Sunday, April 04, 2021
Last year, posted a Happy Easter entry that spotlighted a few all-time favorites of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog. Why not? Nobody was going anywhere!
If one is going traditional on Easter, and pondering the multiple Biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille, the 1927 silent King Of Kings would get the nod.
It's an epic, as many silent features produced in 1923-1928 are, so you might need a gargantuan television - or a 35mm projector and a genuine film print - to view the big big big (and, no kidding, we do mean BIG) production.
If the Easter viewing is definitely NOT going traditional, there's always DeMille's early talkie Madam Satan, the director's headlong plunge into pre-Code delirium.
Indeed, DeMille's epic spectacle of dirigibles, dancers, showgirls, wild parties, massive masquerade parties, all in fever dream hallucinogenic-ness anticipating Busby Berkeley, serves as an excellent palate cleanser.
Arguably, Cecil B. DeMille is most frequently associated with the 1956 epic production of The Ten Commandments, which TCM will be screening in various venues today.
All the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog can think of seeing The Ten Commandments is not Yul Brynner's hairdo, but Edward G. Robinson. As described by Billy Crystal: "where's your Moses NOWWWWW?"
We're big fans of Eddie Robinson AND Billy and would love to see Mr. Crystal perform his excellent stand-up comedy live sometime.
Here are a few more snippets of Easter entertainment options, beginning with a Name That Film proposition. Don't know the name of this cartoon or where MyFootage001 found it. Looks Eastern European and gets me thinking of the Tom & Jerry cartoons the great Gene Deitch produced in Prague. Whatever the country of the cartoon's origin may be, that is one badass rabbit!
Along similar lines to the MyFootage001 clip. . . Australia's Eric Porter made violent albeit cheerful short subjects, resembling classic American toons filtered through a broken funhouse mirror. While the budget is low and the animation is anything but Disney-esque, the two Color Classics by Porter strike this animation buff as oddly original and rather entertaining, with some very funny and enjoyably extreme sight gags throughout.
Had Eric Porter produced cartoons 40 years later, the voice of this series' ersatz star, rabbit trap purveyor and unsympathetic lout Bimbo the Wombat, would have no doubt been provided by Chris Farley (or at least the SNL and comedy feature film star's Down Under equivalent).
Wrote a post about Eric Porter's studio in 2013 and was unquestionably unduly harsh in calling its cartoons "The Blunder From Down Under." Never mind this blogger's natural inclination towards sarcasm - we're actually very fond of these cartoons and would especially love to see more of the Porter studio's animated commercials, WW2 era training and advertising films.
After producing Rabbit Stew in 1952 and Bimbo's Auto in 1954, Porter pitched the Color Classics as a series to Columbia Pictures. At that time, Columbia was distributing UPA's popular Mister Magoo cartoons and critically acclaimed Jolly Frolics.
Jolly Frolics won Oscars and Mister Magoo got laughs, so Cohn and Co. at Columbia did not regard Eric Porter's pitch as an offer they could not refuse.
This is quite ironic, considering that the pre-UPA producers of animation for Columbia Pictures, the much-maligned and misbegotten Screen Gems Studio, produced actual American toons filtered through two SHATTERED funhouse mirrors.
Of course, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, along with three or four other individuals upon this earth, LOVE both Screen Gems and Eric Porter Studio cartoons!
As all of us here miss the annual Easter shindigs of yore and especially the family and friends who have passed, is there anything else we will watch today? This, episode 52 of The Silent Comedy Watch Party, featuring Charlie Chaplin and Harry Langdon. The Silent Comedy Watch Party is on YouTube every Sunday, at 3:00 p.m. EST /high noon PST!
Silent Comedy Watch Party logo by Marlene Weisman
The 50th episode of The Silent Comedy Watch Party was two weeks ago on March 21.
This Sunday series has been helpful in weathering many rough spots in the past year.
Cool vintage silent comedies fill the bill, Easter Sunday and every day.
Movies starring the likes of Chaplin, Langdon, Keaton and Chase, preceded by some documentaries about music, followed by Bugs Bunny in Easter Yeggs and a Billy Crystal stand-up comedy set or two, that will do just fine as Easter entertainment.
Getting back to Mr. Crystal, the eloquent eulogy Billy gave at Muhammad Ali's memorial is something that will lift one's spirits on Easter and the other 364 days of the year. Underlying Billy's reminiscences of his friendship with the heavyweight champion is a message about the brotherhood of man.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Given the choice between posting about April Fool's Day, National Ferret Day (April 2) or the soon approaching first day of baseball season, we At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog go with MLB opening day. So, to end March, the baseball fans at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog go hog wild with baseball cartoons!
As fate would have it, Major League Baseball on Thursday announced its master 2021 Major League regular season schedule, which will begin with all 30 Major League Clubs playing on (that's right) April 1 - April Fool's Day. Can this blogger wait? No!
This writer's first experience of baseball well preceded his first pilgrimage to windy and always "chill" Candlestick Park to see the San Francisco Giants (Mays! McCovey! Marichal! Perry!). It was reading the celebrated comic strip Peanuts, in which Charlie Brown's woeful team was considerably worse than the execrable 40-122 New York Mets of 1962. Eventually the softball saga from the daily comics found its way into paperback reissues and the second animated version of the gang. Still love the comics of Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz.
The Schulz comics certainly had a genuine cuteness factor, served with dry wit, and once in a blue moon (or three, or eight) a Warner Brothers cartoon strayed, unwittingly or reluctantly, into that "Disney cute" territory.
Usually an uncharacteristically cute Merrie Melodie cartoon would be directed by Chuck Jones, but in this case the director is the guy who arguably was the greatest animator ever to work at Warner Brothers Animation - Robert McKimson.
It is stretching it to call this a baseball cartoon, as Hobo Bobo's pachyderm protagonist yearns to play ball, but does not swing the bat and rival Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during the 6:38 running time, but who cares - love that elephant!
We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog believe strongly that ultra-goofiness within a totally off-the-wall cartoon universe constitutes a vision as much as a high-falutin' French New Wave flick, so here's a cartoon by our friends at the Van Beuren studio.
No studio could combine primitive animation with delirious, off-the-grid wacko ideas quite like Van Beuren in the early 1930's.
There are good, bad and indifferent cartoons about baseball and the following, The Ball Game, a "bugs swinging bats" opus from the Aesop's Fables series, manages to be all three of those simultaneously . . . and also is quite funny. We note that one of the usual suspects from the studio's often hilarious Tom & Jerry series, animator, storyman and sometimes director George Rufle, is in the opening credits.
Speaking of Friz Freleng, the director of Baseball Bugs, arguably the greatest film about baseball ever made, he and his Merrie Melodies crew produced a terrific cartoon about the national pastime 10 years earlier.
That would be Boulevardier from the Bronx, based on the charming song and dance number performed by Jack Oakie and Joan Blondell in the Dick Powell - Ruby Keeler musical Colleen.
The baseball team's (literally) crowing star pitcher is cocky in more ways than one, and elements of this cartoon recall Disney's Silly Symphony Cock Of The Walk. While Friz Freleng's cartoons were in the process of moving away from the Silly Symphonies Lite seen in much of the industry, this would be an instance of his Merrie Melodies matching the Disney studio in their genre, on a fraction of the budget. Baseball fans will note the reference to pitcher Dizzy Dean.
This cartoon was so good that a bunch of the animation from Boulevardier from the Bronx got used again for Freleng's 1940 Looney Tune Porky's Baseball Broadcast.
Released theatrically on January 27, 1936 - eight months before Boulevardier from the Bronx - was the Walter Lantz studio's Oswald Rabbit cartoon Soft Ball Game. Expanding upon the concept of arachnid baseball seen in the Aesops Fable cartoon, not only rabbits and insects play ball but gorillas, porcupines, turtles and octopi. The ideas throughout are very clever. It's a standout among the later Ozzie The Lucky Rabbit cartoons.
This would not be the only Walter Lantz opus about baseball. The early and enjoyably grotesque "goony bird" design of Woody Woodpecker (before Shamus Culhane and Art Heineman came along to give the Woodster a makeover) inadvertently and impudently ends up on the diamond in The Screwball.
We close with an ingenious mashup of bits from two of this blogger's favorite animated cartoons about baseball.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Shifting the blog's focus from music to silent movies, we note this weekend's special presentations by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. There will be a Circus History Live presentation on Sunday afternoon, featuring a recently restored 1902 film of a Ringling Brothers parade in Indianapolis. This weekend's Tribute To Al Christie is a retrospective covering the extremely prolific yet lesser known mogul/producer/director of silent era comedy.
This tribute presents 12 short films directed or produced by Christie.
Film historians, authors and silent comedy experts Sam Gill and Steve Massa, with film collector Michael Aus (who has provided cinematic rarities for the tribute), will tell us more about Christie Comedies, including a discussion on Zoom.
The American Cinematheque noted in the program notes for a 2013 retrospective of the Al Christie studio's films, "Christie's style was often risqué, sometimes bizarre and even borderline surreal, but always witty and hilarious."
The Saturday show of Christie films produced for Nestor in 1914-1915 features Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran, supported by actress, comedienne and frequent player in westerns Victoria Forde (soon to co-star with - and marry - cowboy star Tom Mix).
Sunday's program focuses on Christie Comedies from the 1920's and features most of the studio's flagship stars of the era: Dorothy Devore, Bobby Vernon, Neal Burns, Jimmie Adams, Walter Hiers and Jack Duffy.
Christie's studio aspired to a sophisticated alternative to knockabout comedy - more farcical and situational, less slapstick - during these times when the best known laugh factory was Mack Sennett's Keystone, and Hal Roach was just getting started with Rolin Films, featuring new star Harold Lloyd. The style of the Nestor and Christie Studio comedies of the teens was an ensemble approach, not dominated by any one player, and somewhere in between the situational humor exemplified by John Bunny and Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew and the more wacky approach of the first silver screen comedy star, Max Linder.
Headlining much of the Saturday program: Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran, who co-starred in farces with hints of slapstick and silliness - over 300 films - for Christie, beginning at Nestor comedies in 1914.
Eddie Lyons & Lee Moran would continue to be the exponents of the Christie Comedies house style to some degree even after they left to produce, write, direct and star in the Lyons-Moran Star Comedies series and feature films for Universal.
The Al Christie studio stuck to this approach, eschewing broad physical humor for the most part. Frequently, the films spotlighted comediennes and comic leading ladies such as Victoria Forde, Edith Roberts, Billie Rhodes, Betty Compson, Priscilla Dean, Ethel Lynn and Fay Tincher. In the 1920's, the studio produced feature films starring Christie Comedies stalwart Dorothy deVore (seen in Kidding Katie in Sunday's program).
During the heydey of Lyons & Moran at Christie, the silver screen comedy world, from Sennett and Arbuckle to former Sennett director Henry Lehrman to the "whirls" of circus clown Musty Suffer to Kalem's grotesque team of "Ham & Bud," to Vitagraph's cartoonist and magician turned-slapstickmeister Larry Semon, was headed in the opposite direction.
A decade after their WW1 era stars moved on, some (Betty Compson) to feature film stardom, Christie Comedies increasingly moved away from this style. As the 1920's progressed, Christie Comedies increasingly stressed chases and action. By the time Christie began releasing comedies through Paramount at the end of the silent era, the transition to a more knockabout-oriented Sennett inspired approach was complete.
The lineup of films for A Tribute To Al Christie is as follows:
Saturday March 20th:
Detective Dan Cupid (1914) Directed by Al Christie, starring Eddie Lyons, Lee Moran, Victoria Forde.
Behind The Screen (1915)
Lizzie's Dizzy Career (1915) Eddie Lyons, Lee Moran, Victoria Forde
Pruning the Movies (1915) Eddie Lyons, Lee Moran, Carmen de Phillipi
Mr. Fatima (1920) Eddie Barry, Earle Rodney, Helen Darling
Rocking The Boat (1921) Earle Rodney, Irene Dalton, Henry Murdock
Sunday March 21:
Kidding Katie (1923) Dorothy Devore, Babe London
A Perfect 36 (1923) Bobby Vernon, Teddy Sampson
Fool Proof (1924) Neal Burns, Rosa Gore
Grandpa's Girl (1924) Jack Duffy, Kathleen Clifford
A Rarin' Romeo (1925) Walter Hiers, Jack Duffy
Swiss Movements (1927) Jimmie Adams, Billy Engle, Doris Dawson
LIVE ZOOM - 5:00pm PT 8:00pm ET
Sam, Steve, and Michael will be live for a Zoom discussion of Al Christie's films and comedy.
The aforementioned Circus Historical Society screening, Circus, Part IV - Wagon By Wagon, shall be at 4:00pm PT, 6:00pm CT, 7:00pm ET on Sunday.
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum curator, film programmer, historian and author David Kiehn, joined by historian Fred Dahlinger and host Chris Berry, will present the 1902 film of a Ringling Brothers Circus parade in Indianapolis, Indiana. CLICK HERE to register for this event.
We yet again extend a respectful tip of the Max Linder top hat to the museum for doing this monthly series of most welcome online events through this last year+ of pandemic lockdown. Looking forward to next month's program on the history of April 18, 1906 - San Francisco Earthquake. For more, check out the museum's YouTube channel.
Saturday, March 13, 2021
Noting a certain pesky robot on our kitchen table that repeatedly mentions the Birthday Roundup, reminding the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog that, hoo-boy, there are some doozies among the natal anniversaries on March 14.
First and foremost, there's Albert Einstein (yes, THAT Einstein, as opposed to Harry "Parkyakarkus" Einstein and Bob "Super Dave Osborne" Einstein), the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and visionary, was born on March 14, 1879. Here he is, the genius, thinker, innovator and movie buff, with Charlie Chaplin in 1931.
Along with his meeting with Charlie Chaplin, a favorite Albert Einstein story involves him interrupting a conference by announcing, "you will have to excuse me, gentlemen. It's Time for Beany." That was Albert's favorite TV show and we surmise he was a big fan of Stan Freberg and Daws Butler, the brilliant voice artists who doubled as puppeteers and gag writers!
Chaplin and Time For Beany were not the only links between the founder of modern physics and quantum mechanics and the worlds of animation and filmmaking. Animation producer Max Fleischer, always fascinated by the sciences, made a documentary film about Einstein's Theory Of Relativity in 1923. A piece which explains the sciences to the layman very well, it makes me love Uncle Max even more than I already do!
It's difficult to think of any individual in the music field who has excelled in more genres, worn more hats successfully and tried out more new ideas in more varied settings than producer-arranger-bandleader-composer-brassman Quincy Jones.
Since MJ's "King of Pop" records are Quincy's best known work as an producer-arranger, this post will concentrate on Mr. Jones' outstanding work in jazz and r&b.
It's tough to know just where to begin or end with Mr. Jones, responsible for so much stellar music. We'll start with a couple of tracks from Genius + Soul = Jazz by Ray Charles. It's a masterpiece and features incredible arrangements by Quincy.
No doubt Sinatra heard this album and took notes! The stellar Quincy Jones arrangements enable Ray to blend the sounds of soul, r&b and jazz beautifully, as Capitol Records Frank (with Quincy, Billy May, Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins arrangements) transported the crooner persona that began with Bing Crosby into a jazzier place, updating and expanding the 1930's swing era sound.
Here, Ray Charles pays tribute to Quincy Jones. They did incredible work together!
Quincy Jones played on one of my favorite records, Clifford Brown In Paris. Featuring Clifford, Art Farmer, Quincy and outstanding arrangements, this album's alternate title could be KICK ASS BRASS.
Without a doubt, the brilliance of this group inspired the arrangements and sound of Quincy's epic 1950's - 1960's big band, seen here rocking the house in Paris.
These look forward to Quincy's charts for the Count Basie juggernaut on The Chairman Of The Board's classics It Might As Well Be Swing and Sinatra At The Sands
There's a Netflix documentary about the life and times of Quincy Jones - and it looks fantastic.
Should one asked this film buff if there's any actor who never played 007 but would have at the very least made an interesting, offbeat James Bond, different from all the others, it would be this insanely prolific movie and TV star, born on the same day as Quincy Jones, March 14, 1933: Michael Caine.
Among his numerous credits, Caine starred in the greatest of heist caper movies, The Italian Job (1969).
Among a gazillion movies and TV shows spanning every imaginable genre in a six-decade acting career, arguably my all-time favorite film of Michael Caine's would be the 1972 classic Sleuth, co-starring none other than Sir Larry Olivier. No spoilers allowed here - just see it!
Finishing today's post, which has celebrated a multitude of mindblowingly amazing 20th century accomplishments, we jump a few decades forward into the 21st century and pay tribute to one of our current greats. This young man, knowing his dad's rep for making impossible long-range shots began shredding the hoops as an elementary schooler way back in the 20th century, has come to define the art of 21st century roundball over the past decade. That would be the one, the only Steph Curry.
Often found in unrelentingly brutal 2020 and the first few stressful weeks of 2021 that Steph's can-do spirit and eloquent expression of the joy of playing restored my flagging faith in humanity. Curry has brought joy to sports and life in a way few All-Stars on the court, diamond or gridiron have.
Happy Birthday, Steph and lots of love to you and yours from the aficionados of hoops, good will, best practices and a positive outlook around the world. Bravos, Cheers and Mazel Tov!
Saturday, March 06, 2021
Love many movie genres, from sci-fi to silents to musicals to psychotronica to animation here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, but none more than film noir. After reading a magnificent piece on classical music in animated cartoons (most frequently employed by one Carl W. Stalling) by Vincent Alexander, this blogger turns his attentions to the vivid and expressive music of film noir.
Odds Against Tomorrow, a real and reel masterpiece directed by the master of all genres, Robert Wise, and one of the last but very, very best examples of hard-hitting film noir, features a killer score by John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet.
This is such an amazing and beautifully realized movie we wish that the ridiculously multi-talented Harry Belafonte, who stars as a young entertainer deeply in the throes of a gambling addiction, had continued further as an indie film producer (note: many years later, he produced The Angel Levine, Buck & The Preacher and Beat Street).
Louis Malle's film Elevator To The Gallows features an unbeatable combo: outstanding Miles Davis music, the brilliant acting of Jeanne Moreau and the director's original synthesis of film noir and French New Wave cinema stylings.
Among the hard-boiled American crime thrillers so beloved by the Malles, Chabrols, Truffauts and Jean-Pierre Melvilles of the world, the classic "find the bastard who murdered me" mystery D.O.A. remains a personal favorite.
The "Fisherman" nightclub in D.O.A. looks like the place to be for red hot jazz on a Saturday night. We sincerely hope the audience left generous tips.
As fate would have it, the writer of this blog shared big time enthusiasm for this excellent movie with an old and much-missed friend who passed in his sleep on Christmas 2020. . .So Mr. Blogmeister raises his goblet in a toast to my film buff compadre - and to the ace filmmaker who helmed D.O.A., producer, director and cinematographer Rudolf Maté, one of the all-time movie greats. Gotta love a guy who who worked making movies in the United States, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France and the United Kingdom!
As celebrated as Stanley Kubrick's spectacular 1960s and 1970s movies are, it's those early film noirs that may well be my personal favorites among the director's illustrious, provocative and flamboyant cinematic career. His second feature film, Killer's Kiss, shot in NYC, was an indie film made on a portion of a shoestring, but beautifully and strikingly shot and edited. Both the soundtracks and the cinematography in Killer's Kiss and The Killing are memorable.
The Killing = "all this noir - and Sterling Hayden, too."
We extend a respectful tip of the battered fedora to prolific poster Arthur Grant on Vimeo. Mr. Grant has done us the favor of singling out many film noir classics which feature incredible soundtracks. These include the delightfully corrosive Billy Wilder flick Ace in the Hole (sneering snark by Kirk Douglas, music by Hugo Friedhofer), The Big Combo (music by David Raksin, Mise-en-scène by Joseph H. "Gun Crazy" Lewis) and the unabashedly tacky and garish love triangle melodrama Desert Fury, featuring a terrific Miklos Rozsa soundtrack.
Frankly, the film the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog would choose, both for its soundtrack and truly cosmic understanding of the bottomless depths of an ever-spinning noir universe would be the delirious Mickey Spillane adaptation Kiss Me Deadly, directed with apropo fever dream delirium by Robert Aldrich. Aldrich subsequently directed Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, the more sedate of the two movies.
The composer who carried film noir music into the 1960's and extended it into the world of television was the great Henry Mancini. We love us some Mancini here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!
Closing today's post is this blog's all-time favorite album of re-imagined, lovingly deconstructed and re-constructed movie music, Oranj Symphonette Plays Mancini.
Listening to this outstanding record reminds the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog how much we miss multi-instrumentalist, Oranj Mancinis leader, friend and avid classic movies/animation buff Ralph Carney (1956-2017). Also reminds us how much we loathe, detest and have difficulty accepting these losses. . .
Friday, February 26, 2021
Today's post looks back at 20th century music, both in the thick of pop culture (r&b, soul, rock, pop) and on the adventurous far fringes of it. We'll start, recalling the wide ranging, multi-genre Art Ensemble Of Chicago heading of Great Black Music, with The Greatest Of All Time.
Another recording artist whose career, as Aretha Franklin's did, began with singing in church was Sam Cooke, who rose to prominence as the lead vocalist with the gospel vocal ensemble The Soul Stirrers. Sam would become a hitmaking songwriter and pop star. Among many accomplishments, Sam appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Thanks to a host of talented documentary filmmakers, there are wonderful clips featuring the masters of the blues. Many have tried to play this style of music - and few have succeeded.
Remembering the crooners of soul and r&b, here's the wonderful Al Green!
And then there was Bobby Womack!
Do we love Stevie Wonder, who began as 12-year-old Little Stevie and grew into a remarkable songwriter? Yes.
Also love the fact that Stevie has penned a gazillion excellent songs and can also rip through the chord changes of John Coltrane's Giant Steps.
Here's a guy whose synthesis of advanced harmonies and sophisticated lyrics addressing social and political issues strongly influenced Stevie: Curtis Mayfield, the poet laureate of words and sound.
As the head of his own label, Curtom Records, Curtis Mayfield was working along the lines of maestros Quincy Jones and Brian Wilson, producing and arranging his own albums and those of other recording artists. He was also a masterful guitarist who inspired the reggae rhythm guitar style. Here's Curtis, in concert from Ronnie Scott's.
A stone's throw from the guitar-driven funk of Mayfield's 1970's records is the "P-funk on the 1" music of electric bassist Bootsy Collins.
Remember watching this very performance of Parliament/Funkadelic on Late Night with David Letterman. Yes, Dave had outstanding musical guests on his show.
Here's the one, the only James Brown (at one time in the late 1960's and early 1970's the employer of several cornerstones from Parliament/Funkadelic) on Late Night with David Letterman!
Speaking of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, another master was Clifford Brown, a genius of the trumpet.
Clifford Brown made one television appearance - on The Soupy Sales Show!
On the topic of not-too-shabby trumpet players, here are Dizzy & Pops, playing "Umbrella Man" on The Jackie Gleason Show. If Roy Eldridge could have been included to make this The Three Aces, that would encompass the development of jazz trumpet phraseology from the early 1920's through the 1940's.
This guru of jazz drummers co-led an incredible and still unsurpassed quintet with Clifford Brown: the great and innovative bandleader, percussionist, activist and teacher Max Roach.
The architect of swinging "hard bop" and bandmate of Clifford Brown in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers waxed numerous terrific records and led varied ensembles over five decades: pianist, songwriter and bandleader Horace Silver!
Another ace pianist and composer who played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and subsequently led excellent ensembles that made top-notch recordings was Cedar Walton.
Have no choice but to follow these gentlemen with a few more powerhouse pianists!
Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Ted Curson and Dannie Richmond IN THE SAME GROUP! YIPES!
Composer and bandleader Charles Mingus leads his brilliant 1964 lineup of the Jazz Workshop ensemble (Eric Dolphy, Johnny Coles, Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond).
The saxophonist most frequently featured in Black History Month promotions every year would be John Coltrane, of course.
The saxophonist never featured in Black History Month promotions - or any promotions, for that matter, was the unorthodox, uncompromising and unique modern jazz artist Albert Ayler (1936-1970). He said "my imagination is beyond the civilization in which we live" and that is still true 50 + years after his untimely death. For Albert, sonic explorations through the cosmos were his playground and traveling too far was not possible.
Here's a short clip from the Nuits de la Fondation Maeght concert of July 25, 1970. The group supporting Albert is vocalist Mary Maria (later Mary Maria Parks), Steve Tintweiss on double bass and Allen Blairman on drums.
WHERE is the rest of the footage from this film? Wish the rest of the footage capturing the Nuits de la Fondation Maeght concerts in the documentary Albert Ayler: Le Dernier Concert (currently kept in the archives of the Fondation Maeght) will be released to film, Blu-ray or DVD up someday. The complete soundtrack from the July 25 set has been issued as the Live On The Riviera album.
The record of the Nuits de la Fondation Maeght concert from two nights later, July 27, 1970 - his last appearance would be on the following night, July 28, in a set played for an invited group of fans at La Colle-sur-Loup - remains among the greatest of the saxophonist's shooting star career.
The July 27 concert is particularly compelling and reflects that his forte was live performance, not studio recordings. The contrast between Albert's utterly ecstatic "outside" saxophone playing and the diatonic, darn near "churchy" chords of keyboardist Call Cobbs, Jr. shouldn't work. . . and yet, in the weirdest way, does. Cobbs, pianist in Wardell Gray's group and pal of Art Tatum, plays the simple melodies in a way a modern jazz pianist a la Lennie Tristano or Cecil Taylor would not.
Strap yourself in for Albert's original blend of raw blues (sans the standard I-IV-V chord changes), skronky atonal free jazz and hymn-like folk melodies, none of it done halfway or half-baked, EVER.
Albert, known for his group featuring drummer Sunny Murray, is not for the faint of heart, but musically can be rewarding, tantamount to cracking The Stravinsky Code.
These recordings, including four pieces performed at Ayler's last musical performance on July 28, 1970, can be found on the Revenant Records box set, Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962–70).
Sadly, Albert Ayler would be among a veritable throng of luminaries from rock n'roll, r&b and jazz to die prematurely and tragically in 1970-1971. While sorry they left so soon, we owe all these musicians and recording artists a debt of gratitude and thanks.