Saturday, February 28, 2009

Music DVD Review: Coleman Hawkins In Europe (London, Paris & Brussels)

From "Moonglow" to "Body and Soul"
Hawk Hits DVD

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Whether he was dubbed "the Father of the Tenor Saxophone," "the best tenor player in the world" or as this All-Region concert DVD from Standing Oh!vation notes "the true originator of the tenor saxophone as a solo instrument in jazz," Coleman Hawkins had an enviable professional run that lasted for roughly forty years.

Moving from piano to cello to the tenor saxophone before the age of ten years old back "when the saxophone was considered a novelty instrument, used in vaudeville and as a poor substitute for the trombone in marching bands," Hawkins' career flourished by the time he turned twelve, working for Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds until he eventually found a home with the newly formed Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, playing alongside Louis Armstrong.

Conquering fans around the globe by moving to Europe in the '30s where he collaborated with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli-- when he returned back to the states, he still managed to outshine the up-and-comer Lester Young "by winning a few heated jam sessions," but he never neglected to share the spotlight-- celebrating artists from all backgrounds as a band leader as well as sharing the stage and the recording studio with such legends as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Rollins.

Recording the first ever "unaccompanied saxophone solo, 'Picasso,'" Hawkins managed to remain current by listening to all styles although intriguingly he noted that he preferred live jazz concerts and bought very few albums in his genre, instead favoring the passion of opera and classical compositions by Bach.

In this extraordinary DVD that offers viewers a chance to see Hawkins perform in London, Paris and Brussels in the early to mid sixties (just a few short years before his death), we're treated to some previously unreleased and remarkably rare footage over the course of its approximately one hundred and thirty-six minute running time.

Cherishing the intricacies of the music and the way that Hawkins gave unprecedented solo opportunities to his talented bandmates that change over the course of the included concerts-- the disc introduces each individual segment by announcing the date and location as well as the full line-up of musicians and name and composer of each track played.

Jumping around in chronology, we begin in London's Town Hall in 1964 that features some beautiful slower pieces including "September Song" that shows Hawkins' strength as a sax man until the swinging "Centerpiece" keeps us moving through the old jazz classic "Caravan."

Although some critics argue that Hawkins' best work ended in 1965, it's the 1966 concert at London's Royal Jazz Festival on the DVD that mostly caught my attention yet it was most likely due to the strength of its line-up including Benny Carter on alto-sax, Teddy Wilson on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and the incomparable Louise Bellson on drums.

With Cranshaw's bass inviting us to snap along to "Blue Lou," before Wilson sets up Hawkins to shine in the bittersweet rendition of the Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin number "I Can't Get Started," and Hawk's trademark "Body and Soul"-- intriguingly the knockout tune in this particular concert and indeed the entire DVD is in the "Disorder at the Border" final number which contains not only the best drumming I've ever seen in my life but makes the disc all the more extraordinary for finally offering this unreleased footage that once and for all shows the utmost importance of percussionists.

There seems to be an old joke among musicians that if you can't play an instrument, just become a drummer but the Italian virtuoso Louie Bellson (a shortened version of his overwhelmingly long Italian name that would fill an entire address label) embarrasses all the drummer prejudices with an incredible performance in the nearly fifteen minute number as he offers extended solos that do for the drums what Hendrix did for the guitar with "Star Spangled Banner." A remarkable feat of music-making and a tribute to the man who sadly passed away on Valentine's Day this year-- Bellson, much like Hawkins is truly one of a kind and will definitely be missed.

The DVD also contains more footage from other concerts in Paris (consisting of one brief rendition of "Moonglow" that sounds like we're just jumping into it shortly after it starts like walking into a film while the credits are rolling) and Belgium including an inferior version of "Disorder at the Border" minus Bellson that nonetheless is a peppy but alternate take featuring more piano (by Geroge Arvanitas) as well as additional tracks from the Coleman Hawkins-Roy Eldridge Sextet taken from the 1961 New York short film After Hours.

And while it's filled with some standout pieces, once Bellson rips into "Disorder" during the tenth track, it's all downhill from there. Still, a great find that's a rare treat for Hawkins fans and one that-- when I say "downhill" just means in comparison to "Disorder" but still remains far better than what sadly passes for jazz in the Kenny G era of today.

Coleman Hawkins In Europe
is not only worth hunting down for jazz aficionados and those who worship the sax but one that should be shown to every drummer working today. Highly recommended and thankfully compatible with each and every region code DVD player Coleman Hawkins In Europe marks another fine entry into the historically important and downright entertaining Standing Oh!vation collection.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Music DVD Review: Count Basie & His Orchestra (Featuring Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis) -- Live in Berlin & Stockholm 1968

Now Available on DVD

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Legend has it that William Basie earned the handle of "Count" from an impressed radio announcer or emcee after realizing "there was already a King (of swing, Benny Goodman), a Duke (Ellington) and an Earl (Hines)."

And while the title of Count mostly brings up images of the number happy Sesame Street character who lived and breathed arithmetic to those in my generation-- Mr. Basie applied the same type of left brain logic with a splendid amount of right brain creativity-- in developing one of the most extraordinary American bands of the twentieth century.

Still going strong today after more than twenty years following Basie's death and led by bass trombonist Bill Hughes who appears in both concert venues featured on the DVD-- musician Count Basie and his incredible orchestra provided that rare "happy ending" case in the history of jazz as it managed to move with the times by embracing and conquering every form from Dixie to Swing to Big Band.

Moreover, Basie helped launch the careers of so many masters-- surrounding himself only with the best but always selflessly promoting the many talented soloists and musical arrangers throughout his extraordinary career (including Lester Young, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Quincy Jones, Neal Hefti, Sam Nestico, Richard Boone, Bobby Plater, Eric Dixon, Marshall Royal, Freddie Green, Marlena Shaw, and many, many more.

While 1968 found America in a state of political and social turmoil during the Vietnam War era, leaders and public figures assassinated, the Black Panther party gaining momentum, and women starting to fight for their own sexual revolution-- it's hard to imagine Basie's jazz music as a companion to the year that seems to come complete with its own trippy rock soundtrack. Yet, Basie still remained popular-- essentially leading his orchestra for roughly fifty years during his lifetime.

With a sound that "was characterized by a light swinging rhythm section that he led from the piano" and focused on "generous soloing" and "lively ensemble work," so that it was a complete team effort-- while he'll always be known as the man with the delicate touch on the keyboard, perhaps the best assessment of his magic was in the argument one writer proclaimed that "his instrument was his band."

And in 1968, he was still going strong despite the turmoil back home as the child who grew up dreaming "of a traveling life, inspired by the carnivals which came to town," and his frequent escape to the silent movies (where one day--playing by ear-- he filled in for the absent pianist and discovered the art of improvisation), fulfilled his desire for adventure by taking Europe by storm. And directly in the eye of the Basie tornado of swing in Europe, in this newly released Impro-Jazz all region compatible roughly seventy minute DVD, viewers can sit spellbound as it charts vintage performances he gave in Berlin, Germany and Stockholm, Sweden.

A terrific find for jazz lovers-- surprisingly, although the footage seems a bit grainy with a distant hiss sound when the DVD begins, soon Basie launches us fully into the sounds of his enormous orchestra in two concerts that could also serve as a wonderful piece of background music for an intimate dinner party or '60s themed evening in.

The concert footage features rows and rows of musicians and in the selection of tracks managing to move forwards and backwards in time to play his first big hit "One O'Clock Jump," (in the closing of the Berlin concert) along with some tracks that feel far more contemporary such as Eric Dixon's incredible "Blues For Ilean" which sounds as though it wouldn't have been out of place in a Henry Mancini score or as a new theme song for TV's Get Smart.

"California Soul" singer Marlena Shaw--who was the first female artist ever signed to the famous Blue Note Jazz label-- appears for a few great renditions on the DVD. In her four year career singing with Count Basie's orchestra following her word-of-mouth breakthrough "wowing audiences in the Catskills, Playboy clubs and various other East Coast venues," and the phenomenally successful recording of her song "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" which impressed the Count-- we get a great sense of her dynamic range on this riveting DVD.

For, just like Basie who made the orchestra his instrument, Shaw manages to move around the register in varying deliveries to become that rare singer who both seems like both a soloist and an integral one-of-a-kind instrument in her own right. While it's often easy for a singer to either overpower a band or find their own voice overpowered by a few instruments, let alone the massively intricate small town sized one run by Basie-- her standout track on this DVD is when she appears to perform"Bill Bailey" before she tops herself again in the achy and soulful "Muddy Water Blues."

Featuring some incredible saxophone solos and outstanding numbers like "Cherokee," the standard jazz classic "A Night in Tunisia," the beautifully wistful sounds of "Lonely Street" that make it seem as though it were ideal for a lovelorn Woody Allen movie, soon the thirteen track performance in Berlin moves us right into Stockholm. Once in Sweden and despite some mic difficulties at the start--the camera work appears to be much more creative, really focusing on the specific performers themselves.

Although a majority of the tracks in the very brief Stockholm section are repeats (although I'm sure nobody would complain at the chance of hearing an even better rendition of "All Of Me," and the awesome "Blues For Ilean" and "Cherokee" again), the first track is one of the best on the DVD as we hear Neal Hefti's "Splanky" which is so inviting, we even see members of the band unable to stop tapping their feet or bobbing their head as though they were audience members listening for the first time.

A solid, unselfish and highly entertaining group that seems to be the epitome of teamwork but still managing to give every incredible member a chance to shine in the spotlight-- while Basie fans may just be interested in picking it up simply for the Count himself-- seeing the entire orchestra in action makes you realize that in music, what you hear is only half the story.

Likewise, being given a chance to travel back in time to witness these vital performances makes one appreciate the songs and the man you thought you knew on a whole other level-- since there would be no orchestra without Count Basie and without the orchestra there would be no Count Basie.

DVD Track List

Berlin, Germany, November 9, 1968

1) All Of Me
2) Hittin' Twelve
3) Blues For Ilean
4) Bill Bailey
5) On A Clear Day
6) Cherokee
7) Good Time Blues
8) A Night In Tunisia
9) Muddy Water Blues
10) Whirly-Bird
11) Lonely Street
12) The Magic Flea
13) One O'Clock Jump

Stockholm, Sweden, November 12, 1968

14) Splanky
15) All Of Me
16) Hittin' Twelve
17) Blues For Ilean
18) Cherokee

Friday, February 13, 2009

Film News: A Film Intuition Follow-up -- Jonathan Blitstein to Direct "Escape to Donegal"

Near the end of 2008, Film Intuition offered readers an exclusive interview with young award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Blitstein whose excellent film-festival hit Let Them Chirp Awhile was starting to make its way into theatres following great reviews and word-of-mouth.

Recently, we were hit up with a great piece of follow-up news on the filmmaker from one of our anonymous L.A. sources and it's official-- Jonathan Blitstein is attached to direct this summer's New York based production of Escape to Donegal.

A psychological science fiction thriller in the vein of Philip K. Dick (who penned the works that inspired Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Paycheck, and Next) that has elements of a fable-- Donegal is slated to begin production in a few months and we'll keep you updated as soon as we learn more.

Congratulations, Jonathan Blitstein on behalf of Film Intuition and thanks to our source and remember-- whether it's an update on a new independent film, reader mail, site suggestions, or press releases-- you can always contact Film Intuition directly via our feedback form.

And be sure to keep track of all the latest updates by visiting our new Feeds & Widgets page that has a constant scroll of the additions to our Review Database, Trailer & Photo Gallery, Video Screening Room, and Jen's P.O.V.

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Movie News: Wolverine Fans -- Sharpen Your Claws and Get Your TV Remotes Ready

Ladies and Gentlemen--
Fire Up Your TiVos and DVRs:

Catch a Three Minute Peek at X-Men Origins: Wolverine in an Unprecedented 3-Part Narrative Premiering Exclusively on Fox.

Kicking off this Sunday night, American viewers can witness the origins of the hotly anticipated release of Marvel and Twentieth Century Fox's Upcoming Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman.

In an unprecedented promotional event, Twentieth Centurty Fox "has created three special sixty-second spots, one leading into the next, and which together form a narrative."

Here's the Details:

The first spot airs this Sunday (February 15) on “Family Guy,” the second on Monday (Feb. 16) on “House,” and the third on Tuesday (Feb. 17) on “American Idol.”

More Information on X-Men Origins: Wolverine:
(From Fox)

The first chapter in the X-Men Origins saga "unites Wolverine with several other legends of the X-Men universe, in an epic revolution that pits the mutants against powerful forces determined to eliminate them.

"Hugh Jackman, who reprises the role that made him a superstar, is joined by Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, and Ryan Reynolds, as well as Taylor Kitsch,, and Lynn Collins. Gavin Hood directs from a screenplay by David Benioff and Skip Woods (writing credit not yet final). The producers are Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Hugh Jackman, and John Palermo."

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Concert News: Brandi Carlile Announces New Album & Tour Dates

Download Brandi Carlile on iTunes

Brandi Carlile

Just Announced:

Brandi Carlile Spring 2009 Tour Dates
  • Saturday, February 21 Louisville , KY Whitney Hall (with Louisville Symphony)
  • Saturday, February 28-March 7 departing from Miami , FL Cayamo: A Journey Through Song music cruise
  • Tuesday, March 24 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live
  • Wednesday, March 25 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage
  • Thursday, March 26 Alexandria, VA Birchmere Music Hall
  • Friday, March 27 Woodstock, VT Woodstock Town Hall
  • Saturday, March 28 Westhampton Beach, NY Westhampton Beach PAC
  • Tuesday, March 31 Tarrytown, NY Tarrytown Music Hall
  • Wednesday, April 1 Portsmouth, NH Music Hall
  • Thursday, April 2 Northampton, MA Iron Horse
  • Friday, April 3 South Portland, ME South Portland Auditorium
  • Saturday, April 4 New York, NY Ethical Center for the Arts
  • Monday, April 6 Kent, OH Kent Stage
  • Tuesday, April 7 TBA
  • Wednesday, April 8 Chicago, IL Lakeshore Theater
  • Thursday, April 9 Milwaukee, WI Pabst Theater
  • Friday, April 10 Mankato, MN Alltel Center
  • Saturday, April 11 Des Moines, IA Hoyt Sherman Theatre
  • Tuesday, April 14 Aspen, CO Wheeler Opera House
  • Thursday, April 16 Denver, CO Swallow Hill
  • Friday, April 17 Ft. Collins, CO Aggie Theatre
  • Saturday, April 18 Salt Lake City, UT The State Room
  • Monday, April 20 Boise, ID Knitting Factory
  • Tuesday, April 21 Missoula, MT The Wilma Theatre
  • Thursday, April 23 Spokane, WA Martin Woldson Theatre @ Fox (with Spokane Symphony)
  • Tuesday, April 28 Bergen, Norway Bergen Festival
  • Wednesday, April 29 Oslo, Norway John Dee

"Brandi Carlile will embark on an intimate spring tour starting on Saturday, February 21 at Louisville , KY ’s Whitney Hall showcasing songs from her upcoming new album for the first time. Carlile will make 27 tour stops through April 29, including the Cayamo: A Journey Through Song music cruise from February 28 – March 7, as well as being joined by the Louisville Symphony on February 21 and the Spokane Symphony in Spokane , WA on April 23. The remainder of Carlile’s headlining performances will be acoustic, joined by Tim and Phil Hansenroth and a cellist. Additionally, Gregory Isakov will open all shows from March 24 – April 11 and Angel Taylor will open from April 14 – April 21.

"Carlile’s received critical raves for her live show. The LA Times proclaimed 'Brandi Carlile’s voice is full of spirit,' while the NY Times called her voice 'dark-hued and bittersweet, with a firmness of purpose and pitch.'

"Brandi Carlile is also deeply mired in finishing her third, still-untitled album. Featuring the talents of producer Rick Rubin and drummers Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and The Attractions, the record is due to be released by Columbia Records in late summer or fall of 2009. Carlile’s sophomore effort, The Story, peaked at #2 on iTunes Top Album Chart and has gone on to sell over a quarter of a million units."

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DVD Release Announcement: Melrose Place -- The Fifth Season, Volume One

Now Available on DVD

Previously Available

Catch the Original Series
That Started it All

Just in time for Valentine's Day, CBS DVD and Paramount Home Entertainment release the first volume of the Melrose Place's fifth season. The highly successful spin-off of television mastermind Aaron Spelling's first '90s smash Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place became the most fascinating and steamy apartment complex in Los Angeles during its phenomenal run, earning legions of fans as characters came and went-- including season five's newest arrivals of Kelly Rutherford, Rob Estes, and Lisa Rinna to help heat things up along with the central cast Heather Locklear, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Doug Savant, Andrew Shue, Josie Bissett, Jack Wagner and Brooke Langton.

Following the "lives, careers, trials and tribulations of a group of young adults from various backgrounds," as "lying, cheating, stealing, seduction, backstabbing, betrayal, murder," and gossip of course became the recurring theme of of each and every day and season of Melrose Place, the four-disc set features all nineteen episodes clocking in at nearly fifteen hours from its '96-'97 season.

While it's been successful in syndication on channels like the SoapNet and highly influential on evening soap operas that followed, there will always be only one Melrose Place-- the show that Jerry Seinfeld failed a lie detector test into admitting he was addicted to on Seinfeld as the most sinfully guilty pleasure.

So this year, forget the chocolates, roses, and teddy bears and pick up some drama and romance as each episode in the slim-packaged case appears in its orginal 4x3 full-screen format complete with stereo surround and closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

And once you move in, you won't want to waste any time getting to know the neighbors!

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DVD Release Announcement: Friday the 13th: The Series -- The 2nd Season

Now On DVD

This week CBS DVD And Paramount Home Entertainment release the second of three seasons of the classic horror television series Friday the 13th-- just in time to tie in with the big screen remake of the original 1980 slasher classic that launched the modern day horror franchise. Packaged in a slim-case the size of one DVD, all twenty-six episodes are released over the course of six discs for this 1988-1989 season.

Centering on "two distant cousins who inherit a shop full of rare and mysterious antiques from an uncle who was killed after making a sinister pact with the devil," the cousins and their new eccentric partner "race against time and fate to retrieve each diabolically cursed item sold from the hexed store before it unleashes its deadly force."

Clocking in at roughly nineteen hours and forty-one minutes and savoring the original 4x3 full-frame aspect ratio and mono stereo sound (with the benefit of closed captioning for the deaf and/or hearing impaired), the series was as Paramount's press release noted, one responsible for bringing back "the serial horror genre to television," with its emphasis on "intense psychological terror and chilling suspense."

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