Saturday, November 28, 2015

Today's Time Capsule: La Route du bonheur

In researching recent posts on American musicians in Paris, found this remarkable movie, La Route du bonheur, directed by Maurice Labro and Georgio C. Simonelli for Courts et Longs M├ętrages, released in France and Italy in August-September 1953. Readers who speak French will enjoy watching this musical comedy, with guest shots by lots of entertainment luminaries from both sides of the pond, in its entirety.

Those who do not speak French can, of course, fast forward through the previous YouTube post to the killer le jazz hot featuring Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong and, in the last of his few film appearances, Django Reinhardt. Here are a few segments featuring our American, French and Belgian gypsy musical heroes - enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Live On Your TV Set: Musical Gumbo From New Orleans!

Today, this correspondent officially tips a top hat worn by Sidney Bechet to the French Quarter and the great tradition of Louisiana music.

The passing of Allen Toussaint last week compelled Your Correspondent to think of the incredible 20th century music talent that preceded him.

As far as the great music of New Orleans goes, the party started at the end of the 19th century with bandleader Buddy Bolden, joined just a few years later by Freddie Keppard, Bunk Johnson and Buddie Petit.

These Crescent City luminaries would soon be followed by pianist and Mississippi riverboat bandleader Fate Marable, cornetist Joe "King" Oliver, Kid Ory, Clarence Williams and Jelly Roll Morton. When Buddy Bolden fell ill in 1907, trombonist Frankie Dusen kept Bolden's group together for a decade under the name The Eagle Band. The New Orleans sound would, in 1923, culminate in the momentous recording debut of Louis Armstrong with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Orchestra.

Here's Satchmo, still playing at a high level many decades later, with two versions of the Louis Armstrong All-Stars: one with (from Reserve, LA - about 40 miles west of New Orleans) virtuoso clarinetist Edmond Hall and another featuring Kid Ory.

Satchmo had a favorite drummer who was a lifelong friend. Appearing on several Armstrong recordings, this New Orleans percussionist played brilliantly on Satchmo's Hot Fives and, along with fellow New Orleans drummer Baby Dodds, is very important in the development of multiple 20th century music genres - the great Zutty Singleton.

Baby Dodds, the brother of clarinetist Johnny Dodds, made his name on recordings with Oliver, Armstrong and Chicago clarinetist Jimmie Noone.

The innovative Dodds, playing with Noone, would be an enormous influence on a young Chicagoan who played the drums - Gene Krupa.

With Singleton and Dodds, another percussionist who drove those New Orleans bands as Papa Jo Jones powered Count Basie's "Super Chief" was the legendary Paul Barbarin.

In the pre-television era (as opposed to the Jurassic era), New Orleans music, beloved as it was, as a direct result of the color line in the pre-Sidney Poitier days, did not get its proper due in American movies. Even as late as 1946, when songstress Billie Holiday played a role in the movie New Orleans, she was cast as the maid. That's right, cast as the maid, not as a chanteuse, so while Billie sings. . . well, she sounds great, as usual, but it just doesn't look right with her forced to wear that maid outfit!

Fortunately, since Louis Armstrong also appears in the film as a bandleader, he and Billie get to play together, so in the following two numbers, if nowhere else in the movie, Miss Holiday looks just right.

It is quite stunning for those of us living in 2015, an era in which there are a gazillion TV channels, but, curiously, infinitely less choices readily available, to think that many decades ago, music and entertainment NOT entirely aimed at a very young demographic, including wide-ranging recording artists in diverse genres, as well as veteran stars from vaudeville and the movies - could actually be found on television.

That means programs one could watch in the comfort of your living room on a spiffy General Electric, Admiral or Philco TV set!

While it's true that there such Level 1 mass market pop sounds - Sing Along With Mitch and The Lawrence Welk Show for the oldsters, American Bandstand for the teens - on the air which were popular hits, at the same time, all kinds of music somehow, by hook or by crook, made it onto the airwaves. These included such New Orleans legends as George Lewis and Sidney Bechet.

Yes, once upon a time, dear readers, there was, remarkably, quite a bit of Louisiana music on what Ernie Kovacs called "the orthicon tube" in the 1950's and 1960's.

Of course, American jazz could be found on British and French TV (Henry "Red" Allen and Coleman Hawkins especially) in those days as well.

The 64 million dollar question remains, "why did most music disappear from television programming, banished in an era of 500+ channels?"

Well, one reason, to paraphrase Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire, who owns a mansion and a yacht, the primary reason musical genres - including infinitely less progressive ones than those represented by such 20th century modern recording artists as Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Frank Zappa, Anthony Braxton, Morton Subotnick and Terry Riley - have vanished without a trace from the airwaves would be "insufficient pwoffits".

That said, take heart, New Orleans music lovers. Even though finding most genres of music on any television network (including PBS) remains the equivalent of locating a pin deep in a haystack after drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels, there is the annual New Orleans Film Festival, which frequently includes documentaries spotlighting the music of Louisiana.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

And Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog Loves Paris

On the heels of yesterday's horrific events, this blogger joins many here in the United States and around the world who extend good thoughts, prayers and best wishes to the people of Paris (and Beirut as well).

Does a day ever pass in which a visual, musical, literary artist or filmmaker with Parisian roots - some of whom were born in The City of Light, others having made their fame and legend there - does not impact Your Correspondent's stay upon this earth in a most exceptionally positive way?

No - absolutely not.

Enjoy the following trailers. Je Suis Paris!

Today's post concludes with some music by the great Django Reinhardt.

The guitar genius works his magic with Hot Club Of France bandmates Stephane Grappelli, Joseph Reinhardt and clarinetist Hubert Rostaing.

Vive la France!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Goodbye To New Orleans' Finest: The Great Allen Toussaint

Sad news today. The wonderful Allen Toussaint, songwriter, pianist and recording producer extraordinaire, has passed at 77.

Decided NOT to have this become the "R.I.P. Blog" quite some time ago, but in this case - as I did for satirist Stan Freberg - the music lovers at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog shall make an exception.

Here's just a little taste of beautiful jambalaya sounds by Mr. Toussaint.

R.I.P. to a man who made Planet Earth a better place.

Adieu and most of all, THANK YOU, Allen! And thank you, New Orleans!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Sunday Matinee In Alameda: Silent Movies And Cartoon Jazz!

This Sunday at 2PM at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda this blogger shall don his official Curator hat and bring old school 16mm silent films to accompany a performance by Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Septet, who will play selections from Raymond Scott and John Kirby, as well as new compositions by Lenny Carlson of the San Francisco City College music department. Here's the big band version of this ensemble - enjoy!

Cinematically, we shall present the usual suspects from Silent Movie Land: Otto Messmer, the Fleischer Studios, The Hal Roach Studio, Charley Chase, Mack Sennett's Keystone stars Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Snub Pollard and more. Rhythmix Cultural Works is located at 2513 Blanding Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501. For more info, check out their events page or call 510-856-5060.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015 From Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog

The cinema and pumpkin-crazed rapscallions at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog send our very wishes for a Happy Halloween.

We raise a hemlock-filled toast with the following snippets of celluloid, cartoon and video goodness, starring a veritable rogues' gallery of our very favorite artistes!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fundraiser For The Buster Keaton Restoration Project - Ends Oct. 30

Serge Bromberg and Lobster Films have taken on a most ambitious task: restore the legacy of that fellow who may have been the singularly most talented individual to ever make movies: one of the all-time greats, Buster Keaton.

The Buster Keaton Restoration Project will include Buster's ingenious and hilarious 1920-1923 short films, as well as the Comique Productions series produced in 1917-1920, featuring Keaton as part of a physical comedy "dream team" with Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St. John.

Here are just a few frame grabs to pique both the classic movie fan's and Buster Keaton aficionado's interest. They are quite amazing to behold for those dyed-in-the-wool silent comedy buffs who remember when all one could see of these historic films were washed-out 18th generation 16mm film dupes.

Again, here is the link for The Buster Keaton Restoration Project. The fundraiser ends Thursday, Oct. 30 at 7PM Eastern Standard Time. We extend a tip of the Max Linder top hat to everyone who has contributed and everyone who will contribute to this fundraiser.

For more info, read Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts: 1920-1923 by James L. Neibaur and Terry Neimi