Thursday, September 10, 2015

Berlin Existential

Either because of its pure rhythmic functions or the carefree, even primitive feeling of playing it, bongo has been associated with the beat movement on film, literature, and also in life. The story of Toby Fichelscher (pic: above), a Berliner beatnik, is alsohas its bongos, jazz, and free love.

Toby Fichelscher (1927-92) was a jazz singer, bongo and piano player in post-war Germany who also tackled on the blues and rock 'n roll. (There is a Tutti Frutti single, recorded by him in 1956, a year after Little Richard made it a hit.)

Released on the compilation album, Busting the Bongos, this is a rare chance to listen to the "lost sounds of a jazz phantom", one of so many forgotten European musicians of the post war period.

Interesting enough, the recordings presented on this album are the soundtracks of three films (Tobby, Max Knaack, and Schatten), all directed by Hansjürgen Pohland.

I've been interested in Pohland since watching his short masterpiece Schatten [Shadows], an experimental film in which the jazz soundtrack is providing the rhythm for a series of shots form shadows and silhouettes on the walls and the grounds and it features a West Coast-sounding soundtrack, probably the best of this compilation.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bill Coleman Meets The New Ragtime Band

Bill Coleman

I have no solid information on this Bill Coleman video, except that it's been filmed in Switzerland in 1969 and transmitted on March 20 of the same year.

From the bass drumhead, one can see that Coleman is accompanied by The New Ragtime Band whose members could be identical to the following line up: Jacky Milliet (clarinet), Pierre Descoeudres (trombone), Vino Montavon (piano), Bernard Moritz (guitar), Hans Schläpfer (bass), and either Marco Steiner or Rolf Sydler on drums.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue, an upcoming Canadian film directed by Robert Budreau.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

John Scofield Trio, 1987

John Scofield must mean something special to Germans. He had numerous appearances on various German TV networks, both before and after the fall of the Berlin wall.

As for this particular posted broadcast, known as Jazzbühne, I learned from German Wikipedia that two years after the concert was filmed, at some point towards the unification, the program came to an end. But guess who appeared on its very last broadcast? Mr. Scofield, again. (I even ran into him in Berlin's Kantstrasse last May, where he was signing CDs outside A-Trane club.)

I'm not sure if I have the tape of the very last Jazzbühne broadcast in my VHS collection, but here there is this one from 1987 when Mr. Scofield is accompanied by John Riley (drums) and Anthony Cox (bass). They go through these compositions:

Turn Around 00:00 -- 7:19
Science and Religion 07:50 -- 14:11
Flower Power 14:30 -- 19:20 [incomplete]

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bud Powell: Two French Interviews

This post presents a transcribed interview (along with the original audio clip) of Bud Powell, conducted in France where he was recuperating from tuberculosis at the Boullemont Sanatorium.

I heard it the first time as the last track from an exceptional CD, Inner Fires, which featured Bud’s trio with Charlie Mingus and Roy Haynes at Club Kavakos, Washington D. C from April 5, 1953.

Interestingly, the album came out as a part Bill Potts collection, a Washingtonian pianist who accompanied Lester Young in his legendary Washington concerts, released in five volumes.

Although Bud Powell was very sick at the time, his comments lend insight into his not so accessible musical universe.

First Interview: January 15, 1963

You may already know that Bud is suffering from tuberculosis and is now recuperating in a sanatorium near Paris. We went to see him there and tried to interview him. I say 'tried' because Bud is extremely weak now, and it was necessary to ask him the same question several times before he was able to respond. It was also technically difficult to conduct this interview, but I think that despite all this we were able to assemble enough good material for you to hear.

Q: Bud, you told me that you’ve written a new tune since your arrival at the hospital. Would you please tell me its name and give me an idea of how it goes?

A: I wrote In the Mood for a Classic. [Bud sings]

Q: Bud, for whom did you compose this piece?

A: I composed it for France in general.

Q: Who are your favorite players?

Monday, July 27, 2015

John McLaughlin Trio in Hambourg

Recently digitized from my VHS archives, this footage captures the John McLaughlin Trio in Hambourg, Germany in 1990. Typical of a McLaughlin concert, there is lots of interplay going on between McLaughlin on acoustic guitar with Kai Eckhardt on electric bass and Trilok Gurtu on percussion.

Apologies in advance for the abrupt ending of the footage which leaves the last song incomplete. The tape has run out.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1967)

Netherlands, 1967 Regia: Johan van der Keuken
F.: Johan van der Keuken. M.: Ruud Bernard, Johan van der Keuken. Int.: Ben Webster, Don Byas, Cees Slings, Michiel de Ruyteras, Michiel de Ruyteras, Peter Ympa. Prod.: Johan van der Keuken.

An intimate, curious portrait of American ex-pat tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, shot between March and June 1967 in Amsterdam, where he eventually died in 1972. Though the title suggests outright praise, van der Keuken goes deeper into Webster’s sound and character by creating visual metaphors (a conversation about the blues cuts to a shot of a knife), relating anecdotes and giving a brief history of the man. Toying with the possibilities of the interplay between sound and image, the film treats Webster as one of the architects of tenor sax by visiting a saxophone factory, where industrial noise subsides allowing us to hear Webster’s luscious vibrato sound. Treated with warmth and respect, this former member of Duke Ellington’s band is seen doing various activities such as cooking, talking to his hospitable landlady, shooting pool and using his 8mm camera. When, later on, van der Keuken incorporates excerpts from what are presumably Webster’s films, jazz and cinema seem even more interwoven than first assumed. (Ehsan Khoshbakht)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cab Calloway's Hi-De-Ho (1934)

USA, 1934 Regia: Fred Waller

Scen.: Milton Hockey, Fred Rath. F.: William O. Steiner. Int.: Cab Calloway, Edwin Swayzee, Lammar Wright, Doc Cheatham, Al Morgan, Leroy Maxey, Harry White, Eddie Barefield, Andrew Brown, Arville Harris.  Prod.: Paramount Pictures

Cab Calloway in Cotton Club
Cab Calloway is deep in sleep on a night train from Chicago when a telegram arrives from Irving Mills, asking him to change the opening number of the next day’s performance at New York’s Cotton Club. The leader wakes up the band and a jam session in pyjamas kicks off, with the band members recreating the sound of a train in motion. Upon arriving in New York, Calloway recommends to the coach attendant that he buy a radio, to keep his wife “entertained” while he is at work. When the attendant acquires the radio which promises to “bring the leading radio artists into your home”, to his dismay it literally brings a seducing Cab Calloway into his home, but only when he is away and she feels lonesome! 

Subversive and erotic, this early jazz short is head and shoulders above many 1930s musical shorts in the way the storyline is developed and how it incorporates hit songs, such as the drug-charged ‘Minnie the Moocher’. A commentary on the medium of radio and the Cotton Club broadcasts, which exposed many Americans to live jazz, the film moves from reality to fantasy, with jazz making the leap smooth and fun. (Ehsan Khoshbakht)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jammin' the Blues (1944)

© Ehsan Khoshbakht (text/story), Naiel Ibarrola (art)

USA, 1944 Regia: Gjon Mili
F.: Robert Burks. M.: Everett Dodd. Scgf.: Roland Hill. Int.: Lester Young, Red Callender, Harry Edison, Marlowe Morris, Sid Catlett, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones, John Simmons, Illinois Jacquet. Prod.: Warner Bros.

Like Forough Farrokhzad and Jean Genet, the Albanian born Djon Mili belongs to a small group of artists, each of whom has directed a single film which has had a lasting impact on cinema history. Better known as a Life photographer, Mili freed jazz film from many restricting elements, elevating the music from a side attraction to having its own captivating aesthetic. Recreating the atmosphere of an after-hours jam session, the musicians were handpicked by jazz impresario Norman Granz and the shooting (with Robert Burks in his first DoP job) wrapped after four sessions. The film was released in December 1944, billed alongside Passage to Marseille, and was nominated for an Oscar. Drawing on Mili’s photographic studies of bodies in motion, each composition radiates energy. When each performer takes his or her solo, the camera treats it as the centre of a spatial arrangement before cutting away in all directions, breaking that space into smaller parts, each lending a unique feeling to the music. (Ehsan Khoshbakht)