Monday, January 15, 2007

Sly... Back on the right track!

"Shady as a lady in a mustache, feelings camouflaged by groans and grins, secrets have a special way about them, moving to and fro among your friends"... SOMEBODY"S WATCHING, SLY! US!!!
Last Saturday night, my fellow Sylvester Stewart devotees and myself made what can best be described as a pilgrimage to... Anaheim... the House of Blues in Anaheim to get a glimpse of who is, for us the most important living writer of popular music in America (and I am only somewhat equivocating and shouting USA! out of respect to Sir Paul Macca...). The universality of Sly- the fact that you can hear ONE SONG and say- I KNOW THAT GUY!- is magic... you get the feeling- THAT FEELING!- when you here Sly- and when you get it like that... well, you'll go anywhere to support- even Anaheim on a Saturday night.

That's me, Paranorm, Ian, and Zoe. Well... we got a glimpse. What can I say... It was better than the show at the Las Palmas Theater in 1987. How about that? (Chris Willman, myself and 25 other people know what I mean!) It was kind of a baby step- if you can call it that in 19+ years... sort of like when Brian Wilson got up with the Beach Boys in Anaheim (why do all comebacks start in Anaheim)... it was surreal- as you might expect. It was a major step up from the Grammy travesty- Sly really seemed to be into it... but it only last a brief nine minutes (according to the OC Register).
We were standing real close- say three people to the stage between us (that's my photo at top)- and the band included Rose, Pat Rizzo for a few numbers and Little Sister Vet (giving Sly a hug in the pic) singing... along with some other guys who were faithful and serviceable- and when they play the songs, you kept getting excited that Sly MIGHT come out... which he eventually did after tune #10 or so... when he awkwardly was announced and came out and gave the peace sign and told us he would take us higher... Sly then came back with two different daughters. and this is where it got fun... er, PHUNNE... as his daughter, PHUNNE came out to play some Mozart on the Yamaha Motif.
Well, anyways, Sly liked that a lot. Then he brought out another daughter to rap and he played a clavinet part behind her- and that seemed to stun the band- but they rolled with it, and she did that for a minute... then he walked off to more people begging him to stay. Sly came back once more and asked to take us higher- and he did. Sly seemed to be in good spirits- and I don't think he looked as hunched over as I was led to believe he is- although he is not exactly ready to put back on the jump suit and do the ham-bone down the aisle either.
And so I have been listening to his music today- and it is still magnificent. The lyrics are the most uplifting, forceful, loving, honest, biting, warming... truthful we have seen in the rock era.
Fun (Phun) story... When I first met my pal Ian- we started talking music... and I gave him the above thought about how important, truthful blah blah blah Sly's music is... Ian let me go on... then lifted his shirt to reveal the following tattoo. It was love.
Still is.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jerry Fielding- HERO

Jerry Fielding was so great.

You can find his music from "The Wild Bunch" by clicking on this sentence. I have been listening to it again recently on my ipod... my god, as a really fine composer friend once said to me, "I'd have given time off my life to have a score look like one of Jerry's."

The ORIGINALITY that is in evidence in "The Wild Bunch" soundtrack shows why music for films was so breathtaking when in the hands of masters like Fielding, Johnny Mandell, Elmer Bernstein, Kenyon Hopkins, Dave Grusin and others in this time period- as these guys KNEW where the music came from and instead of just aping it- as so often happens today (most music in films feels to me like, "this is what music should sound like for this part of the picture IF indeed the scene even needs it...")- they tood the medium and CONTRIBUTED original thought/sound to the whole to make something that wasn't... just regurgitated dreck.

In scores today you hear people basically, to me, doing impressions of what they think a movie soundtrack SHOULD sound like- Fielding was INVENTING A LANGUAGE! and it is quite exciting to listen to. When you hear a score in the hands of a master like Fielding, you get context, you get economy, you get meaning and you get FEELING that isn't there if you take the music away! And when was the last score you heard that did that!?!?! (I mean, excepting of course, "Let's Go To Prison.")

in the case of "The Wild Bunch," Fielding takes the score American Western- and turns it on it's ear- like what Peckinpah did for the movie. As Peckinpah took what John Ford (and others before him) and reinvented it, Fielding managed to take what Aaron Copland had done (and even what Elmer had done with say "The Magnificent Seven"- an amazing score too)- and gave it new breath, interpretation... and, for the picture, a voice that supports and extends the story. The best way to describe it is to say that Fielding's music is... informed.

If Jerry were alive today... ah... well, unfortunately he isn't. But in this blog he lives on!

Click here for an interview with Jerry.

"It seems to me that we’re totally adrift at the moment, culturally—the Western world generally is. I don’t know what the serious musical idiom of this time is. I’ve no idea who history will designate as the proper spokesman seriously for this period. It isn’t like you could pinpoint Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, whoever. Even Stravinsky—there was a time that was right for him. Right now, the time seems to be wrong for everybody—or everybody seems to be wrong for the time."
-Jerry Fielding.

In film and television music, I would argue that you can sub in Rota, Fielding, Mancini (btw- both Fielding and Mancini came from the same hometown- Pittsburgh- Fiedling was two years older), Herrmann or Elmer for Mozart and the others Jerry was quoted about above.

Here's my feeling on Jerry and what he meant to film music and how it resonates today:

I believe Clint Eastwood became so indebted to the music of Fielding, that in this day and age- when we sooooo need a Fielding- Clint has decided that since no other composer who is working steadily could do what Jerry did... Clint just does the music himself.

And I gotta say, having just watched "Million Dollar Baby"- if that's his thinking (which I think it is), that's the way to go.
Fielding could have added so much to that movie...

Go find ANYTHING written or arranged by Jerry Fielding and you won't be sorry.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Amy Winehouse...

Thank god!!!!
A record that makes you feel good and...
let's you feel like you are experiencing something new and special and real and... you know- of the moment. You remember... like when you heard a record on the radio and thought, "Man, that's cool. I LIKE that!"

Amy Winehouse has a a record called "Rehab" and you can watch the video if you click on this sentence.
Salaam Remi produced the record and he is a bad man.
This record feels familiar yet new... it has a sense of humor- I really like it.
Shout out to Matt Berenson for sending it my way- he knows jewish women soul/jazz singers like nobody's business.
Go watch, and maybe feel good about pop music... for a few minutes at least.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's Neruda Songs...

is a beautiful heartbreak.
If you don't know her, there is a nice piece online from the New Yorker.

Recommended (again) by Rafi Zabor, you can find on iTunes these recordings done with the Boston Symphony Orchestra with James Levine conducting as Ms. Lieberson sang music composed by her husband.
These songs are the last pieces performed by her and they are a series of Pablo Neruda's love sonnets set to music by her husband, composer Peter Lieberson. Hunt Lieberson died in July, 2006 of breast cancer at 52 years old.
These recordings are something else.

Charles Koechlin

... is a course- actually a four- no, seven course meal- in orchestration and arrangement.

Koechlin was something else- you can hear how influential he IS and what a master of the orchestra.
I found Leif Segerstam & Rheinland-Pfalz Philharmonic's version of Koechlin's "The Jungle Book" (four symphonic poems and three orchestral songs making up Livre de la jungle after Rudyard Kipling) that Mike Lang turned me on to on iTunes.
According to the wikipedia entry: "He wrote in several styles, sometimes severe Baroque counterpoint, as in the fugue that opens his Second Symphony (unrecorded as of 2005), sometimes "impressionistically" as in the tone poem Au Loin, or, as in the Symphony No.2's scherzo, yet more astringently. He could go from extreme simplicity to extreme complexity of texture and harmony from work to work, or within the same work. Some of his most characteristic effects come from a very static treatment of harmony, savouring the effect of, for instance, a stacked-up series of fifths through the whole gamut of the instruments. His melodies are often long, asymmetrical and wide-ranging in tessitura. He was closely interested in the works of Schoenberg, some of which he quoted from memory in his treatise on Orchestration. The twelve tone technique is one of the several modern music styles parodied in the 'Jungle Book' symphonic poem Les Bandar-Log, but Koechlin also wrote a few pieces in what he described as the 'style atonal-seriel'. He was fascinated by the movies and wrote many 'imaginary' film scores and works dedicated to the Hollywood actress Lilian Harvey, on whom he had a crush. His Seven Stars Symphony features movements inspired by Douglas Fairbanks, Lilian Harvey, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings and Charlie Chaplin in some of their most famous film roles. He also composed an Epitaph for Jean Harlow and a suite of dances for Ginger Rogers. He was interested in using unusual instruments, notably the saxophone and the early electronic instrument the Ondes Martenot. One movement of the Second Symphony requires four of them (and has not usually been included in the few performances of the work, for that reason). He also wrote several pieces for the hunting-horn, an instrument he himself played. Koechlin orchestrated several pieces by other composers. In addition to the Fauré Pelléas et Mélisande suite mentioned above he orchestrated the bulk of Claude Debussy's 'legende dansée' Khamma under the composer's direction, from the piano score [1], and orchestrated Cole Porter's ballet Within the Quota; other works he transcribed include Schubert's Wanderer Fantasie and Chabrier's Bourrée Fantasque."
Anyways, check it out- I had never really known about him... now I can't find enough.