Monday, June 05, 2006

Bird

There are several ways to make a film about jazz. It is obvious to start with the documentary, using original shots with the original musicians; colleagues tell their stories about the subject of the film. A good example is Ken Burns's Jazz. That's not the type of film I want to talk about; I want to draw a parallel between films that use actors and do have a story. There are several classical examples, like Hello Dolly or Young Man With A Horn, but I love to introduce you some films that were released in the 1990s like Kansas City, Bird and Round Midnight; Three, complete different, productions I have in my collection.

This second part is about the Clint Eastwood film Bird.

As the jazz in Kansas City was only to support the typically 1930s club atmosphere, in Bird the music is an essential part. Bird tells the story of Charlie Parker, the great alto saxophone player who became a turning point in jazz history.


Forst Whitaker has the physically characteristics of Charlie Parker and in the film he plays the saxophone in a way Parker did. The music however is played by Parker himself. The musical director, Lennie Niehaus, a respected and gifted jazz musician himself, didn't want to use of a duplicate saxophone player who should have to copy Parkers music, so the only way to do was to use the original Parker solos in the film. Thanks to sound engineer Bobby Fernandez, the Parker solos could be isolate from the original recordings; the ensemble parts, however. were played by Charles McPherson.

This, rather depressed film, is a great honour to one our greatest jazzmusicians.

BIRD (1988)USA 1988 – f dir Clint Eastwood Music by: Lennie Niehaus

Soundtrack Personnel: In addition to the musicians who worked on the Charlie Parker tracks listed below, Lennie Niehaus, as, filled in a few bars here and there, and Pete Jolly took the piano solos. Tommy Tedesco, gtr; Charlie Shoemake, vibs; worked on the Marjorie Hyams sequence. Lennie Niehaus also acted as alto sax coach to Forest Whitaker. Charlie Shoemake, vibs, also recorded. Songs: "Maryland, my Maryland" performed by Lennie Niehaus, as; "Lester leaps in" by Lester Young, "I can’t believe that you’re in love with me" by Clarence Gaskill, Jimmy McHugh, "All of me" by Seymour Simons, Gerald Marks, "This time the dream’s on me" by Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, performed by Charlie Parker, as; Monty Alexander, pno; Ray Brown, b; John Guerin, drs; "Reno jam session" performed by Lennie Niehaus, as; James Rivers, as; Red Rodney, tpt; Pete Jolly, pno; Chuck Berghofer, b; John Guerin, drs; "Young Bird" performed by James Rivers, as; Pete Jolly,pno; Chuck Berghofer, b; John Guerin, drs; "Why do I love you?" by Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, performed by James Rivers, Lennie Niehaus, as; "Moonlight becomes you" by Johnny Burke, James Van Heusen, per-formed by Ronny Lang, Gary Foster, Bob Cooper, Pete Christlieb, reeds; Chuck Findley, Conte Candoli, Rick Baptist, tpt; Dick Nash, Bill Watrous, trb; Barry Harris, pno; Chuck Berghofer, b; John Guerin, drs; "Moose the mooche" by Charlie Parker, performed by Charles McPherson, as; Jon Faddis, tpt; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; Ron Carter, b; John Guerin, drs; "Lover man" by Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez, Jimmy Sherman, performed by Charlie Parker, Charles McPherson, as; Jon Faddis, tpt; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; Ron Carter, b; John Guerin, drs; "Ornithology" by Charlie Parker, Benny Harris,performed by Charlie Parker, Charles McPherson, as; Jon Faddis, tpt; Mike Lang,pno; Chuck Domanico, b; John Guerin, drs; Charlie Shoemake, vibs; "April in Paris" by E. Y. Harburg, Vernon Duke, "Laura" by Johnny Mercer, David Raksin, "Parker’s mood" by Charlie Parker, performed by Charlie Parker, as; Barry Harris, pno; Chuck Berghofer, b; John Guerin, drs; + strings; "Jewish wedding" per-formed by Charles McPherson, as; Red Rodney,tpt; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; John Guerin, drs; "One for Red" performed by Red Rodney, tpt; Mike Lang, pno; Chuck Domanico, b; John Guerin, drs; "Now’s the time" by Charlie Parker,performed by Charlie Parker, Charles McPherson, as; Red Rodney, tpt; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; Ron Carter, b; John Guerin, drs; "Albino Red blues" performed by Red Rodney, tpt; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; Ron Carter, b; John Guerin, drs; "Cool blues", "Ko Ko" by Charlie Parker, performed by Charlie Parker, as; Walter Davis, Jr., pno; Ron Carter, b; John Guerin, drs; "Buster’s last stand" performed by Ronny Lang, as; "The Saints" (trad). With: Forest Whitaker as Charlie Parker, Diane Venora as Chan Parker, Michael Zelniker as Red Rodney, Samuel E. Wright as Dizzy Gillespie, Damon Whitaker as young Bird. This movie contains some of the most complex and successful music tracks ever created for the director rightly insisted that original Charlie Parker solos must be used. Lennie Niehaus and his team, particularly recording engineer Bobby Fernandez, therefore cleaned up the original records electronically, isolated Bird’s solos and re-recorded them with new backing groups. ( source: Jazz in the Movies - David Meeker)


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The other two film discussed are Kansas City and Round Midnight

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