy this film, the making of which was an amazing experience and opportunity for me to learn and grow. I am truly grateful for all of the many people who contributed to and helped out with this project.
Thank you for watching!
P.S. Please spread the word and long live Jimmy Wormworth!
May your happiness increase!