Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Roy Eldridge!

Born January 30, 1911: music giant Roy Eldridge, A.K.A. "Little Jazz".

Well, shame on me, I missed the centennial a year ago, but will make up for it with my personal selection of the most blazing LE JAZZ HOT clips.

Roy, A.K.A. Little Jazz was the trumpet ace who followed King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke - and paved the way for Dizzy Gillespie and the next wave in the post-WW2 era.

His style, here in 1937, comes directly from Satchmo and, like Louis, is unrelentingly swinging and quite beautiful.



Roy was, like forward-looking bandmate Coleman Hawkins, the up-and-coming Charlie Parker and pianist-bandleaders Duke Ellington and Mary Lou Williams ("The "Lady Who Swings The Band"), a multi-genre kinda guy - and his trumpet had sass, swing, swagger and joie de vivre to burn.

On that count, relish these two two cuts from the amazing Roy & Diz album. The trumpet derring-do of Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie can't be beat. Neither can the superb backing of Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass) and Louie Bellson (drums).





Here's Roy, blowing the freakin' roof off of Carnegie Hall with fellow trumpeter Charlie Shavers on September 13, 1952. Without a doubt, when jazz got genteel, safe, sanitized and refined, a devastatingly gorgeous pulsating multi-hued light went out in the world.











In his six decade career, Roy tackled New Orleans, Big Band And Small Group Swing, Standards, Blues and Bop with panache, nailed it, hit that music outta the park every time.








Swing swing swing - and swing some more!



This is eternal music.





Friday, January 27, 2012

This Saturday At The Historic Bal Theatre: A Mini-Psychotronix Film Fest



Monsters! Go-Go Girls! Newsreels! Trailers From Bad Movies! Classic Commercials! Warped Cartoons! That's what will be on hand when Sci Fi Bob Ekman and Paul Etcheverry, co-founders of the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival bring a slice of Psychotronic movie mayhem, hosted by the wonderfully ghoulish Lord Blood Rah and Miss Misery, to the Historic Bal Theatre this Saturday night, January 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM.

Bay Area Film Events presents a program of celluloid rarities unearthed and archived by collectors Bob Ekman, Paul Etcheverry and Tom Wyrsch. The show's piece-de-resistance will be some some Creature Features and Bob Wilkins clips so rare even we haven't seen them.

All of this pungent treasure trove will be brought to you on glorious 16mm film, presented as a sleep-deprived, psychedelics-addled DJ would spin discs.

East Bay residents, get ready for our customary delirious romp through B-movie trailers, commercials, off-the-wall comedy shorts, Soundies, Scopitones, training films, cartoons, snack bar ads and public service announcements: that under-the-radar world of entertainment that mainstream Hollywood would rather forget..

The Historic Bal Theatre is located at 14808 E. 14th Street in San Leandro (south of Oakland and north of Hayward). Buy tickets here. The theatre's phone number is 510-614-1224.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Return Of Noir City

Eddie Muller's tribute to all hard-boiled world-weary cinema chiaroscuro, Noir City, celebrates its 10th anniversary January 20-29, 2012 at San Francisco's Castro Theatre. Special guest star Angie Dickinson, who will be interviewed by Mr. Muller (A.K.A. The Czar Of Noir) in between screenings of Don Siegel's THE KILLERS (1964) & John Boorman's POINT BLANK (1967), headlines the 10-day festival of dark, corrosive and foreboding-filled celluloid rarities.

This year's extravaganza will include the Film Noir Foundation's recently completed preservation of Michael Curtiz' The Breaking Point (starring John Garfield), as well as brand new 35mm prints of the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby and Naked Alibi, co-starring Sterling Hayden and Gene "Burke's Law" Barry with perennial favorite blonde bad girl bombshell Gloria Grahame. Brian Darr's Hell On Frisco Bay blog covers the 10th anniversary lineup in detail.

Tickets are available online via Brown Paper Tickets. For more info, visit the Noir City website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Raising Our Tankards To Oliver Norvell Hardy On His 120th!



On the topic of celebrating the birthdays of those who have not been physically present here with us for quite a few decades, I am hard pressed to think of another person who brought more joy and laughter to the world than Mr. Oliver Norvell Hardy, A.K.A. "Babe" and "Ollie", born on January 18, 1892.

This scene from The Boys' 1937 feature Way Out West gets me every time.



Unfortunately, the classic comedy films of Laurel & Hardy, once the toast of every capital and a box office hit in the farthest corners of the globe, have receded somewhat in the age of 2500 cable TV channels - and that's too bad.

That is due to the spotty availability of their films, as well as a culture with a very short attention span; the last time Laurel and Hardy comedies were shown regularly on television was nearly 20 years ago (on Sunday mornings, by the American Movie Classics channel).



Until the recent Laurel And Hardy - The Essential Collection DVD release, their films remained largely out of circulation.



Laurel & Hardy silent comedies, including the hilarious You're Darn' Tootin' and Liberty have been posted on Hulu.



Film & Television Archive has launched an ambitious restoration project devoted to Laurel & Hardy. I have posted the piece on the restoration effort by film historian Leonard Maltin before - and it bears repeating.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clip Of The Day: Chet Atkins, 1954

The topic has been guitars and guitarists in the postings thus far in 2012. The thread has included music by Hank Garland, Roy Clark, Django Reinhardt and Joe Pass.

Today's posting, featuring the amazing Chet Atkins, is dedicated to the late and much missed San Francisco Bay Area guitarist Ted "Lightnin' Fingers" Kratter.

I don't know what television shows or movies these excellent, fingerpickin' good clips come from, but the quintessential Nashville Sound of Chet is never less than a rare pleasure to listen to.







Thanks for the music, Chet - you made the world a better place!

Monday, January 09, 2012

More Golden FIngers And Fun On The Frets For January 2012

My guess is, in the immortal words of John Lennon, these guys have "blisters on their fingers", although more discreetly than he did.



While the legendary Django Reinhardt, by all accounts, loathed playing the electric guitar during his 1946 performances with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, I've always wondered how those gigs sounded. As it turns out, the recordings from them have circulated, and are available, due to the wonder of YouTube. The answer to that question is. . . "gadzooks - this is indescribably wonderful", as well as signature Django.





Listen and learn.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Golden Fingers Of Hank Garland And His Successors

Yesterday's posting about Peter Frampton regaining his long-lost favorite guitar after 31 years led my music-obsessed subconscious directly to another guy who knew his way around a custom Gibson: the incredible Hank Garland, ace session guitarist on recordings by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison and more.



In this clip from Country Style, U.S.A., Hank's distinctive "country jazz" radiates joie de vivre while demonstrating awe-inspiring guitar mastery.








Hank Garland's bouyant music brings to mind one other album for me: the 1993 pairing of jazz guitar guru Joe Pass and veteran country-western entertainer Roy Clark.


 

Joe and Roy's summit meeting of serious pickin' and grinnin' over the simple yet supple, challenging and enduring music of Hank Williams, Sr. recalls a certain phrase again: Joie De Vivre.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

ATTN: Guitar Geeks Of The World


A question and subsequent story to warm the hearts of guitar geeks everywhere: what if your personal favorite guitar was lost for 31 years and then somehow returned?

This happened to rock and pop songwriter-guitarist-bandleader Peter Frampton, of Frampton Comes Alive who was, indeed, reunited with his favorite axe after 31 years. Indeed, to quote the title of a Peaches N' Herb song I never liked, "reunited and it feels so good."


Peter's vintage 1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom was literally the only survivor when a cargo plane that crashed on takeoff in Caracas, Venezuela. Of course, Peter didn't know this, as the instrument circulated in the three decade interim and ended up in the hands of a guitarist, customs agent and tourist board member on the island of Curacao.


Now, I heard Peter play in those days and recall a lengthy and very enjoyable set, propelled by the ringing tones and melodic conception of his rock guitar stylings. All these decades and many subsequent fearless plunges into complex, dark, dissonant modernism later, I still find that Peter's upbeat, tuneful British Invasion-influenced sounds - with 1960's popsters The Herd, his Frampton's Camel band, as a sideman with sonic chameleon David Bowie, and a member of Steve Marriott's hard rockin' Humble Pie - brings a big smile to my line-enhanced face.



Now, frankly, gorgeous as the varied Les Paul models are, I'm more of an SG and L-5 man, myself!


Then again, if the very Les Paul Jr. played with steamrolling abandon by Luther "Ariel Bender" Grosvenor in Mott The Hoople were to fall into my hands. . .

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

One Year Of Cartoons In Five Minutes, Eleven Seconds (A.K.A. Crack For Toonheads)

I designated the topic of classic cartoons as no more than a tertiary landing point for this blog, largely because there are so many terrific blogs on animation, several by the best historians in the country. All are by ambitious enthusiasts who are anything but Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog. However, today I'm compelled to call attention to something astounding on 1930's animation I viewed via hard-working blogger Ted, mastermind of the comprehensive Cartoons Of 1939 and Cartoons Of 1943 sites.

Ted compiled the highlights from Cartoons Of 1939 - dozens of animated theatrical shorts from a year that also brought Pinocchio, Gulliver's Travels and a preponderance of classic live-action feature films - into the following kaleidoscopic and blindingly fast 5:11. It doesn't just concentrate on Disney and Warner Brothers: every studio is represented.



And here are the main title cards from these Cartoons Of 1939:



Ted will soon start reviewing the Cartoons Of 1935 - and completing that task will take the remainder of 2012. What will he have to say about the many strange, surreal and rather dark cartoons that were released that year? We'll find out, and I look forward to it!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Released To Theaters 75 Years Ago Today

While it's tough to, when it comes to starting a new year right, equal Ernie & Edie, as well as George & Gracie, here goes. . .


Friz Freleng and the boys at Warner Brothers created this "Frankie and (Abusive Dirtbag) Johnny" tale, released on January 2, 1937. It's obvious that Friz had been wanting to break loose from seven years in the "all talking, all singing, all dancing" artistic strait jacket, so this Merrie Melodie - unlike the cartoons Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin were producing at that time - presents a Depression-era melodrama, hardly "merrie" and at times stark. And the stars are. . . MICE. Yes, rodents, seven decades before Pixar's Ratatouille.



Enjoy this subversive animated poison pen letter and bear in mind that John Hubley would get - and keep - the last word on the "Frankie And Johnny" genre 15 years later with his UPA cartoon, Rooty Toot Toot.