Bolden (2019) - full transcript

A mythical account of the life of Buddy Bolden, the first Cornet King of New Orleans.

This is WSNB Radio New Orleans

live broadcasting from the
beautiful Suburban Gardens here,

where our special guest this evening,
Mr. Louis Armstrong,

is back in New Orleans
after ten long years.

He's come back here
a big, big star.

...on WSNB Radio
New Orleans.

And our next broadcast
is brought to you by,

uh, Royal Crown Hair Cream.

That's right.
Your hair'll be curling...

What a crowd here...

Yes, sir.

Our station manager
handed me a paper here

that says to his recollection,

this will be the first time a colored
boy will be on the radio in New Orleans.

All right,
so we see they're dimming the lights here,

and, uh, our MC
is approaching the microphone

to begin
this evening's broadcast.

I ain't announcing
no nigger man on the radio.

Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

I'm Mr. Armstrong.

Hello. You like that?

I said we back home,
we back home.

Thank you, folks.
Thank you, folks.

Thank you, folks.
Look out here, folks.

Now, this goes out to
all you lovely people in here

and all my beautiful brothers and
sisters outside on the levee.

The first I'm going
to play for you

is You Rascal You.
You Rascal You.

Look out here, fellas,
look out.

You ready?
Here we go. One...

♪ Boy, you know one thing?

♪ I'll sure be glad
when you're dead

♪ Laughin' and grinnin'
in my face

♪ You're trying to be in the
back with my wife, you old dog

♪ I'll be glad when you're dead
you rascal, you

♪ I'll be glad when you're dead
you rascal you

♪ I'll be glad
when you're dead you rascal you

♪ When you're layin'
six feet deep

♪ No more fried chicken
will you eat

♪ You ain't no good,
you rascal you ♪

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you. Thank you, folks.
Thank you, folks. Thank you, thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen,
listen to the crowd

welcoming home the wonderful
Louis Armstrong in New Orleans.

This here is my sister,
Miss Nora Bass.

Nora, this is
Mr. Charles Bolden.

He live on First Street.

Maybe you should invite Mr.
Bolden to Sunday service with us.


You don't seem like much a church-going man,
Mr. Bolden.

Mama and me, we go to...

Mama and me, we go
to First Street Baptist.


This is
Mr. Charles Bolden.

This is my mama,
Mrs. Ida Bass.

How do you do,
Mrs. Ida...

How do you make
your livin', Mr. Bolden?

I make the church music better.

I make the church music better.

So what do a manager do?

What do a manager do?


I take care of the business

while you take care
of your music.

Your music got power.
I hear it.

I seen what it do
to folks.

Take power like you got...

...combine it with
a business purpose,

that's what a manager do.

You a sensation, Bolden.

You play horn louder
than the day's long,

even in the hot sun.

You got women dropping to your feet,
hoping to carry your horn.

The day you was born,
you was kissed on the lips

with something only you got,
ain't nobody else got it.

Folks hear your music,

they understand something

can't hardly put to words.

And I know how to sell
what you got.

And you... better listen to me.


How the band supposed to make
more money if we gotta pay you?

I put you in front
of a white audience.

Jesus Christ, Bartley.


You ever done this?

I got to fly
the balloon.

Boy, they don't
like this one bit, huh?

How long before
we gotta start this...

- Oh, no, I'll be damned.
- Oh, yeah.

Oh, no. Buddy.

Bartley, I don't think
this is a good idea.

Oh, you'll be all right.
You'll be great.

I won't fall?

Come on,
you got to go now.


Why the fuck
am I doing this?

All right.

I... Tell me...
Tell me when to jump.

Play it loud!

- Stop the cart. Stop the cart.
- Whoa, whoa.


Thanks for the crowd.


Hey, Buddy Bolden!



Thank you,
ladies and gentlemen, thank you.

I see that we have someone
who can't not be here today.

Right over there.

You know, folks,
they helped me get my very first cornet.

Yes, they did.

I was just a little boy
back then.

♪ Oh, that's it right there

♪ Every night

♪ You'll hear her croon

♪ A Russian lullaby

♪ Oh, just

♪ Just a little plaintive tune

♪ When baby starts to cry

♪ Rock-a-bye, my baby... ♪

You all right
down here, Buddy?

...Radio broadcasting
live from Suburban Gardens

in New Orleans.

Evening, Bolden.

As an officer
of the court,

I am duty-bound to
make a periodic assessment

of the conditions in our
state prisons and asylums.

As presiding judge of the
Criminal Court or Orleans parish,

I am the final arbiter

of your life and liberty.

I'm here
because you're here.


"be obedient to them
that are your masters.

"according to the flesh,
with fear and trembling..."

That's the way the world
moves on, Bolden.

Hate your oppressors

and you'll be enslaved
forever by your memories.



Kid, you gotta put 'em up
or you gonna get hit.

All right, you two.

Go on. Come on.

What'd I tell you?
What'd I tell you?

Come on now,
come on!

Come on down
and see me play tonight.

And leave Mama
all alone?

No. Bring her with.

She can dance
like we do in church.

- What?
- I know she can.

Hold this.

Come on,
you go it.

God damn.

Why we out here?

Women are dancing
over here.

Buddy, dancing's inside.

Ain't never enough
dancers for that.

You gotta call 'em all.

Can't you call, call 'em
from inside?

So you're just gonna
keep playing, huh?

You know what's
between them stars?

Don't start with
that shit, Buddy.


Please, man. Shit.

Ain't nothin' but time.




- Nora.
- Shh.

What are you doing here?

why you don't come see me play?

A lady don't go
where the Bolden band play.


Mama said you grow up
too wild for a good girl.

All that rockin'
in church,

she don't like that, no.

Mama don't like
your music neither.

Hey, whoa, whoa!

Y'all ain't
playin' it right.

Put your horns down.
Put 'em down, put 'em down.

We, we, we,
we're gonna clap it out.

Tillman, give me that, uh, give me that
beat you were working with. Hit it on four.

This one?

Yeah, yeah,
that's it. Four.

Now, Johnson.

Ba, ba, ba-ra, ba-ra.

Ba, ba, ba-ra, ba-ra.

See how that feels?
Yeah, yeah, that's it.

Now, Mumford,
give me time.

Oh, yeah.
Cornish, come on down.

Hit two and four.

Come on, Cornish.

Da. Da.

Let's go.

Yeah, that's right.


Now, Warner.

Pay attention. Look.
You're gonna hit the four.

Come on, Warner.

Oh, yeah.

Listen, listen.

That's it.


Yeah, ha.

This music about
talking to each other.

Yeah. Come on.

Now y'all havin'
a conversation.

Who said that?

Why would you now...


Come on.

I love you!


Nora gonna
move in with us.


Yeah. That's it.

Ease into it
like that.

And you gotta, um...

Get your...
Get your wrists loose.

See that.

Blow your lips.
Like that.

You blow...

Yeah, like...

I ain't raise my daughter
for the likes of you.

How you fixin' to make a livin'
playing your horn?

Why can't you
get a real job?

You dressing for church?

I don't wanna hear nothing about
that First Street Baptist Church.

We're Episcopal.


I got a new collar
for your shirt.

Mama, I ain't wearing a collar.
It's too tight around my neck.

Where you
performing at?

Union Sons Hall.

They call it the Funky Butt
when you're out playing.

Yeah, Mama.
But how you know that?

I hear things.

No, Mama, no.
No, Mama.

No, Mama, please.

Mama, please, I can't
breathe with that on.

But you look good.

Can't breathe in it.









Where you at, man?

There you are.
I been lookin' all over.

Evenin', Warner.
This here is Mavis.

Hey, Mavis.

Bolden, we got a big crowd
waitin' on you, man.

We're busy now, honey.

And George Baquet,
waitin' out there with his horn.

Blue-eyed tan man comin'
to our neighborhood?

Warner, you worried
about George Baquet?

That motherfucker
comin' for my job.

Ain't nobody
comin' for your job.

Why you think the best
paid clarinet man in New Orleans

come to the pit
to play with us?

Jimmy Palao got the
light-skin niggers, too.

Nobody come
for your job.

He ain't so white
like they talk.

♪ Make me a pallet on your floor

♪ Make me a pallet
on your floor

What she doin' here?

♪ If you make me a pallet

♪ I swear your woman
will never know

♪ Make me a pallet
on your floor

Play your heart out,
Buddy Bolden.

♪ Make it soft

♪ Make it easy
make it flow

♪ Make it soft

♪ Make it easy
make it slow

♪ When she comes in

♪ I swear she would
never know

♪ That you make me a pallet
down upon your floor ♪

I'm pregnant.

A baby?

You can't take care
of yourself.

Ain't you got one already?
A little boy?


Right and wrong.

Oh, it can be
so confusing.

Lord wrote a book
about it.

Civil societies are
defined by it.

You just don't know
the difference.

Niggers don't know
right from wrong.

You are not
in God's image.

We're gonna
have a baby, Buddy.

Come on.

King Bolden.

I want you to meet
George Baquet.

Hey, George.

You come to copy me?

Don't worry, Warner.

He just want to do a couple
of rounds with Bolden.


Ladies and gentlemen,
this here George Baquet.

Here, here,
let me show you how to.

Warner, come and get me!

Come on, Warner,
come and get me.

Come on.

It's all right.
It's all right.

You'll get this.

Bolden, do you
write your music down?

Can you
write it down?

We're composing on the bandstand,
you know?

So, it's...
It's like we're talking to each other.

We're havin'
a conversation.

I let the notes play on through,
that's what I do.

Just got to listen.

I never play without the
music right in front of me.

You play it the same,
same, same, same, same.

I don't do none of that.
I play it my way.

Every time.

And that string may,
it may never come out the same

so how you gonna
write it down?

How you gonna
write it down, huh?

Bolden if you don't
write your music down,

how's anyone gonna
play it when you're gone?

You don't understand.
It's a... It's a livin' thing.

It's, it's, it's...
It's me and the whole band.

We, we, we just
breathing together.

So you don't even know
what you're gonna play.

You know,
sometimes I...

I think it's better
not to play anything at all.

Bolden, try playing
around this.

You think Warner
holding back the band?

He been working hard.

But I'm with you
whatever you decide.

♪ Ride on

♪ No man can hinder thee

- ♪ Ride on
- ♪ Ride on King Jesus

♪ Ride on

♪ No man can hinder thee

♪ Ride on

- ♪ Ride on
- ♪ Ride on King Jesus

♪ Ride on

♪ No man can... ♪

You know what
this country needs?

What's that?

A negro
heavyweight champ.

Jack Johnson
the champ, man.

He the color champ.

White champ
won't even fight him.


White champ ain't gonna
fight your ministry boys

and you wanna know why?


'Cause they don't
find us serious.

Gettin' in a ring with Jack
Johnson's pretty goddamn serious.

White folks...

they're gonna have to
reckon with talent.

Bolden, you know about

cylinder recording?

- Cylinder recording?
- Mmm-hmm.

Put your music
in a machine.

Bartley know a man
put music in a tin can.

Music in
a tin can?


Well, how do it work?

You sound music
into a machine

and the machine
put out a tin can.

They'll put tin can back into the machine,
and that music come out.


Music in a tin can?

What it sound like?

I don't know.
I never heard it.

But Bartley say
it sound like money.

Sounds like magic.


Folks will hear my music,
but I'm invisible.

I don't know, Nora.

People hearing you play
and you ain't there?


This is a shit hole!

Gotta get a better place!

And I want
bigger niggers next time.

This cost a dime.

Sell 50 vials,
you make a dollar.

Sell 100 vials,
you get $2.10.

As business gets better,

y'all do better.

There's money
in recording music.

You gonna put your music
in Bartley's machine?

If there's a machine
play your music,

more folks gonna hear.

White folks, too.

They the ones
can afford the machine.

Desire and desperation

are dangerous
motivations, Bolden.

Humility recedes

and loyalty vanishes.

One thing stays the same.

There's always someone
who can do it better.

Teach him
a lesson, Buddy.

Yeah, all right.
Thank you.

Warner, I can't find
the valves to my horn.

You have the valves
right here. Look.

You're fine.

I'm not fine, Warner.


Play somethin'.

He's gonna let some other
motherfucker right in

and steal our shit off?

Who gonna catch us, Buddy?

Cornish, Cornish, Cornish.
You're supposed to be on my side.

Can't nobody do
what we do, baby.

You gotta put your music in that
man's machine, motherfucker.

King Bolden.
You ready?

Are you ready, Warner?

Ain't I lookin' ready?

We gonna play
at Butcher Hollow tonight.


It hurts my ears, man.

The sound comin' off
of that wall, it's, uh,

messin' with my time,

We go now,
we'll be right on time.

Right on the down beat.

Warner, listen to me.
My lip ain't balmed, so...

So get on down there.
I'll meet y'all over there.

Come on, man,
we gotta go to work.

"Go to work"?
Warner, you goin' to work.

You all right, Buddy?

Warner, get out!

Warner get out!

Get on out.

And I'll be right over.


Well, I guess I'll see you over there,

You were supposed to be
playing my place last night.

I heard you was playing down the street.

You fuck up my Thursday
night business.

Somebody be
playing like me.

Somebody be
playing like me.

You gonna give us
the next three Thursdays

for nothin'. Hmm?

Gotta pay the band.

You out your
motherfuckin' mind.

You mess with
that man's business,

that means you messing
with my business.

Hey, Bartley,

what you gonna do when you get
Buddy's music in a tin can?

I'm gonna sell it.

Who's gonna want
to hear his music?

And I got exclusive arrangements
with a white man by then.

Baby, you're gonna be
a family man now.

You gonna have a child
to provide for.

You wanna play your horn instead
of plastering walls, all right.

But you gotta
make it pay.


he need to put
his music in that machine.

Don't worry, baby.

We gonna get him.

Sooner or later,
we gonna get his music.

listening to Louis Armstrong...


I need to get married
to you, Buddy.

When you coming home?

Hey, baby.

♪ Cold empty bed

♪ Springs hard as lead

♪ Feel like Old Ned

♪ Wished I was dead

♪ All my life through

♪ I've been so black and blue

♪ Hmm, hmm

♪ Even the mouse

♪ Ran from my house

♪ They laughed at you
and scorned you too

♪ What did I do, babe

♪ To be so black and blue?

♪ Mmm, I'm white

♪ Inside

♪ But that don't help my case

♪ 'Cause it

♪ Can't hide

♪ What is in my face

♪ How would it end?

♪ Ain't got a friend

♪ My only sin is in my skin

♪ What did I do, babe


♪ To be so black and blue?



Buddy! Buddy!

Come on.

That's what a motherfuckin'
manager do.


Stupid motherfuckin'

Clean him up.

Ain't you somethin',

King Bolden.

You ain't come home
to me.

Don't do that to me.

Ain't nobody playin'
what we playin'.

Ain't nobody playin'
what Buddy playin'.

Nobody's splitting up.

And it just have a certain life.

Buddy showed up
like black Jesus.

So I guess that make us
his disciples.

I'm looking for
a Buddy Bolden.

Well, shit, get in line.

You the police?

Uh, no, no.
Uh, Bartley sent me.

You don't play
clarinet, do you?


No, he said that

Bolden wanted to record his music.
I can do this.

It come out on
a little tin can, huh?

No. No, it comes out
on a wax cylinder.

Ah. I got...

- "Oscar Zahn"
- Mmm-mmm. Uh, Zahn.

"Cylinder recorders."

Buddy want to record
our music.

Let me see that.

Buddy's scared people are
gonna steal our music.

Now he wanna
put it on a machine?

Make no sense to me.

Why you think the best
paid clarinet man in New Orleans

come to the pit
to play with us?

So, uh...

It's pretty good.


We need to talk about exclusive arrangements,
you and me.

I'll put you
in front of a white audience.

You a sensation, Bolden.

When people hear your music,

they understand somethin'
can hardly be put in words.

We need to talk about exclusive arrangements,
you and me.

Playing with George Baquet,
good business.

Now how you gonna make a livin'
without these, huh?

You got a wife and child
to provide for.

If it is your child.

You gonna
get out of bed?

Willie Cornish come by,
gave me the buttons for your horn.

Why you takin' them out?

I hear your daddy
every time you play.

I hear your daddy
every time you play.

Your daddy die young
to give you strength.

My daddy gave me
the power of my lungs.

That's how I play like I do.

Your daddy
was sacrificed for your gift.

What gonna happen
to your baby?

You gonna lose your gift.

Where are you now?

Brothers and sisters...

...I come to you today
to talk about returning home.

Back to Africa.

We will never
be Americans.

It's time to return home.

- Now, let's go.
- We have the right to a peaceful protest.

Get out! Get out! Go!

You, come here!
You don't move!

- Hey. Hey.
- Keep your hands off of me!

This is all on Bartley.

This here's your enterprising nigger's boy,

Caused a riot outside that
dance hall he was playin' at.

He's serious trouble.

This is all on Bartley.

Shut Bolden down?

Shut him down.
Just stop that boy playing.

A bold nigger
is dangerous.

What you lookin' at?

Come on.

Get on out of here.

Get off of me!

Cornish, where's Warner?

You made all your crowd crazy,
caused a riot.

You will stop playing
your goddamn horn.

That's what the motherfuckers want.
That's what you'll do.

What we gonna do here?

What's wrong
with the man?

He gone
lost his mind.

Look, he ain't no Bolden,

but we can always get Bunk
Johnson to play with us all.

Ain't you got work?

You gonna
get out of bed?

No. No, no. Leave me!

Horns up, motherfuckers.


born of vanity.

This is America, Bolden.

How far you think
you're gonna get?

Destroy the nigger's soul,

and they will destroy
each other.

Turn around.

Number 9 to win.

Your valves
are right here.

You fine.

I'm leaving you, Buddy.

Mr. Warner gonna
take us up to Chicago.

I'mma help them
settle up there.

Can see if I can
get some work.

Maybe in one of
the stockyards.

♪ Well, I though I heard
Buddy Bolden call

♪ We started in the summer
we didn't end till fall

♪ You walk in my room

♪ But when you leave,
you will crawl

♪ Oh, that's what
Mr. Bolden called...

Are you ready?

Are you ready?

Destroy men's souls

and they will
destroy each other.

The best boxers
in the world

in the ring of fire!

♪ Yeah

♪ And then take it away

♪ I thought I heard him say

No, Bolden.
Step back, man.

♪...Buddy Bolden repeat

♪ I can play it hot
or I can play it sweet

- I'm going...
- You ain't going in!

- Get out of here.
- That's my song!

♪ That's what I heard
Buddy Bolden repeat ♪

That one there.

Get up! Get up!

Get your black ass up!

- Get up!
- Bartley!

You look at me, Bartley!

You lost!
You lost on our deal!


You're gonna stop
killing us.

It ain't me, baby.

It ain't me.

You have no past.

No history.

No culture.

You come from nothing.

I come from
the same place as you.

There is nothing

the same for you and me.

And that ain't never
gonna change.

You come from nothing,
raise your head,

get people to gather
like you're some kind of...

You think we're gonna
let that happen?


Let you incite
a godless crowd?

You don't like
what I played on this?

No one ever will.

Power that is not righteous

must be destroyed.

Oh, thank you, folks.
Thank you, folks.

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you, folks.
Thank you, folks.

So good to be back home.

You know,
when I was a little boy wearing short pants,

I lived with my sister and
my mama in the back of town.

Yeah. Yeah,
that was my neighborhood.

I was delivering coal
to the district.

Boy, yeah, they don't talk about
a district no more, now, do they?

Yeah. Yeah, I think I remember
seeing you there, Jackson, yeah.

You had a big hat on though
covering your face.

Anyway, this one morning, I was rolling
through that particular neighborhood,

and I heard a sound
that I never heard before.

I thought, "Man..."

And, folks,
I wanna tell you something.

He was playing the
saddest tune anyone hear.

Oh. Mmm-mmm.

I looked at him,
I said, "Mister."

I said, "Mister."

I said, "Why you playing so sad,
why you playing so sad a tune?"

And he looked at me
and he said,

he said, "Son,

"today they took away the king.
They took away the king."

I said, "The king?"

I was just a little boy,
you know.

"The king?"
I said, "Who's the king?"

He said, "'Who's the king?'"

"Buddy Bolden."
He said, "King Buddy Bolden."

That's what he told me.

So this one's gonna go out
to King Buddy Bolden,

the first king
of New Orleans music.