August 16th, 2019 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada
For 55 years, Gilles Groulx’s feature The Cat in the Bag (Le chat dans le sac) has been recognized as a landmark of Quebec cinema.
Now, thanks to the National Film Board of Canada’s online screening room, NFB.ca, the film’s equally legendary soundtrack by jazz great John Coltrane is finally being released via Impulse! Records/UMe, a division of Universal Music Group, as Blue World—with the title track available today and the full album launching September 27.
Featuring eight versions of classic Coltrane compositions especially recorded for The Cat in the Bag, Blue World is the only known film soundtrack he ever recorded.
The Cat in the Bag symbolizes the political coming of age of the people of Quebec, as told through the story of a young couple. A milestone in the development of Quebec’s national cinema, the film remains a beloved classic for Quebec and francophone audiences.
For English-speaking Coltrane fans in the US and beyond, the film’s rediscovery at NFB.ca was almost too good to be true. By 2019, the word was spreading that new and largely unheard versions of Coltrane classics were being featured online by Canada’s public film producer and distributor.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day at Van Gelder Studios, 1964
On June 24, 1964—while most of his fellow Québécois were celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebec’s national holiday—Gilles Groulx was in a recording studio in New Jersey with John Coltrane, recording the music for The Cat in the Bag.
And not just any studio: Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, where legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder recorded Coltrane and so many jazz greats. The session would feature Coltrane and his classic 1961–1965 lineup: pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones.
With this quartet recording for hours, melodies were revisited and updated—something this forward-looking musical pioneer almost never did in the recording studio. Blue World offers listeners a rare opportunity to hear fresh perspectives from Coltrane and his band, revealing both Coltrane’s personal progress and the collective musical signature of the Classic Quartet.
Preserved by the NFB’s conservation experts in Montreal, this music has been a key part of Quebec’s cultural legacy for more than a half-century. Now, thanks to Gilles Groulx’s love of jazz, NFB conservationists, Impulse! records and the passion of Coltrane fans everywhere, the music is being given a fresh new release, in Blue World.
The film and its context
The first feature film by Gilles Groulx, The Cat in the Bag (1964) is a landmark work of Quebec cinema, featuring non-professional actors and spontaneous, improvised dialogue, as well as groundbreaking techniques imported by Groulx from the Direct Cinema documentary genre, including hand-held camera, natural settings and lighting, and extended takes with minimal editing.
Through the personal conflict of a young couple, the film explores the status and future of Quebec during the time of the “Quiet Revolution”—a period of sweeping social and political change, of which Groulx was a vital part, both as artist and activist.
Universal Music press release
Universal Music Group