Updated: Oct 29
The first time I read that Mr. Perry had written A Jazzman’s Blues 27 years ago, I couldn’t help but think about how long ago that was. Twenty-seven years is a long time. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. It’s a lifetime. However, after seeing A Jazzman’s Blues today, I can imagine Mr. Perry breathing a sigh of relief, feeling satisfied and thinking to himself that it was worth the wait. I believe this is one of his most anticipated films and one of his best. The writing, the directing, the cinematography and the acting are stellar.
Like a little girl on Christmas Eve, I sat in front of my television, on the edge of the sofa waiting for the first scene. I was immediately pulled in. My eyes were riveted to the elderly lady that painstakingly walks to the Attorney General’s office to deliver the letters that Mr. Perry beautifully and adeptly uses to tell the story of forbidden love between Bayou (Joshua Boone) and Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer). The young couple meet in their teens under the cover of darkness and just when they agree on a future together, Leanne is whisked away to Boston by her mother, Ethel (Lana Young) to live a life passing as a white woman. Needless to say, the couple is devastated. However, Bayou never gives up on love and continues to write letters to Leanne that her mother withholds from her, leaving Leanne to believe that Bayou has gone on with his life without her.
Mr. Perry’s writing is lyrical and beautiful throughout, keeping you clamoring for more. However, in between every line and word there is palpable tension and it crescendos when the couple come together again years later. Leanne, back from Boston, is married to a white man who aspires to be the town mayor and whose brother is the sheriff. When Bayou learns that Leanne is back in town, the pair have a secret rendezvous. Leanne’s mother finds out and does the unthinkable and Bayou runs for his life to Chicago with his Brother, Willie Earl (Austin Scott), where he becomes a celebrated singer.
When Bayou finds out his mother, Hattie Mae (Amirah Vann) is struggling, he makes a trip home to help out and once again he reunites with Leanne, but this time the couple’s luck runs out and their lives are changed forever. Mr. Perry has written characters that are multidimensional and beautifully flawed, some you will love and others you will love to hate. The chemistry between Boone and Pfeiffer crackles. The pair not only deliver wonderful performances but are also easy on the eyes. Vann is a force to be reckoned with as Bayou’s mother and E. Roger Mitchell who plays Bayou’s father, Buster, is one of those characters you’ll love to hate, along with Scott who gives a flawless performance of a jealous brother battling inner demons. Sissy, Bayou’s childhood friend, is wonderfully played by Milauna Jemai Jackson. There is a scene with Jackson and Pfeiffer that made my jaw hit the floor.
The music (Terence Blanchard) and dancing (Debbie Allen) complement the film perfectly. All in all, watching A Jazzman’s Blues was an amazing journey wherein I experienced myriad emotions. I didn’t want the adventure to end and when it did with Ruth B’s original song Paper Airplanes, all the pent-up emotion inside me exploded and I burst into tears. I cried for all the Bayous and Leannes of yesteryear. I cried for our country, for its past, the racism, the bloodshed, I cried for the boy, Tyler Perry, whose childhood was a living hell. I cried for the little girl me who also had a harrowing childhood. Then I cried tears of joy when I realized that I had just watched Mr. Perry’s dream come true and tears of joy for myself when I realized, I too, am now living my dream. Praise God!
Kudos to everyone associated with this masterpiece. Thank you!