How ironic and oh-so-fitting that, within a month of each other, two documentaries would appear, one in theaters the other on DVD, that deal with a nearly identical subject: musicians praised by their more famous peers as top-of-the-line who then languish for decades out of reach of commercial success. Anvil: The Story of Anvil, about the heavy metal band, has just been greeted with rapturous reviews
and non-stop praise (deserved, too, with me among those praising). However, another small documentary also appeared on DVD this month, after a very limited theatrical release well over a year ago, that tells the story of a musician who, a half-century ago, looked to be the toast of the town yet disappeared into obscurity.
There will come a point for most viewers of 'TIS AUTUMN: The Search for Jackie Paris when all the praise that the narrator/filmmaker Raymond De Felitta (shown above) has been heaping on this little-known singer will come clear. For me it happened when Paris began to sing the Hoagy Carmichael classic Skylark. If butter could cut into steel, this is what it would sound like: soft, sweet and pure yet intense and acute. De Feliita, evidently a jazz maven, first hears, then hears about Paris, whom he also hears is dead. But no. After a little tracking, he discovers the man himself, aging but still singing. With that, we're off and running, as the filmmaker interviews this jazz singer, as well as many of those who knew and still know him, piecing together how and why someone this special could have slipped through the cracks.