Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jonathan Rosenbaum @ 70


"As someone steeped in modern jazz, I tried to improvise my writing over factual backdrops the way a jazz musician solos over fixed chord changes." - Jonathan Rosenbaum

The needs-no-introduction film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum turned seventy today.

My rather personal ties with the Chicago-based critic, and the reason of featuring him in Take the "A" Train comes from our mutual love of jazz, which, aside from its ecstatic pleasures (that sometimes surpasses cinema’s), can assists writers in the ways they approach any other art form. Rosenbaum’s articles about jazz offer a wealth of insights in additional to being historically important and offering insight into the use of the jazz idiom in film literature. For the former I can point to his invaluable documentation and criticism of rare jazz films for Monthly Film Bulletin in the 1970s (I recently discovered his pioneering Black and Tan piece in the aforementioned publication has been the subject of ruthless plagiarism in a prestigious Duke Ellington biography) and as for the latter, I draw your attention to his first autobiographical and improvised book, Moving Places (Second Ed., University of California Press, 1995).

a scene from an experimental film

Celebrating Jonathan's 70 birthday (while now he is busy teaching a course on film criticism in Mexico City) I  have three pieces to offer, or rather Jonathan has provided me with three invaluable pieces to share with my readers:

INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN ROSENBAUM ABOUT JAZZ AND CINEMA


AN INDEX OF JONATHAN ROSENBAUM'S ARTICLES ABOUT JAZZ AND FILM

JONATHAN AS YOUR JAZZ DJ, WITH A PLAYLIST OF HIS FAVORITE JAZZ TRACKS


...and happy birthday JR!


Jonathan Rosenbaum Takes the "A" Train

Jonathan Rosenbaum [image courtesy of San Sebasti√°n Film Festival]

As a part of Jonathan Rosenbaum's 70th birthday posts on my jazz and film blogs, I asked him to compile a playlist of his favorite jazz tunes and he kindly provided me with the music that has inspired him, moved him and has stayed with him through the years. (the slideshow includes the cover of the albums used in the playlist) He shares details of his jazz life with us in the interview published on Keyframe. And if you want to catch up with some of his writings on jazz and film, or jazz in general, please visit this index that I posted yesterday.



The discographical information is given below the player. If this particular player isn't compatible with your system, there a simpler one, if you just scroll down the page, where, alternatively, you can download it and listen to it offline.


Even on his birthday, it is Jonathan who gives us presents.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jonathan Rosenbaum: An Index

Jonathan Rosenbaum (image courtesy of TimeOut)

This post indexes those articles by Jonathan Rosenbaum that are related to jazz, whether in form of "film and jazz," or few cases of pure jazz writing.

Last update: July 22, 2014

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Remembering Paul Weeden

From right: Paul Weeden, Don Patterson, Billy James [source]

Last week I had lengthy sessions with the music of Don Patterson, one of the post-Jimmy Smith Hammond B3 players who, more or less, followed the pattern of early Smith trios with guitar and drums. Nevertheless, he is more of a funky/groovy player for whom Smith was only an starting point from which he saw the possibilities of the organ, as a swinging (and also good-selling) instrument in jazz. So naturally, compared to early recordings of Smith (which in my opinion are among his most powerful), Patterson lacks that rich bebop vocabulary. However, Patterson, like many jazz musicians who pursued a career somewhere between the center to the margins of jazz world, has his own special merits, quite sufficient to enable the listener to stay with his music for a period of time, in my case, as long as a weekend.

Of course, one can argue that his output with Sonny Stitt are his classics, which I neither accept or dismiss. But you might have heard of a certain Paul Weeden who played guitar in Don Patterson Verve recordings of the early 1960s. If not, in a nutshell, his was a Tiny-Grimes sounding, bluesy guitarist which deserves more attention.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ad-Lib#3: Prima Bara Dubla


1
The only official recording of Gerry Mulligan with Duke Ellington that I can think of is that of Newport 1958 in which the mind-blowing late-night call-and-response between two baritones, Mulligan and Harry Carney, in Prima Bara Dubla, repeats the memory Newport '56 in its own right. Unlike the revolution of 1956 and Paul Gonsalves' restless solo that ended all solos in his and other people's career in Ellington company, Prima Bara Dubla is a dark, reserved and unhurried conversation. If Gonsalves," by injecting a new aggressive blood to the veins of the orchestra, "made history, this one is "about history" and a commentary on that through juxtaposition of two sounds, two styles and two eras while each comment on the other: Big Band Swing reflecting Cool, and vice versa.

The liner notes of the 1958 Newport recording says: "Duke, who had been complimented so effectively all evening, paid his own compliment to Gerry Mulligan by writing a duet for Mulligan and Harry Carney, the two premier baritone saxophonists of jazz. Gerry, who made several appearances at this year's festival, including one with Marian McPartland paying tribute to Ellington earlier in the evening, came back on stage in his red jacket at this point in the programme and he and Harry took their places at the front of the stage to play Prima bara dubla, which is probably limp Spanish for a couple of first-class baritone sax men. It became a highlight of the concert and an honour both to Gerry and to Duke."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jazz In High Heels

Mundell Lowe
In 1962 once again jazz returned to its notorious roots of accompanying strippers and burlesque queens, this time far from New Orleans and somewhere on the big silver screen. Mundell Lowe, a country music guitarist who converted to jazz and filled the chair in the big bands of Benny Goodman or small groups of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday, was the one who composed music for the sexploitation film, Satan In High Heels, starring Meg Myles and Sabrina.

Looking for an opportunity to show his talent in composing and arranging, Lowe invited some of the best jazz musicians in New York City to his November-December recording sessions at RCA studios, among them Clark Terry, Eddie Costa, Phil Woods, Oliver Nelson, Buster Cooper, Joe Newman and George Duvivier.

The result, unlike the cheaply produced nudie flick, is an important and overlooked soundtrack in history of motion pictures.

(with images of the film and selected tracks from the soundtrack)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Stop For Bud (1963)


In 1963 a short experimental film was made about Bud Powell. Half a century later, some musings about that Danish film and Bud.

Bud means the wind, if you are a Farsi speaker. Thus, for me, the name defines the music. Although one of my favorite pianists in jazz, whom I discovered with Bud Plays Bird LP, is never as fiery as one expect from the wind. He is a bipolar giant. When playing I Remember Clifford at the Golden Circle club in Sweden, it seems that music would stop any second. The melody blurs. The harmonies become foggy. The beat tends to get lost, and a moment later, found again. The seemingly dying music continues for nearly nine minutes. Through Clifford Brown's memory, Bud is lamenting himself, his very existence.

That bipolarity could came to surface in another forms, too. In a struggle between a classical completionist mode - when your piece have a clear beginning, middle and the end - and a sense of incompleteness and constant transfiguration which makes it hard to detect the real core of the music. From the first category, the jewel of all Blue Note recordings, The Scene Changes, from 1958, is documented to the degree of perfection. All the songs are originals and executed neatly around 4 to 5 minutes. The second category is mostly consisted of tunes in slower tempos, as if Bud never manages to finish what he has started. Music of the second category is the closest thing to films of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu: static, organic and free from overstatement and jagged emotions - painfully true and precise. Even in the later years, after gaining weight, with a motionless figure and impassive face staring at nowhere, Bud began to look like Buddha.