Jazz up your weekend viewing with the brand-new feature film Knights Of Swing, now available on Vimeo On Demand — and showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Set in 1947, the nostalgic drama traces the challenges, disappointments and successes of six high school boys, and the girls who join them to form a really swingin’ big band. With the action set in Lynwood, Calif., the story follows an inclusive group of musicians trying to navigate a world that is still very much entrenched in prejudices and antiquated worldviews.
Through their trials and tribulations, and sense of duty to persevere against all odds, Knights Of Swing is a moving portrait that shows music can unite people from different cultures, backgrounds, and races. The hours of dedicated practice and banding together don’t merely bond them in a unique way, they create a special world where they find refuge and peace from the aftermath of war and the challenges of the adult world.
Executive producer Rolland Jacks, who wrote the original story and composed the music with Emilio Palame, conceived the world from personal experiences as a young man. “It was 1947 in post-war Southern California. I was in a band called the Knights Of Swing and wanted to recapture some of the values of the era and beauty and musicality of big band jazz when those big bands were all the rage. The film is based loosely on my own experiences, embellished with a big helping of imagination.”
To direct the action, Jacks enlisted Palame, a highly regarded pianist/vocalist, producer and film & TV composer/arranger for 45 years. Palame’s resume includes over 50 film & TV credits. On the music front, he’s worked with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Paul Williams, Lanie Kazan, Connie Stevens, Chuck Mangione and Peggy Lee. Also at the helm were co-director David Gutel, who helped write the screenplay with Jacks and Palame, and producer Donald Nguyen (Reel Big Studios).
Palame created the band, whose core group includes vocalist and sax player Gifford (Curran Baker), pianist Nolan (Kyle DeCamp), trombonist Conrad (Jeremy Staple), trumpet player Elliott (Christopher Pollock), bassist Kenny (Brandon Ruiter) and drummer Duke (Greg Sadler). Palame plays Lou “King” Arthur, the jazz pianist-turned-school principal who helps navigate behind the scenes as political pressures mount.
To bolster the band’s sound, the Knights add vocal group The 3 B’s, which features Beverly (Emily Goglia), Bonnie (Ivan Cespedes Jordan) and Barb (Olivia Dessy). Together with their conductor Mr. Miller (Richard Neil, known for his work on Veronica Mars, Prodigy and The Bold and The Beautiful), they set out to foster change — one heart, mind and battle at a time.
“Knights Of Swing is the most important artistic endeavour I have been a part of in my longstanding career,” says Palame. “The symmetry of working with such talented and dedicated people to tell a story that confronts racism, loss, the consequence of war, yet also shows forgiveness, unconditional love and the power of music to bring people together, is a gift that has touched my heart and I know will reach yours.”
Co-director Gutel concurs: “Knights Of Swing at its core is about having a dream and putting in the hard work to make it a reality. Directing this movie alongside Emilio Palame was a dream come true for me and i hope that this film inspires people to follow their dreams.”
The uplifting, toe-tapping original songs heard throughout the movie are the result of a decades-long musical relationship between Jacks and Palame. For over 20 years, these close friends have been collaborating on a canon of heartfelt, spirited and entertaining songs ranging in style from pop and gospel to musical theater, jazz and swing.
Something special clicked with the lead composition, the jazzy Schoolroom Blues. From there, the defacto theme song You’ve Gotta Have A Dream and the romantic Love Is Ours Tonight were born, with the chemistry continuing to click on the infectious Cucamonga, the melancholic No Bright Tomorrows, the shiny luminescence of Ooh Baby You’re Driving Me Crazy and the climatic closer The Victory Stomp.
Adding further credibility to the authenticity of the era are the inclusion of the Peggy Lee classic Things Are Swingin’ and the appearance of 22-time Grammy nominee (and four-time winner) Gordon Goodwin as one of the judges presiding over the California Battle of the Bands. Goodwin is well-known throughout the big band world for his 18-piece ensemble The Big Phat Band. Bolstering the music, the contributions of vocal producer/arranger Darlene Koldenhoven (Yanni, Sister Act) and Bob Leatherbarrow (The Simpsons, Nelly Furtado) provide a sublime underscore.
Debuting today, the film, available in 1080p and 4K, will be available for $4.99 for a 72-hour streaming rental via Vimeo on Demand. Closed-captioning is available in English, Spanish and Japanese, with further languages to be added.