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“Taking Charge – The Pauly Cohen Story,” a Kickstarter-supported documentary made by writer/video journalist Bret Primak, premiered on April 17, 2013 at the Arizona International Film Festival. The film celebrates the life of Pauly Cohen, a trumpet player from the Big Band era who retired to Florida and now leads a big band at comprised of retired musicians primarily from Local 802, the musicians’ union of New York City.
The documentary was filmed the week of Pauly Cohen’s birthday celebration. Shooting began on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, with the taping of a masterclass Cohen gave to the Florida International University Jazz Band. The film documents his Wednesday conversations with his closest south Florida chums at the Blue Jeans Blues Jazz Club in Ft. Lauderdale. Thursday’s taping involved Cohen’s weekly big band performance at Northwest Focal Point Senior Center in Margate, Florida, where he performs every Thursday afternoon. Friday’s activities involved the taping of interviews with Mort Kuff, Duffy Jackson, Jason Carder, Richard Dubin, and Chris Labarbera at a recording studio in Boca Raton.
Cohen’s birthday week culminated with a birthday celebration/jam session at the Soyka supper club in Miami. The musicians present toasting and playing for Cohen included Ira Sullivan, Duffy Jackson, Joe Donato, Mike Gerber, Don Wilner, Mike Orta, and Jack Shapiro. The stories told, laughter shared, and music played that evening summed up the events of a very full week.
Big band trumpeter Pauly Cohen was born in Brooklyn, October 3, 1922 and as a teenager, was awarded a prestigious scholarship to study with William Vacchiano, then principal trumpet player of the New York Philarmonic. At eighteen he left home and moved into the Forest Hotel in Manhattan in search of music gigs. He found work almost immediately; first in the Earl Hines band, then the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnett, and five years as lead trumpet in the Count Basie band. These experiences afforded Cohen the opportunity to perform and develop friendships with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Shavers, Uan Rasey, Conrad Gozzo, Billie Holliday, and others. Being based in New York also afforded Cohen with continuous access to the developmental laboratory that was 52. In hours of interviews, Cohen shared an encyclopedic amount of stories concerning life on the road and the associated characters that populated the big band era.
The trailer for documentary film entitled, “Taking Charge - The Pauly Cohen Story” can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2Zhay1UO5g.
Source: Michael R. Ragan, Miami, FL