The Observer from London, Greater London, England on November 30, 1986 · 28
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The Observer from London, Greater London, England · 28

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Sunday, November 30, 1986
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OBSERVER REVIEW SUNDAY C9 Reliving his love affair DEXTER GORDON has always been larger than life. Six-foot five and big with it, he makes the tenor aaxophone look puny in his hands, and the sound he produces from it comesatyou in chunks. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he's one of the very few be-bop survivors, a contemporary of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, a true living legend. Of course, none of this could Kuaranteo that he would make a auccess of the leading role in ' Round Midnight ' (reviewed by Philip French, right), the story of an ageing be-bopper on the Paris jazz scene in 1959, but it's difficult to imagine anyone else capable of doing the job. After all, musicians make better actors than actors make musicians, don't they ? ' Uh I won't tell anybody you said that !' The voice is the same hoarse whisper as the one on the soundtrack. There's no such thing as a hurried conversation with Dexter Gordon. Like his playing, his discourse uses a great deal of space. ' Someone with an Idea, an interest well, we've all heard that before. I certainly didn't believe this film was going to happen. It never happened till now.' We sat swapping choice examples of how it hadn't happened Billie Holiday cast as a maid, Louis Armstrong singing a love-song to a horse, ;tc and ended up Agreeing that American films had not treated jazz music with any kind of respect . But ' Round Midnight ' is about American jazz in Europe, a long-running love story in which Dexter was a real-life actor . Dexter Gordon DAVE GELLY I came to make a gig for two weeks and wound up staying for 1 5 years. You go where the work is. After that first gig at Ronnie Scott's I was booked in Copenhagen and that's where I lived, from 1962 to 1977.' It was not a good time for jazz in the States and many great musicians settled down to an exile life in Europe, playing the circuit the Montmartre, Copenhagen ; the Blue Note, Paris ; Ronnie Scott's, London. The film catches the atmosphere of that time beautifully. It was Dexter who insisted that the French bass player Pierre Michelot should be included in his band on screen, because all-American groups were a rarity then . The star would arrive, rehearse briefly with the house rhythm section, play the week and move on. There weren't all that many professional jazz musicians around in those days. You would get guys who could play a little, guys who simply loved the music, but as performers they were ..." These gaps in Dexter's speech patterns can be very disconcerting. Just when you think he's abandoned the whole discussion in favour of a quiet nap the final, exact word arrives. ' . . . dilettantes.' What did he do in such circumstances ? Play more simply, more Gordon : Be-bop survivor. forcefully and try to ... dance through it.' There's no question of anything like that in ' Round Midnight,' not with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Billy Higgins and Ron Carter on hand. But so intent was Dexter Gordon on getting everything exactly right that he scrapped an elaborate Hancock arrangement in favour of a simpler one, on the grounds that no ordinary club band could have coped with it. ' So much of my life is in this film, so many of my peers and heroes. It's not just acting, it's . . . uh . . . reliving a lot of lives, a whole generation. I didn't realise it when I started, but I came to see that this was the chance to tell the story straight. You only get one shot. It had to be right.' Tragic world of be-bop UNTIL the late 1950s black actors were invariably assigned subser vient roles in American movies. While gifted black musicians performed in the interstices of Hollywood films, their music was dramatically appropriated by whites. Bing Crosby gave birth to the blues in 1940; 15 years later Jack Webb inherited a cornet that fell off a black jazzman's hearse and blew his confident 'Peto Kelly's Blues.' Dooley Wilson as Rick's resident pianist in 'Casablanca' was an isolated case of a black performer playing a part where no reference is made to his colour, and it wasn't until Sidney Poitier appeared with Paul Newman in 'Paris Blues' (1961) that a black actor had star billing as a jazz musician. It is worth bearing this in mind when approaching the excellent Round Midnight (Lumiere, Screen on the Hill, 15), the latest1 film by France's most dependable director, Bertrand Tavernier, and one of the small handful of serious feature films dealing with the jazz world. The setting is Paris in 1959 where the prematurely aged ace saxophonist Dale Turner (wonderfully played by the 62-year-old jazzman Dexter Gordon, interviewed left) comes to join other black expatriates and reclaim his career in a season at the Blue Note club. Appropriately his first set there begins with ' As Time Goes By.' Alcoholic and no stranger to drugs, the tall, stooping Dale walks with the teetering grace of an ex-ballet dancer recovering from a hernia and talks like a 45 record played at 33 revs with all the treble cut out. His greatest fan is Francis Borier (Francois Cluzet), a slight, Gallic version of Dustin Hoffman, Ppfca moo. cm W4 : HOME VIDEO rss mm . . . and relax with an MGM musical. To many people, MGM means the great musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Titles like Gigi and High society - superb entertainment that has never lost its appeal. Now MGMUA Home Video brings you those movies on video - at the really low price of m&9-99 or less. It's the perfect opportunity to start your own star-studded home video collection. And with a wide selection from Family Fun to Great Movies, there's sure to be something to suit all the family. Great Movies Classics - Musicals Family Fun Music Collect MGM videos for 9-99 or less Available from selected branches of Woolworth WH Smith Asda Menzies "Suggested selling price. and all good video stores. Tavernier's film of the jazz world, 'Round Midnight.' 1 who earns a precarious living as a graphic designer. He listens to Dale's Blue Note sessions through an air-vent because he can't afford the admission. Then the pair meet and Francois becomes the musician's protector, taking him into the apartment he shares with his 10-year-old daughter. There follows a bluesy idyll beside the Seine, an Indian summer of creative achievement for Dale, before his return to New York and extinction. Romantic without being sentimental, the picture has a marvellous look and sound and feel. It is designed by the great octogenarian Alexandre Trauner, whose studio sets of streets, seedy hotels and smoky bars these past 50 years have captured the quintessence of Paris. The colours are muted and the cmematographer, Bruno De Keyzer uses the wide screen to hold a whole jazz combo in a single frame or to isolate a solitary figure in a room. The dramatic mood reflects the complex rhythms and the subtle interplay of instrumentalists exploring, testing, teasing, sometimes exuberantly collaborative, sometimes desperately private of the be-bop music itself. The script by Tavemier and the American David Rayfiel (they previously worked together on the futuristic ' Death Watch ') is spare, authentic and witty. ' It was you who taught me to listen to the bass and not the drums,' a female singer tells Dale. ' You would have learnt that anyway in 10 to 15 years,' he drawls. But though its subject is the peculiar, tragedy-tinged world of be-bop, the film is about many other things too the American and European sensibilities, hero worship, the pursuit of the new, and, a recurrent theme in Tavernier's movies, the relationship between fathers and children. The movie is ' respectfully dedicated to Bud Powell and Lester Young ' and is inspired by the friendship between Powell and the French pianist Francis Pauras. One suspects, however, that it is emotionally fuelled by the young Tavernier's experience of escorting many of his Hollywood idols around Paris in the 1950s and 60s when they were prophets without honour in their own land. This buried autobiographical element surfaces in an affecting sequence when Francis takes Dale to meet his parents in Tavernier's native Lyons. Indeed the friendship between Dale and Francis touches on something at the heart of Tavernier's work. As writer and filmmaker he has as much respect for tradition as for innovation, and a reverence for old masters uncommon in his iconoclastic generation . Ever since his first movie, ' The Watchmaker of St. Paul ' in 1974, he has worked at restoring continuities broken by the nouvellt vague and the excesses of the 1960s. I' Cluzet: Hoffman-like. The other French film this week, Tony Gatliff's Les Princes (Phoenix, East Finchley, 1 5) is also about a father raising his 10-year-old daughter in an authentically created sub-culture set apart from the respectable bourgeois world. Strikingly embodied by the glowering Gerard Darmon, the film's hero Nara is a fiercely independent gypsy trying to get by in a society increasingly hostile to conspicuous minorities like the Romanies. He is at war with his senile grandmother, who lost 14 children in Hitler's death camps, with his wife, whom he kicked out of the family home for going on the pul (and thus denying him the brood his patriarchal culture entitles him to), and practically everyone he meets. His people live in hideous condemned tenements on the dispiriting outskirts of Paris and are subject to constant harassment from the authorities . But when his bright daughter senses the way to escape from this dead-end life of hunger, squalor and petty crime, he takes her out of school. Crop-headed SEVERAL years ago the John Peel Road Show performed if that is not too strong a word at the University of East Anglia and was pelted with carrion by outraged music lovers. Happily, no one came to the Communards concert there this week armed with dead pigeons, although, if the observations of one ninny close to where I stood were a guide, some came heavily armed with preconceptions about the band's avowedly political stance. Playing to an audience clad in teachers' training college chic further evidence that the Duran Duran generation has, perhaps surprisingly, achieved further education the Communards restrict overt politics to their tour programme (2) and the occasional aside. The programme emphasises that the Communards, although essentially a duo Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles are also a 10-piece band. The audience responded affectionately as the ancillary members of the equipe, including a cellist, two violinists and whatever someone who plays viola is called, took to the stage to Louis Jordan's ' Choo Choo Ch'boogie,' and with some warmth when Coles and Somerville appeared. For the uninitiated, Jimmy Somerville is the most unlikely looking pop star. Slight, pale and crop-headed, he looks like the character, (usually, like Jimmy, Scottish), whose role it is, in films concerning themselves with torpedoed merchant shipping in the Second World War, to brighten the days in the lifeboat by playing harmonica and the nights by slipping silently overboard to make more room for officers. The Communards in East Anglia JOHN PEEL Jimmy sings virtually throughout in a startling falsetto which he nudges into place in the opening number, 1 Sentimental Journey, and which but rarely thereafter slips into a shriek. His occasional excursions into a lower register come as a bit of a surprise, albeit a perfectly agreeable one . Vocally he receives sterling assistance from Sarah Jane Morris, a dab hand with a range of percussion instruments, who in 'Lover Man' and elsewhere takes the deeper vocal part whilst Jimmy trills away somewhere in the stratosphere. The guitarless ensemble turns its collective hand from disco to rhythm and blues to sentimental pop to at least one number, ' La Dolorosa,' (which their leader identifies as 'camp'), with ease and with much swapping of instrumental roles. The evening climaxes with the Communards' recent hit ' Don't Leave Me This Way,' which reached what we DJs call 'the coveted number one spot.' If the hits continue to trundle along at the rate necessary for the sustaining of such a large band, it seems likely that the Communards will be with us for some time. So be it. As pop stars they are infinitely preferable to the usual parcel of ego-maddened balloon heads. In the magazine next week. The Communards Interviewed. No film could be less calculated to make anyone leave the cinema longing for life on the open road along with the raggle-taggle gypsies. On the other hand, joining the host society doesn't seem all that attractive a prospect either. That is what makes this honest picture so depressing. But Gatliff (himself of gypsy stock) doesn't explain precisely what remains of Roman; tradition and what gives gypsies their sense of identity. If Spielberg's ' Gremlins didn't exist we'd be talking about Critters (Cannon, Haymarket, 15) as another example of the long-established SF genre in which quarry and pursuer from one galaxy continue their duel in someone else's world or as an SF Western. The cuddly steel-jawed cannibals of the. title arrive in Kansas from outer space with nothing but mayhem on their mind, and they're pursued by a pair of intergalactic bounty-hunters charged with arresting or destroying these deliquents. The isolated farm family menaced by the dart-firing ' critters ' could as easily be frontier pioneers threatened by hostile Indians. But 'Gremlins' does exist and 'Critters' is simply a drive-in exploitation version of it, likeable in a blue-chin, blue-collar way, but lacking the original's moral and magical qualities. There is no comparable descent from the loveable through the mischievous to the downright malevolent. These creatures are just bom rotten and must be locked up or exterminated. I wrote from Edinburgh about the festival's rediscovery of Bernard Vorhaus, the American director who worked on quota-quickies in Britain during the 1930s and whose promising career came to an abrupt end in 1950 when he fell foul of McCarthy witch-hunters. A season of his lively, unpretentious movies starts this week at the National Film Theatre and includes his most polished Hollywood production, the 1948 Hollywoodt7m noir ' The Spiritualist' (Thursday, 18 December) and his best British picture, the' brisk railway comedy-thriller ' The Last Journey ' (next Friday), set on a runaway train between Paddington and Plymouth and far superior to Ealing's costly Train of Events ' (1949). JON SAVAGE BEASTIB BOYS 1 ueenrad To 111' (Del Jam CBS 4500621) BORAN 'JUICE' JO HIS: ' The Rain ' (Del JamCBS 12" TA 7303 TASHAN : Chasln' A Dream' (DalJam US 18" 4405960) ' LICENSED To III ' la heavy metalhip hop delirium : monolithic Led Zeppelin drum beats and guitar riffs sampled and fed Into a brilliant mix of New York musics. However, the Beastie Boys' deliberately retarded, white translation of black rap's braggadocio frequently degenerates into locker-room chat: much of the Ip from the cover on In is very funny, but misogyny is still misogyny, whether In ' liberating ' bad taste or not. A dub mix would be handy. In contrast. ' The Rain ' already in the charts is an attractive medium paced ballad which takes off like a rocket during a tour-deforce rap. Faced with the complexities of betrayal, Jones moves from sweetness through cold, reasoned anger to outright fury. Tashan's record further reinforces the fertility of Def Jam's innovative, collaged approach : a sweet, doubtful song of hurt and determination is set against the backdrop of heavy metal guitar and a cut-up Martin Luther King speech. MADNESS : ' Utter Madness ' (ZarlazzVlrgln JZLP 2) THE EVERLY BROTHERS! ' Greatest Recordings ' (ACE CHA 194) TWO handy compilations. ' Utter ' picks up the story from ' Complete Madness,' every hit single since 1982's ' Driving in My Car.' It Includes the wonderful ' Uncle Sam ' and 12 other sharp, wistful reflections on modern day England. The Everly Brothers' album collects all their Cadence hits and puts them onto one Ip, or CD : nothing after 1960. but you get 'Bird Dog.' ' All You Have To Do Is Dream ' and 16 other classic countryrock fusions. 6i Round Midnight has to be accounted one of the most powerfidly memorable jazz movies ever made. . . a remarkable fdm." T,AX "... iMiverj idly emotional... 99 Mrk'c?nicr ,? 66 A faultless recreation and celebration of the Parisian jazz dungeons of the fifties. . . Round Midnight creates the moody world oj jazz with total autlienticity". -TIlKFACE. Neil Nnmian JEZm immlmWMImailalMIMWmXK I 238 CINEMA DETAILS CORRECT AT TIME OF GOING TO PRESS j .CONCERTS 1 ?! ROYAL OPERA HOUSE Handel's SAMSON Conductor ROGERKORRINGTON Cast includes ROBERT TEAR CAROL VAKESS SARAH WALKER GWYNNE HOWELL DONALD McINTYRE KIMBEGLEY "The staging achieves an astonishing blend of classic and modern theatrical taste" Tom arutclifTe The Guardian December 8, 10, 16, 18, 22 at 7.00pm Reservations 01-240 10861911 AccessVisaDiners Club Tickets from 2 tNOVSAK TRIOGUNTER LUOWIG Piano. 1 OvcambtrMourt: Piano Quartet in Hat K493: Uroa Krek: String Tno: JoMph Hawlbaeh: Piano Trt Brahms: Piano Quartet in G minor Op. 25 A.tu. u, i-i- mzaoein i nomaycrcn-smnn TuMday (LESLIE HOWARD piano. Uixfc Ann6es do pelerinage: Triosiem 2 DcmbrUnnes. Harmonies poetiques et religieuaes (1834): Gross T.30 p.m. Korvertsolo, Legendes:Sl. Francis of Assisi preaching totrisDirds. St rrancis ce t-auie waiKing on me waisr (Last oi J uszi uan.eruj 5. d. 3. 2 Jane Gray WadnMday VIENNA SCHUBERT TRIO Lale Romantics; Austria & Germany. J DacarnDflrtPlltzner: Piano rno in t- up. b (itjyo); 7.30 D.m. Weaer: Piano Trio in E minor Oo. 102 (190781 Thursday ARTHUR PAPA2IAN oiano 4 DscambtrtMozart: Sonata in A K331; BMthovon: Sonata in C minor Op. Ill; TJOpM, DMaium; bonata ueaication 10 isomuas ist un pnj no ran: sonaia in a nai minor ja. jo. j5.50. d 50. 3.50, 2.50 Jane Gray hlFUV LONDON CONSORTPHILIP PICKETT director. irlv Music series. Th Medieval LvncHn Enausn. sonas tv h mm lot Blnaen, Pelar Abtlard, Pster oi Blots and Mart d Franc, anon. ketlings of Hecuies & Samson, sonfjs from the Carmina Burana Imanuscnpt. a. 4. 3. 2 Early Music Network Saturday hASH ENSEMBLE. FELICITY LOTT soprano. Master Concert: East of DscsmlMrfvienna 3. Mozart: Clannet Trio K498; Shostakovich: Seven Poems of 7.30 pm Ulexanoer Biak Op. 127. Tchaikovsky: Songs, Shostakovich: Piano buiniet Oc 5 Harvey's sfierry served between 7 & 7.30 p.m. E4 50. 4. 3. 2 Amelia Freedman Sunday (VIENNA SCHUBERT TRIO. Sunday Morning CoHee Concert Caua- 7 tCmDnv.nnsiian acnwsier puno, ooni rustnnirviojinivuriin rwmiwin teno. Beethoven: Allegretto in tJ rial wou Schubert: Piano Trio in B ilal DS93. : & iree couees harry or squash atter performance. WHAT'S ON also on page 29 ROYAL ALBERT HALL ROYAL CHORAL SOCIETY Conductor: LASZLO HELTAY FRIDAY 4 SATURDAY 19 & 20 DECEMBER at 7.M dalurday concert tpoiuorcd by BRAUN ELECTRIC (UK) Lai TRADITIONAL FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS CAMBRIDGE BUSKERS SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER i 1 BRAUN" presents A CHILDREN'S TRADITIONAL CAROL CONCERT BASIL BRUSH with DOUG RIDLEY John Birch orgsn John Alley piano Ta Fanfars Trumpeters or Her Ma)etty' Royal Maria Cominandcria Chief Flcst 1JM-9M HD;0-Mt9i:i2)CC01-544J ROYAL ALBERT HALL Wednesday 1 7th December 7.30 p.m. TV TIMESLEUKAEMIA RESEARCH FUND present CHRISTMAS CAROLS WITH THE STARS In the presence of HRH The Duchesi of York Carol V&neu (Soprano) Royal Artillery Band Mused Boys' Choir Tickets -only balcony left now 1.50, 3.00 irom rah. box uinoi Tel. 01-581 8373 David Bell (Organ) QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL Tuesday 16 December ai 7.45 pm In the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales Patron, English Chamber Orchcitra and Music Scdaty MOZART Haffner Symphony CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 English Chamber Orchestra JUKKA-PEKKA S ARASTE MARIA JOAO PIRES conductor piano Sponsored by the Eagle Star Group and The Wig gin Tcapc Group TicJwu 1X50, ,4.50, 15.50, 6.50. 17. SO from HaUOI-928 5191 (credit card bookings 01-92S (J800J 4 Agents WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER sr. 730 p.m. ACADEMY OF LONDON, Conductor RICHARD STAMP Bach CHRISTMAS ORATORIO ARLEEN AUGER sop. SETH McCOY tenor MICHAEL DASH Counter ten. GREGORY REINHART bass i. 5. lb. 8, 10 HU 01-928 3191 CO 01-928 8800 I CINEMAS BARBICAN 1 : 01-638 8891. Tckls 3. Student cones .2 all perls. Tickets bookabls. BETTY BLUE 18) 4.00. 6.15. CAMDEN PLAZA, opp Camden Town Tube. 485 2441 DORIS DORRIE'S MEN (15). This delectable comedy . Witty and Winning ' N.Y. Time. Film at 2.25, 4.30. 6.40, 8.35. CHELSEA CINEMA. Kings Road. SW3. 351 3742. MEN .15). Film at 2.25, 4.30, 6.40, 8.55. CURZON MAYFAIR, Curzon St. 499 3737- Claude Lanzmann's SHOAH (PG). Part 1 Tues & Thurs 5.45 Sats 11.30 am & 5.45 Part 2 Mon, Wed & Fri 5.45. Sundays Part 1 at 1 1 .30 am. Part 2 at 5.45 ' Totally absorbing . . lee the film ' Sid. RAYMOND GUBBAYpreficnts at the BARBICAN FRIDAY NEXT 5 DECEMBER at 7.45 p.m. "PP uvcm UKii-jtjfci AWD PEASANT Grieg PEER GYNT SUITE No. I Tchaikovsky PIANO CONCERTO No. 1 Tchaikovsky EXCERPTS FROM 'THE NUTCRACKER Waldtcufel THE SKATERS1 WA1TZ Tchaikovsky igi2 OVERTTJJtH LU.MMJN CONCERT ORCHESTRA Coodoaor NICHOLAS C LEO BURY ANTONY PEEBLES diwio l!S.5P,i:6.50.8,L9.50.:i0.50.f;il.5(1 HaliOl-6288795 C.C 01-638 8891 CINEMAS CURZON WEST END. Shaftesbury Avenue. WI. 439 4805. Maggie Smith, Dcnholm Elliott, Judi Dench in A ROOM WITH A VIEW (PG). Film at 1.30 (not Son) 3.45, 6.10 & 8.40. A film as near to perfection as it's possible to conceive ' Alexander Walker, Sid. LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE 930 5252 (Enq)930 7615 (24 hour AccessVisaAmEx bookings). BIG TROUBLE In LITTLE CHINA (PG) in 70mm Dolby Stereo. Sep progs today l.OO, 3.35, 6.10, 8.50. All progs bookable in advance. LUMIERE CINEMA. St Martin's Lane, WC2. 379 3014836 0691. ROUND MIDNIGHTf 15). Film at 1.00 3.30 6.00 8.35. MINEMA, KNIGHTS BRIDGE. 235 4225. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (15. 3.0. 5.0. 7.0, 9.0. ODE ON HAYMARKET (839 7697). MON A LISA (18). Sep progs today 2.1 5 6.00 8.40. AH seats bookable in advance. Access and Visa telephone bookings welcome. SCREEN ON ISLINGTON GREEN 226 3520. THE MISSION (15). 3.15, 6.00, 8.30. Tickets bookable. 1 ODEON LEICESTER '(yju diii). KLilHLhSS PEOPLE (18). 7ep progs. Doors open Today 2.00, 5.00 8.00. All progs bookable in advancaw Credit Card Hot Line (AccessViii lAmEx) 930 3232839 1929, 24 hcT service. ODEON MARBLE ARCH (73 201 1). Walt Disney Pictures Prescnta BASIL THE GREAT MOUSB DETECTIVE (U). Sep progs. Dooim open Today 2.45, 5.15, 7.43. Reduced prices for OAPs, UB40 holders. Student card holders. Under 16s. Sq Tubfc ALA RENOIR, odd Russell WC1 . 837 8402 (1 ) SMOOTH T, (15). Film at 2.30 4.35 6.45 9.00. (2) ROSA LUXEMBURG (PG). Film at i.uu o.w SCREEN AT THE ELECTRIC. 3694. TRUE STORIES (15). 3.35, 5.20. 7 15, 9.00. Seals bookable. 29 SCREEN ON BAKER ST. 935 2772. (HA ROOM WITH A VIEW (PGL 4.00. 6.25, 8.50. (2) BETTY BLUB (18) 3.45, 6.10, 8.40. SCREEN ON THE HILL, 01-4 3 f 3366. ROUND MIDNIGHT (1SK 3.20. 6.00. &.30. aapiii i itapNayi

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