Fats Domino and Santa Claus to rock The New Orleans Film Festival

Consider it a jazz funeral of sorts — on the big screen — for Cosimo Matassa. “The Big Beat” — Joe Lauro’s documentary featuring the two most influential New Orleans musicians ever to commandeer Cosimo’s cosmically attuned recording studio — will be closing out the New Orleans Film Festival in back-to-back showings on Thursday, Oct. 23, at the historic Carver Theater.

And if “The Big Beat” isn’t already enough of a serendipitous gift from soul heaven, Christmas is coming even earlier this year, on Oct. 19-20, when the Film Festival offers two screenings of “Jingle Bell Rocks!,” which explores the eccentric genre of alternative and underground Christmas music. (More on that later.)

Cosimo Matassa, 1926-2014
Cosimo Matassa, 1926-2014

The starring musicians of “The Big Beat,” of course, are pianist Antoine “Fats” Domino and trumpeter Dave Bartholomew, who attained musical immortality with their multi-million-selling records produced at Matassa’s J&M studio on Rampart Street. Matassa, who died Sept. 11 at 88, followed Domino and Bartholomew into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for helping shape the “New Orleans Sound” as recording engineer on their trailblazing 45s — as well as practically every other R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and funk record made in the city from the 1940s to the early ‘70s.

40 MINUTES OF “UNGODLY” ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

Renowned 78-rpm collector, filmmaker, historian, and musician Joe Lauro is no stranger to the Stomp: “The Big Beat” director has shared his amazing archives with us for years, and lucky attendees have seen endless eye-popping video moments from Lauro’s footage — a treasure trove of Stomp performers in their heyday.

The centerpiece of “The Big Beat,” which was co-written and co-produced by Domino biographer Rick Coleman, is super-rare 1962 concert footage that Lauro previously unveiled at the Ponderosa Stomp’s Clandestine Celluloid Film Series in 2011. Apparently unearthed from a French archive, the sounds and images capture a turbocharged Domino, Bartholomew, and their crack band firing away on all cylinders at the height of their powers — with syrupy string sections and cloying backup choruses nowhere to be found. According to Lauro, it’s one of the “Holy Grail” relics documenting primordial rock ‘n’ roll.

“We found a live concert that is ungodly, because if you know anything about early rock ‘n’ roll, you know all you get is maybe a song in a movie that’s usually lip-synched, or you get an appearance on a TV show that might be live, but it’s never going to be more than one or two songs, tops,” Lauro told Offbeat in 2011. “We found a full 40-minute concert of the original Fats Domino band, which is really the Dave Bartholomew Orchestra. It’s three horns: Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen, Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler. It’s all the original guys. [Cornelius] ‘Tenoo’ Coleman on drums. Fats of course. It’s not the guys from ’54, ’55, but it’s the guys from the late ‘50s, and it’s extraordinary. You get to see them do what probably they were doing in rock ‘n’ roll shows all around, getting a little wild. It’s wonderful.”

AFTER-PARTY FEATURES STOMP DJs WAXING FANTASTIC

“The Big Beat” is scheduled for the Oct. 23 closing night of the New Orleans Film Festival, with showings at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave. (just down the street from Dooky Chase’s famed Creole restaurant, the culinary temple to Platonic fried chicken and gumbo z’herbes, as well as a New Orleans musical landmark in its own right). Tickets, which go on sale Monday, Oct. 13, are $12 for Film Society members and $15 general admission. Lauro and Coleman will be on hand at the Carver, along with editor Anthea Carr, cinematographer David Leonard, and special guests. Click here for more information and to buy tickets, or visit the Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St.

And don’t miss The New Orleans Film Festival’s Closing Night Party, featuring record spinning from Ponderosa Stomp chieftain Dr. Ike and DJ D. Lefty Parker. “The Big Beat After Party” will blow the roof off The Degas House at 2306 Esplanade Ave. from 9 p.m. until at least 11 p.m. Sponsored by Tipitina’s Foundation and The Recording Academy – Memphis Chapter, the party is open to All-Access Passholders and attendees of the 7 p.m. screening of “The Big Beat.”

“YULE” LOVE THIS SOULFUL STOCKING STUFFER

Now that we’ve highlighted the film about New Orleans’ “Fat Man,” let’s shift from red beans and rice to reindeer and red suits — to spotlight the festival’s other music movie about a fat man, none other than “old St. Nick,” Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus.

The New Orleans Film Festival is proud to present “Jingle Bell Rocks!”, which will roll on the screen of the Theatres at Canal Place 2 on Sunday, Oct. 19 (8:30 p.m.), and Monday, Oct. 20 (8 p.m.). The film is touted as “a trippy, cinematic sleigh-ride through the subculture of alternative Christmas music. Featuring hardcore collectors, legendary DJs and musicologists, record producers, and Christmas obsessives like cult film auteur John Waters, director Mitchell Kezin’s intimate and quixotic search for the SOUL of Christmas music tells the stories behind twelve of the most profound Christmas songs ever recorded … many of whom you’ve likely never heard, until now.” See the trailer below:

Jingle Bell Rocks Trailer HD from EyeSteelFilm on Vimeo.

The documentary offers irreverent insights from Irwin Chusid, Wayne Coyne, Joseph (Rev Run) Simmons, bebop legend Bob Dorough, Clarence Carter, Doctor Demento, and many more. Equal parts social history, pop culture pilgrimage and revealing character study, “Jingle Bell Rocks!” confronts the Christmas music mainstream, re-inventing the seasonal soundtrack for the 21st century.

Director Mitchell Kezin is scheduled to attend the screenings. Tickets are $9 for Film Society members and $11 general admission. To buy tickets, click here, or visit the Contemporary Arts Center at 900 Camp St.

Both of these movies presented by The New Orleans Film Society are must-see viewing for Ponderosa Stomp fans, music lovers, and cinematic connoisseurs everywhere.

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