Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy 105th Birthday, Lester Willis Young (1909-1959)

Today is the birthday of arguably the greatest instrumentalist to ever play jazz, Count Basie's go-to guy, saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Young, born on August 27, 1909.

Some music aficionados might argue that the "greatest" mantle would go to Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Art Tatum or possibly any number of luminaries quite a bit younger than Pres (Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Miles Davis).

Others would accurately say, yeah - ALL of them are the greatest and don't forget Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian and Earl "Fatha" Hines while you're at it!

For this correspondent and music lover, nobody then or now comes close to the sweet sound of Lester Young a.k.a. "Pres".

Many attempted to imitate his musicality and out-of-the-box approach to life, but nobody succeeded. There's only one original.

Here's Pres and several bands jam-packed with virtuosos, sounding great.

While Lester's music provided some measure of comfort for millions around the world, during his lifetime and 55 years after his death, he suffered a great deal in his life. One hopes that Mr. Young found the peace and serenity which eluded him during his time here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Now Available On Blu-ray: The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1

As we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog join many around the world in mourning the passing of celebrated actor-standup philosopher-improv comedy master, cartoon voice artist par excellence and big time San Francisco Giants fan Robin Williams (the ever-astute Madame Blogmeister phrased it aptly and best, "depression is a goddamn killer"), it is apropo that today's posting be devoted to devastatingly funny screen humor from a century ago.

That classic comedy oasis would be The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1, the first of two Blu-ray sets produced by CineMuseum, LLC, for Flicker Alley - and officially released today.

This is the first of two volumes, both of which will feature 50, count 'em 50, wacky Mack Sennett comedies, digitally re-mastered in HD and all produced by the guy dubbed in the silent era The King Of Comedy (with, frankly, some hot-and-heavy competition from the studios of Hal Roach and Jack White throughout the 1920's). Here's the promotional trailer.

It's highly recommended to have Brent Walker's comprehensive, painstakingly researched and splendid Mack Sennett's Fun Factory on hand as a reference to go with the Blu-ray set.

On the set: the recently discovered Charlie Chaplin cameo in the Ford Sterling comedy A Thief Catcher.

The other Chaplin films produced by Mack Sennett in 1913-1914 are on Flicker Alley's Chaplin At Keystone: An International Collaboration Of 34 Original Films set.

Never fear, however - there are plenty of films featuring the Sennett studio's many other resident funsters, a.k.a. THE USUAL SUSPECTS!

Roscoe Arbuckle

Billy Bevan

Sydney Chaplin

Charley Chase

Andy Clyde

Chester Conklin

Vernon Dent

Louise Fazenda

Raymond Griffith

Phyllis Haver

Thelma Hill

Alice Howell

Madeline Hurlock

Harry Langdon

Fred Mace

Polly Moran

Charlie Murray

Mabel Normand

Marie Prevost

Al St. John

Ford Sterling

Slim Summerville

Mack Swain

Gloria Swanson and Bobby Vernon

Ben Turpin

While the two volume collection primarily consists of silent films, it does feature a few "Mack Sennett Talking Pictures" featuring Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields, Daphne Pollard, Marjorie Beebe, Harry Gribbon and Grady Sutton.

The title listing for The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1, is as follows:
  1. The Curtain Pole
  2. The Manicure Lady
  3. A Dash Through the Clouds
  4. The Water Nymph
  5. A Grocery Clerk's Romance
  6. On His Wedding Day
  7. Bangville Police
  8. A Fishy Affair
  9. The Speed Kings
  10. The Thief Catcher
  11. The Great Toe Mystery
  12. Recreation
  13. Shot In The Excitement
  14. The Noise Of Bombs
  15. Ambrose's First Falsehood
  16. A Bird's A Bird
  17. Gussle's Day Of Rest
  18. Do-Re-Mi-Boom!
  19. A Lover's Lost Control
  20. A Submarine Pirate
  21. Fatty And Mabel Adrift
  22. His Bitter Pill
  23. Madcap Ambrose
  24. Teddy At The Throttle
  25. Her Torpedoed Love
  26. A Clever Dummy
  27. Hearts And Flowers
  28. Down On The Farm (Feature)
  29. Don't Weaken
  30. Gymnasium Jim
  31. The Extra Girl (Feature)
  32. The Dare-Devil
  33. Black Oxfords
  34. Galloping Bungalows
  35. His Marriage Wow
  36. Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies
  37. A Rainy Knight
  38. Saturday Afternoon
  39. A Sea Dog's Tale
  40. Hoboken To Hollywood
  41. Ice Cold Cocos
  42. Broke In China
  43. The Pride Of Pikeville
  44. Fiddlesticks
  45. Run, Girl, Run
  46. Taxi For Two
  47. The Bluffer (Sound)
  48. The Dentist (Sound)
  49. Don't Play Bridge With Your Wife (Sound)
  50. The Fatal Glass Of Beer (Sound)

Author and historian James L. Neibaur has penned an excellent overview of the Blu-ray release and will be writing daily reviews of each and every one of the 50 subjects on the three discs that comprise volume 1, starting with The Curtain Pole, the D.W. Griffith-Mack Sennett collaboration film from 1909. To Mack and all of the performers, filmmakers and technicians who worked so hard to make magic over his lengthy career - thanks for the laughs!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

This Saturday At Foothill College - The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival

The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival returns with another all-improvised program of questionable entertainment.

The 16mm film extravaganza will feature the usual suspects: 1950's advertising and "educational" films, the campiest musical shorts (Soundies, Snader Telescriptions and Scopitones) as well as trailers from the cheapest American B-films and Japanese monster movies.

The program also features emphatic but unintentionally humorous commercials, inexplicably odd clips from TV and movies, as well as surreal silent movie excerpts.

And, inevitably, the festivals also frequently include the most bizarre of obscure classic cartoons. . .

In other words, a hallucinatory excursion through the irritated bowels of pop culture.

With a fez on his head and cheesy door prizes in hand to give away at intermission, Mr. Robert Emmett of KFJC'S Saturday morning Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show will host the festivities.

One can hear the perpetrators of the festival, Paul Etcheverry (a.k.a. Blogmeister), Sci Fi Bob Ekman and the guy who designed the cool poster above, Scott Moon, plug the all-16mm celluloid extravaganza this very Monday evening, August 4, on KFJC 89.7 FM, Mr. Emmett's Thoughtline show.

The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival
Saturday August 9, 7:00 to 11:00 PM
Room 5015, A.K.A. Forum Classroom
Foothill College campus
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022 (El Monte exit off of Highway 280)

$5 Admission benefits KFJC. Bring $3 for Parking (in Lot #5)
Public Transit: Cal Train and VTA
Foothill College Transportation & Parking
Arrive early, as the shows often sell out. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

Be there or be a hexagon!