In 1944, LIFE photographer Gjon Mili decided to apply still photography framing and techniques to a short film documenting some renowned jazz musicians. The result, the 10-minute, three-song Jammin’ the Blues would be nominated for an Academy Award. The film looks far more modern than you’d expect, and the music sounds as cool and smooth as Lester Young (one of Charlie Watts’ style icons) looks in his double breasted jacket and air tie. I’ve always been impressed by jazz musicians’ ability to hold a lit cigarette while playing intricate, intense music. This is pre-trad-clothing-era jazz but I also think I spy a button-down-collar gingham shirt on Marlowe Morris on piano.
While I wouldn’t recommend running out and commissioning super high-waisted pants a la Sweets Edison’s, a style takeaway from Jammin the Blues is you can wear tailored clothing wherever you want, as long as its comfortable. As Charlie Watts said, “The lovely thing about [these jazz musicians] was that their clothes were worn. They weren’t just put on, to the office and back. They sat all night in the things. They played in those suits. How they played in those suits I don’t know.”