Trumpeting a 'Good' musician

Special to The Times

If the name Jack Sheldon doesn't ring a bell, consider this: Music elite and bebop fans widely consider him the greatest living jazz trumpeter. This unheralded maestro, a founder of the West Coast jazz movement, has, since the 1950s, performed everywhere from the Hollywood Bowl to Carnegie Hall, has played on hundreds of albums and has collaborated with such legendary artists as Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Peggy Lee. Boomers may even remember the roly-poly Sheldon as Merv Griffin's trumpet-playing sidekick on the latter's long-running TV talk show.

Despite -- or, perhaps, because of -- his cult status, Sheldon makes a compelling centerpiece for the lively, nostalgic documentary "Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon," written, produced and directed by Doug McIntyre and Penny Peyser. Heavy on testimonials from a starry range of Sheldon fans, including Clint Eastwood, Billy Crystal, producer-director Frank Marshall and composer-arranger Johnny Mandel, the film is light on interview footage with Sheldon himself.

The film is jammed with wonderful archival material of a bygone L.A. and concert footage of Sheldon's gorgeous trumpeting, distinct vocalizing and randy comic stylings.


"Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. Exclusively at the Crest Theatre, 1262 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 474-7866.

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