Meeting Marty Napoleon

On June 11th, Finding Carlton screened at the Furman Film Series, courtesy of the Great Neck Arts Center. Our audience was a mixed bag of documentary film fans, jazz folks and the plain curious ..”Jazz in India ?!!”

Our MC for the evening was the delightful Michael Steinman of Jazz Lives!

Among the jazz musicians present was the legendary  Marty Napoleon

Marty had the unique ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy, and he was aptly described as “Louis Armstrong’s exciting pianist.”  His stride piano was a significant part of post WWII New York’s club scene. In 1957 he was a key member of Henry “Red” Allen’s house band from the Metropole. The band featured tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, clarinetist Buster Bailey, pianist Marty Napoleon, guitarist Everett Barksdale, Lloyd Trotman on bass and Cozy Cole on drums.

At 91, Marty is the last surviving member of the Louis Armstrong All Stars.  He has had an extraordinary career as a working and touring musician and more importantly is one of the few musicians of his era who continued to gig well into his 80’s.  From a lineage that has included Earl Hines, and Teddy Wilson.. Marty’s stride piano was distinctive and unquestionably that of a master. Turn up your speakers, and feel the thunder…

He is a fascinating and charming man, with an energy and a zest for life that is unmistakeable. And he loves his music and is joyous in his expression of how richly blessed he is to be a musician.

Marty was very keen on watching the film and it was a distinct honor for us to have him attend.  He had heard about its subject and setting, and although requiring of wheelchair assistance  came to the screening because of its intriguing historical perspective.  He was blown away by the story and the tale of Teddy Weatherford..a fellow stride piano pioneer..and he was fascinated by this jazz story that came out of India. The musicians stories from the film resonated with that of his own life and many others, and were reflective of an era that has passed by, both for him and many others.

But what got him most excited was the film’s tribute and recognition of the role of Herb Flemming …The 50’s club circuit had brought Herb back to New York and Marty had worked with him in an era of working bands and regular gigs on Swing Street “I knew that guy well” said Marty, ” I played with him !”  A connection by way of Brooklyn to Calcutta!

This is the video sequence on Herb Flemming

Left to right: Don Varella, Stan Johnson, Marty Napoleon, Fraser MacPherson. Penthouse, Vancouver, B.C. April 4, 1952. |Source=[ Marty Napoleon 1952] |Date= 1952 |Author=Courtesy of guyman22

Both these men came from a different time.. when clubs and audiences offered livelihood and appreciation , and the combination propelled musicians to new heights and innovation. Marty’s world was the flourishing jazz scene in the United States and Europe, a working and touring musician with New York as his “gig central”.

Flemming was a nomad.  Indeed, he was one of the early internationalist’s  of the jazz,  and his travels took him from New York to France, and then to South America, Shanghai, Calcutta and Ceylon as well as the nightclubs of London!  He was truly the first great jazz ambassador.

And it was India where members of Flemming’s International Rhythm Aces found new homes, and new careers…and some stayed on to create India’s jazz generations..All told in the Film ..FINDING CARLTON – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India

And to close..listen to this inspiring message from Marty on his 90th birthday…

June 11th – Next Screening

Our next Screening is on June the Furman Film series  Image

The Furman Film Series presents a sophisticated cross-section of powerful and thought-provoking independent, art, classic, and foreign films. The series mainly hosts sneak previews of highly anticipated films prior to their theatrical release dates followed by a discussion with a relevant speaker who provides exciting insight into the film and subject matter.

Our moderator will be the irrepressible and knowledgeable editor of Jazz Lives – the one and only Michael Steinman

Here’s what Michael “had to say about FINDING CARLTON after my first viewing.”

Even people who are not terribly interested in jazz in the intricate ways some of us are will also find much to admire in the portraits captured in it.  And the jazz-fanciers in the audience sat up, enthralled, throughout it. 

The film concentrates on two musicians: guitarist Carlton Kitto, who found himself entranced by the sound of Charlie Christian on the records his mother played at home while she cooked or cleaned — and Louiz Banks, a Grammy-nominated producer and jazz pianist.  Carlton takes our attention and never lets it go, both because he swings delicately yet powerfully, and because he is a sweetly endearing character. 

Unlike some documentaries I have seen where the story is compelling yet the characters are off-putting, everyone in the audience fell in love with Carlton, his sweet sincerity and his devotion to his music.  It did not surprise anyone that when Carlton got pushed on stage when the Ellington orchestra played a concert in India, that Ellington himself warmed to the young guitarist, invited him to sit in, and that Carlton improvised six choruses on SATIN DOLL with the band.  I’m only sorry that the Duke wasn’t able to hire Carlton on the spot and take him on tour.

FINDING CARLTON is full of the results of the most fascinating archival research, but it is not simply a film for those people whose heads are full of record labels and matrix numbers. The fruits of that research are vivid onscreen, in the photographs, sounds, colors and textures of the Indian jazz scene from the Twenties onward — with quick but telling portraits of deeply inspiring players including the world-class pianist Teddy Weatherford, the elusive trombonist Herb Flemming. The stories Sushiel has uncovered talk of Larry Coryell and Billy Taylor, of Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, of jamming with Sonny Rollins in an ashram. As well as these famous names, we encounter people and players who go straight to our hearts: the first-rate singer Ruben Rebeiro, the devoted jazz fan Farokh Mehta, singers Pam Crain and Christine Correa — we watch the radiance on Christine’s face when she is able to hear a broadcast of her father’s band for the first time, music she heard as a child but never knew existed.

Kurien has a splendid eye — even though this is his first film — for the little human details that bring both individual characters and a larger world (now, perhaps no longer quite so vibrant) into focus and into our hearts. FINDING CARLTON blossoms with lovely montages of the present and the past, the aural and the visual, the moving and the still. It is respectful but never dull, informative but never preachy or didactic.

I urge you to make a small jazz pilgrimage to see it: it is fully realized, lively, and deeply moving. I came away from it with some feelings of loss: one of the later scenes shows Carlton at a gig in a hotel lounge, playing swing for an almost empty room, but I thought of his resilience and that of the music we love.

For more details, please visit  And here is the link to Susheel Kurien’s blog,

May your happiness increase.

Thanks NY TIMES – India Ink!

Thank you NY TIMES….India Ink !                                Click on Image for the article

We are most delighted that the voice of our film has been shared globally in this portrait of events and happenings at the United Nations on International Jazz Day!

Thank you for reporting that “Finding Carlton, ..had many moments that showcased how jazz bridged cultures and provided a common language of communication”.

….and since we did not aspire to slick filmmaking with budgets to match..forgive us our technical trespasses and lead us not into slick sanitized post-production..and yes, do deliver us from the evil wherein technical perfection overrides human warmth and the honesty of documentary film making.!

Link to the NY TImes article here

Thank you MediaGlobal

Media Global carried a review of the International Jazz Day Concert.

A truly amazing and once in lifetime event with leading jazz artists in configurations/combinations that may never be repeated.

They were kind enough to recognize Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India!

Click here for the concert review, or on the image at right  SAXOPHONES SOUND FROM THE UN 



We are distinctly honored to receive a review on the SARAJEVO JAZZ FEST website !. ….although, perplexed and quite baffled by how the film made it for review to Sarajevo without leaving New York…Jazz Pirates ? !! Well, that may not be a bad thing…Click on the image for their review

UN committee passes resolution – Jazz is the 7th official language

Full length video transcript of UN Finding Carlton , goto 07:30 for India’s Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri, and 19:50 for US Ambassador Rosemary Di Carlo’s comments, your filmmaker at 24:20 , Ambassador Ulibarri seconds the motion at 33:45 and Grace Kelly speaks sax at 42:00

Click on link below


We’ve come a long way, baby !

And though we don’t endorse the product that is the subject of the iconic slogan from the Mad Men Era,  and can’t help but smile when we hear the bubblegum anthem from Josie and the Pussycats ,  and as for Fatboy Slim   well….we have come a long way! .

Who would have ‘thunk” that a film about Jazz in India would feature at the first ever International Jazz Day Celebration at the UN ?!

And today, on April 30, 20112 , as declared in PI 2027 issued at the United Nations General Assembly “The Committee on Information of the United Nations General Assembly, in association with the United Nations Academic Impact and the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, will organize a special event to celebrate the first International Jazz Day on 30 April 2012.”

Yes,  Jazz  truly transcends languages, borders and all the divisions that we choose to create between ourselves.. And this great music found its way to India almost 80 years ago, brought there by a diaspora of talented African-American musicians who left behind a legacy that survived them and even wove its way into India’s popular music.

Herb Flemming (Nicolaaih El-Michelle) was one of those pioneers.. (click here for a Wiki entry, and stay tuned for more info in a future post) Here is a clip from the film that tells his story in India..

We are greatly honored to premiere Finding Carlton – on International Jazz Day…when India joins in the celebration of this truly international music with a tale of how jazz travelled to India.. Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India !

Made possible by the support and trust of a group of amazing people from all over the world..and yes the invaluable goodwill of all the readers of this blog and our Facebook friends… Thank You !….as we all stand together and say

We have come a long way ..who would have “thunk” it ? !