Last night, the Beast had dinner with some friends who related to us that filming of a new L.A.-based jazz biopic is now actually in production as we speak (filming is currently underway at The Dresden Room). From the outset, Low Down might seem like a strange project. It's based on the dark memoir of Amy Albany about her life with her father, the troubled bop pianist Joe Albany.
Albany is not very well-known outside of jazz freaks and even there he's sort of a murky figure due to his persistent jail and drug problems during the 1960s and 1970s. But he was at the apex of bebop in the 1940s, when he backed Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Benny Carter, Dexter Gordon, Roy Haynes, Howard McGhee, Lester Young and Charles Mingus. He was part of the enviable, rotating house band at Little Tokyo's Club Finale that included Hampton Hawes, Russ Freeman, Addison Farmer, Red Callender and Roy Porter. Because of his demons, Albany released only one album between 1957 and 1971, The Right Combination, but it is a corker of a record with equally troubled saxophonist Warne Marsh (about whom we also heard a documentary is in the works) and bassist Bob Whitlock.
Actor Mark Ruffalo was originally reported to be playing Albany, but turns out he's producing the film; no matter, the Oscar-nominated actor John Hawkes is playing Albany, so we can all sleep well at night that the role is in god hands. (Also on hand are some interesting casting choices, including Peter Dinklage, Flea and the luminous Elle Fanning as Amy Albany.) Besides, this frees up Ruffalo to appear later at the lead in some future biopic of Art Pepper. Don't laugh, he could pull it off.
We hope the new film will be an honest assessment but won't necessarily be, as one reviewer described Albany's memoir, "drugs and loneliness" wit "some jazz." In the meantime, there's a one-hour documentary Joe Albany: A Jazz Life that's available on YouTube to tide us over: