Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Welcome back Dear Readers.

For this weeks edition of

Old Friends, New Friends

we go back to

a simpler time,

when the pyrotechnics

necessary to create stunning animation

consisted of many

beautiful, and intricate


Ornate cut outs that reminded me

of Balinese Shadow Puppets.

All of this is combined with

a fantastic story


an exotic and colourful score

that brought

 to mind

the music of

Aram Khachaturian.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed watching

The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

I was swept off

to a faraway land.

You'll be too!

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (GermanDie Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) (Arabicمغامرات الامير احمد‎) is a 1926 feature-length animated film by the German animator Lotte Reiniger. It is the oldest surviving animated feature film (two earlier ones were made in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani, but they are considered lost[1]), and it featured a silhouette animation technique Reiniger had invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets (though hers were animated frame by frame, not manipulated in live action). The original prints featured color tinting. The story is based on the elements taken from the collection 1001 Arabian Nights, specifically The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanoufeatured in Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book. With the assistance of Aladdin, the Witch of the Fiery Mountain, and a magic horse, the title character battles the evil African sorcerer to win the hand of Princess Pari Banou.

(Synopsis from Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Django Reinhardt's 100th Birthday

Happy 100th Anniversaire Django Reinhardt!

Dear Friends, Dear Readers,

Today would have been Jazz Great/Guitarist

 Django Reinhardt's 100th Birthday!

This amazing musician had a profound effect 

on the Music World.

Here's what Global Around Town 

Senior Music Correspondent Don Yaffe 

has to say about Django.

Born January 23rd 1910,  Django (meaning "I Awake" in Romany) grew up in a family of traveling performers: his mother an acrobatic dancer, father a noted bandleader among the Gypsy tribes. His first instrument was the violin, then the 6 string banjo common at the time as the rhythm of the "Bals Musette"  dancehall music of the 20's in France. Barely a teenager Django's reputation grew playing for coins on the streets to the point where he was offered work in the "Bals Musette" along side the greatest Accordion masters of the time. By the age of 18 he had abandoned the Banjo (in a cab, the story goes) for the guitar and made some of his earliest recordings. Then tragedy struck, a fire in his trailer one night severely burned Django's fretting hand and he lost the use of two fingers. 

He spent a year in the hospital recovering from his wounds,  and relearning the guitar to adapt to his handicap. His revolutionary technique with two fingers changed guitar music forever,  and the public could not believe the power and virtuosity of his playing,  his recording career made him the most influential european jazz musician to this day. In the last 10 or 15 years,  festivals in his honor have sprung up around the world, and "Hot Club" style groups now appear in major cities across America.

Check out his playing here. 

Django really swings!

Many thanks to my dear friend Don Yaffe

who happens to be one of the most brilliant

Guitarist/Musicians I know.

Don and his merry band


can often be found gracing

the Denver and Boulder areas.

Check them out at:


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - Departures

Tonight I watched this sad,



very moving film.

It is a film about the difficult subject of

death and dying

and the manner in which one

is sent on to the next world.

As is so often the case with the Japanese,

the manner in which they wrap

things is stunning

 as is the ritual

that goes along with it.

And here

I enjoyed watching the



and affectionate way

that Daigo


those that had passed away

for their

final journey.

This is a Five Star film

The soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, who wrote the music 
for the 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano films Kikujiro (1999), and Hana-bi (1997), is also noteworthy.

Here's the Netflix description:

"Freshly unemployed, young cellist Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) has an epiphany in which he realizes he's been heading down the wrong career path. Retreating to his hometown, he trains for a new professional role as a nakanshi, or one who prepares the dead for burial. Tsutomu Yamazaki provides comic relief as Daigo's eccentric mentor in director Yojiro Takita's Oscar-winning, richly detailed -- if unlikely -- drama about finding your bliss." 

Here's a clip from the film. 

Do yourself a favor

and go out and get yourself a copy,

you won't regret it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kenny Wheeler's Birthday Celebration

This just in from ECM.


January 12 , 2010

Kenny Wheeler 80th birthday concert

Kenny Wheeler, uniquely lyrical trumpeter and jazz composer, celebrates his 80th birthday with a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music on January 14.

Concert repertoire will include pieces from his ECM albums. A special performance of the ‘Sweet Time Suite’ from that 1990 recording will feature a number of the original participants, including Norma Winstone, John Taylor, Henry Lowther, Derek Watkins, Ray Warleigh, Stan Sulzmann, Evan Parker, Duncan Lamont, Julian Argüelles and Dave Holland.

Wheeler, Canadian-born but a UK resident since 1952, gained his earliest reputation as an outstanding soloist with the John Dankworth orchestra. In the 1960s, alongside work in modern and mainstream contexts, he began to play free improvised music with John Stevens and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble -- as did Norma Winstone, Evan Parker, and Dave Holland.

Kenny Wheeler’s distinguished ECM recordings include "Gnu High" (with Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette), "Deer Wan" (with Jan Garbarek, John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, Holland and DeJohnette), "Around 6"  (with Evan Parker, Eje Thelin, Tom van der Geld, J.F. Jenny Clark, and Edward Vesala), "Double Double You" (with Michael Brecker, John Taylor, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnete), “Music for Large and Small Ensembles” (with Parker, Taylor, Holland, Abercrombie, Norma Winstone, Peter Erskine etc ), “The Widow In The Window” (with Abercrombie, Taylor, Holland, Erskine), “Angel Song” (with Holland, Lee Konitz and Bill Frisell) and “A Long Time Ago” (music for brass ensemble and soloists).

Additionally he can be heard on ECM albums by the Azimuth trio (Taylor/Winstone/Wheeler), the Dave Holland Quintet, John Abercrombie, George Adams, Pierre Favre, Leo Smith, Ralph Towner, Bill Frisell, the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the Globe Unity Orchestra.

All Kenny Wheeler recordings are on sale at www.ecmrecords.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - Enrico Rava Jazz Italiano Live 2009

Welcome back Dear Readers.

So nice to see you again.

For this Old Friends, New Friends edition,

(a new-ish feature that is scheduled to appear every Tuesday)

a wonderful new work

from a

Dear Old Friend:

Enrico Rava.

Isn't it nice to have great friends?

My buddy Paolo

just returned from Rome

with a gift

for me.

Enrico Rava's

Jazz Italiano Live 2009

recording is a



(dare I say?)



by one of Italy's


Jazz Masters.

I'm not sure if this is available in The States yet.


wherever you are,

keep your eyes peeled for this

fine new disc featuring:

Enrico Rava - Trumpet
Mauro Ottolini - Trombone, tuba
Dan Kinzelman - Tenor Sax
Daniele Tittarelli - Alto Sax
Marcello Giannini - Guitar
Giovanni Guida - Piano
Stefano Senni - Bass
Zeno De Rossi - Drums

This brilliant recording

reminded me of the fine 1978 Enrico Rava Quartet recording on ECM.

For good reason.

Both recordings contain riotous, scorching versions of the tune

- Lavori Casalinghi.

It also happens to be a lot of fun.

Something no one I know has so much of that they can't use a little more.

Treat yourself.

Better yet,

find a wonderful, generous  friend

who might slip this into your Christmas stocking!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - Z and Iran Today

With "Iran On The Brink"

how sadly topical

watching the new Criterion Collection edition of



I first saw Costa-Gavras's powerful political thriller

when I was a kid.

I watched the recently released

Criterion Collection DVD last night.

How tragic

that the world hasn't learned

in the years since then.

If you haven't seen this great film

you really must see it.

If you have seen it,

you'll probably want to see this meaningful film again.

You won't want to miss the fine performances by

Yves Montand  &  Jean-Louis Trintignant.


A pulse-pounding political thriller, Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras’s Z was one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties, and remains among the most vital dispatches from that hallowed era of filmmaking. This Academy Award winner—loosely based on the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis—stars Yves Montand as a prominent politician and doctor whose public murder amid a violent demonstration is covered up by military and government officials; Jean-Louis Trintignant is the tenacious magistrate who’s determined not to let them get away with it. Featuring kinetic, rhythmic editing, Raoul Coutard’s expressive vérité photography, and Mikis Theodorakis’s unforgettable, propulsive score, Z is a technically audacious and emotionally gripping masterpiece.

And here's a sadly similar view of Iran today:

In stark contrast to what you've just seen,
 experience this very special piece of music.

In describing composer Kaikhosru Sorabji's intoxicating
Gulistan (The Rose Garden),
Frank Holliday, the original dedicatee said:

"in a flowing panorama of dreamlike beauty,
we behold and are thoroughly immersed in all the exotic magic of Iran:
the Shah Mosque of Isfahan,
the poetry,
 the incredibly lovely works of porcelain, silver, and gold,
its exquisitely carved works of ivory and wood,
 and, of course,
the scented loveliness of the roses of Shiraz.
This work evokes in a masterly fashion delicious
and at times almost overpowering
whiffs of
Iran's "sweet rose-haunted walks,"".

 I hope this breathtaking vision of Iran
the tragedy of today.