Daily Archives: May 16, 2012

JAZZ MYSTERIES in A FASCINATING FILM: “FINDING CARLTON,” JUNE 11, 2012

Here’s where I’ll be on June 11.  I hope you can join me!

Monday, June 11, 7:30 pm

FINDING CARLTON:  Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India

Featuring a Q&A with director Susheel Kurien (who is also a jazz musician himself) and Michael Steinman, jazz aficionado and writer of the blog Jazz Lives.   PLUS get a peek at rare footage of American jazz musicians performing in India!

USA, 2011, 73 min. How did jazz from America find a home in India? And how did India respond to it?  Filmmaker Kurien tells the untold story that begins with Depression-era African American musicians journeying from Paris to Calcutta and Bombay.  This captivating and unique film takes audiences on a richly atmospheric journey into India’s little-known jazz age–which lasted from the 1920s to the 1970s–through a portrait of the maverick guitarist Carlton Kitto, who chose to continue as a be-bop guitarist in the relative obscurity of Calcutta over emigration, commercial studio work, or Bollywood.

Tickets: $15 ($10 for students); $20 at the door: call (516) 829-2570,  or click here to purchase online via PayPal.

The film will start at 7:30pm at the Clearview Squire Cinemas: 115 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck.   Visit our website www.greatneckarts.org/Film for more information about the Furman Film Series!

Here’s what I had to say about FINDING CARLTON after my first viewing.

Even people who are not terribly interested in jazz in the intricate ways some of us are will also find much to admire in the portraits captured in it.  And the jazz-fanciers in the audience sat up, enthralled, throughout it. 

The film concentrates on two musicians: guitarist Carlton Kitto, who found himself entranced by the sound of Charlie Christian on the records his mother played at home while she cooked or cleaned — and Louiz Banks, a Grammy-nominated producer and jazz pianist.  Carlton takes our attention and never lets it go, both because he swings delicately yet powerfully, and because he is a sweetly endearing character. 

Unlike some documentaries I have seen where the story is compelling yet the characters are off-putting, everyone in the audience fell in love with Carlton, his sweet sincerity and his devotion to his music.  It did not surprise anyone that when Carlton got pushed on stage when the Ellington orchestra played a concert in India, that Ellington himself warmed to the young guitarist, invited him to sit in, and that Carlton improvised six choruses on SATIN DOLL with the band.  I’m only sorry that the Duke wasn’t able to hire Carlton on the spot and take him on tour.

FINDING CARLTON is full of the results of the most fascinating archival research, but it is not simply a film for those people whose heads are full of record labels and matrix numbers. The fruits of that research are vivid onscreen, in the photographs, sounds, colors and textures of the Indian jazz scene from the Twenties onward — with quick but telling portraits of deeply inspiring players including the world-class pianist Teddy Weatherford, the elusive trombonist Herb Flemming. The stories Sushiel has uncovered talk of Larry Coryell and Billy Taylor, of Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, of jamming with Sonny Rollins in an ashram. As well as these famous names, we encounter people and players who go straight to our hearts: the first-rate singer Ruben Rebeiro, the devoted jazz fan Farokh Mehta, singers Pam Crain and Christine Correa — we watch the radiance on Christine’s face when she is able to hear a broadcast of her father’s band for the first time, music she heard as a child but never knew existed.

Kurien has a splendid eye — even though this is his first film — for the little human details that bring both individual characters and a larger world (now, perhaps no longer quite so vibrant) into focus and into our hearts. FINDING CARLTON blossoms with lovely montages of the present and the past, the aural and the visual, the moving and the still. It is respectful but never dull, informative but never preachy or didactic.

I urge you to make a small jazz pilgrimage to see it: it is fully realized, lively, and deeply moving. I came away from it with some feelings of loss: one of the later scenes shows Carlton at a gig in a hotel lounge, playing swing for an almost empty room, but I thought of his resilience and that of the music we love.

For more details, please visit http://www.findingcarlton.com.  And here is the link to Susheel Kurien’s blog, http://bluerhythm.wordpress.com/

May your happiness increase.

THERE’S MAGIC IN THE EAR (Part One): The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, May 13, 2012

I write this on Wednesday, May May 16 — several days after the magical improvisations of last Sunday night, when The EarRegulars created life-enhancing beauty at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York) once again.  But the music from The Ear is still vibrating in my ear and lifting my spirits.  I know that I will be savoring it for a long time to come.

The EarRegulars that night were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet (a special one, a 1970s Conn horn that had belonged to Bobby Hackett); Ken Peplowski, tenor saxophone and clarinet; James Chirillo, guitar; Jon Burr, string bass.  They were joined by some exalted friends you will encounter in the second chapter.

Each of the four EarRegulars here is a profoundly gifted musician, as my readers will know and have witnessed in person.  But this Sunday session was one of those special occasions where everything jelled from the first notes.  I won’t say “It kept on improving,” because it was already superb.  Everything was in place, yet nothing was planned or formulaic; you could see from the grins on the faces of the players just how pleased and surprised they were, how well and deeply they felt their most subtle impulses heard — for this was a listening band, a true community of joyous magicians.

Enough words.  The depth and playfulness of this music makes them trivial, perhaps an impudence.  Listen, savor, marvel, be enlightened!

Tommy Dorsey’s pretty theme, taken at a sweet loping pace, I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU:

The good advice created by Harry Barris and friends, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

Harking back to Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton but never Charles Laughton, RING DEM BELLS:

The pretty ballad that Louis recorded in 1938, ONCE IN A WHILE:

The hot tune that Louis recorded in 1926, ONCE IN A WHILE.  Only at 326 Spring Street!:

Oh, so sweet!  SUGAR, set up beautifully by Jon and James:

The Twenties ode to the madness syncopation brings, CRAZY RHYTHM:

It was just magical — watching and hearing these musicians transform metal, wood, electricity, breath, and moisture into a joy that had tangible heft and substance.  But there were no tricks, no stuffed rabbits or items concealed from view: it was simply the magical combination of tension and repose, expertise and abandon.

I felt that the money I put in the tip jar was paltry in comparison to the experience I had participated in.  And these musicians go off to do this night after night.  Aren’t they something?

Hail, O EarRegulars!  We are lucky to live in your world.

May your happiness increase.