Funding Unsuccessful This project’s funding goal was not reached on .

New Jazz Film to Make History

They Died Before 40

More than two dozen gifted jazz artists died before reaching the age of 40. Most of them are relatively unknown, some even to jazz fans. Many of them made significant contributions on their instruments and to this art form. All of them had much more to give and, individually and collectively, would have made a greater impact on this music had they lived full lives. It is important that their contributions be made known, their music heard and that we show how and why they died.

Many people may have heard of Charlie Parker, who died at 34. But others, such as Herschel Evans, who died before reaching 30, are very little known and their stories untold. For example, Jo Jones, drummer and an integral part of the Count Basie band for many years, has called Evans the greatest musician he ever played with. He said that Evans made everyone he played with better.

Who was this giant, what made him an important creative artist and why did he die so young? These are questions that this film will answer concerning Evans and many more. Others to be featured will be Bunny Berigan, Chick Webb, Fats Waller, Charlie Christian, Jimmy Blanton, Clifford Brown and Chu Berry. Almost two dozen others will be mentioned.

Through archival photographs, reminiscences and expert discourse we will learn more about these artists, develop an appreciation of their artistry and reveal how and why their careers were cut short.

This film will expand our cultural heritage for this internationally renowned art form.

Who Are They (the first eight will be featured)

Charlie Christian, guitar - died at 25 in 1942
Chu Berry, tenor saxophone - died at 31 in 1941
Jimmy Blanton, bass - died at 23 in 1942
Bunny Berigan, trumpet - died at 33 in 1942
Clifford Brown, trumpet - died at 25 in 1956
Chick Webb, drums - died at 34 in 1939
Herschel Evans, tenor saxophone - died at 29 in 1939
Fats Waller, piano, vocals - died at 39 in 1943

Charlie Parker, alto saxophone - died at 34 in 1955

Bix Beiderbecke, cornet - died at 28 in 1931

Fats Navarro, trumpet - died at 26 in 1950

Sonny Berman, trumpet - died at 22 in 1947

Lee Morgan, trumpet - died at 33 in 1972

Clyde Hart, piano - died at 34 in 1945

Lil Green, vocals - died at 35 in 1954

Eddie Costa, piano, vibes - died at 32 in 1962

Robert Johnson, singer, guitar - died at 27 in 1938

Dick Wilson, tenor saxophone - died at 30 in 1941

Wynton Kelly, piano - died at 39 in 1971

Tommy Ladnier, trumpet - died at 39 in 1939

James "Bubber" Miley, trumpet - died at 29 in 1932

Nat Jaffe, piano - died at 27 in 1945

Frank Teschemacher, clarinet, saxes - died at 25 in 1933

Eddie Lang, guitar - died at 30 in 1933

Wardell Gray, tenor saxophone - died at 34 in 1955

Albert Ayler, tenor saxophone - died at 34 in 1970

Dinah Washington, vocals - died at 39 in 1963

Serge Chaloff, baritone saxophone - died at 33 in 1957

Clarence "Pinetop" Smith, piano, vocals - died at 24 in 1929

Eric Dolphy, saxophone - died at 36 in 1964

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I am working on a revolutionary opening for the film that should make history.
I am almost finished with licensing for the music and visuals. This has been an almost year-long ordeal. I will begin shooting shortly. As I only have licenses for the United States and 1 year and festivals I cannot make any money on the film until I sell it to a distributor or TV, etc. Then I will have to apply for additional licenses that will hopefully be paid for by whomever buys the film. However, I am very confident that it will succeed as I have people like Nat Hentoff et al very excited about it.
This is a project that I have been thinking about for almost 15 years and one that will enable people to understand the unique circumstances surrounding the development of jazz.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

Ask a question
pledged of $15,000 goal
seconds to go
  • Pledge $100 or more
    You selected

    6 backers Limited (4 left of 10)

    Pledge $100-$499 – receive DVD of completed film and invitation to film preview.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $500 or more
    You selected

    2 backers Limited (13 left of 15)

    Pledge $500 or more – receive credit as Contributor on film credits plus DVD of completed film and two invitations to film preview.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $1,000 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (6 left of 6)

    Pledge $1,000 or more - receive Associate Producer credit, plus 2 DVDs and 5 invitations to film preview.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $5,000 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Pledge $5,000 or more – all of the above plus you tell Howard what you want as a perk and, if reasonable, it will be provided.

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (60 days)