For more information please see the Forgotten Tenor website
Forgotten Tenor pays tribute to Wardell Gray, considered by many one of the greatest and most unheralded tenor saxophonists in American Black Classical Music. Utilizing a combination of rare archival footage, family photographs, memorabilia, and conversations with family and colleagues, the film attemps to resurrect the presence of this great musician and pay tribute to his accomplishments.
Ravett's experimental documentary film weaves together the sparse threads of information about Gray's short life into a compelling tapestry of this largely unknown jazz great of the 1940s and '50s. Ravett uses interviews, imaginative recreations of Gray's interactions with loved ones and fellow jazzmen, audio of Gray's performances, and experimental techniques to tell a story Gray did not live to tell.
"Forgotten Tenor reflects on the short life of one of the greatest and perhaps most unheralded tenor saxophone players in jazz," said Ravett, a 1994 winner of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, who used prize money from the prestigious award to complete the film that was five years in the making. "The film also reflects on the mutability and evanescence of all of our lives. It is a meditation on time, memory and the evolving histories of American Black classical music."
Ravett synthesized classic documentary techniques with experimental methods to create the 136-minute 16mm film. Rare archival footage, family photographs, memorabilia, and interviews are blended with computer animation, footage of the filmmaker raking leaves in different seasons—an act that symbolizes the difficult process of constructing the film, and reconstructing Gray's life, from so few fragments of information. What results is a pithy portrayal of the fragile life of a remarkable musician. Viewers will come away with a deeper understanding of the musician, his music and the times in which Gray lived.
"My intent was to resurrect the presence of a great musician, pay tribute to his accomplishments, and speculate on the possibilities of a life that could have been," Ravett said.
Available on DVD.