Film noir is the theme for Jefferson Market’s Monday night films this month. We’ll start the series with Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die. Please take a look at The New York Public Library’s online calendar for our other upcoming films.
We’ll also have a special non-noir Saturday film screening of Blithe Spirit on March 21, 2009 at 2pm. Based on the play by Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit is getting a revival on Broadway this month. The 1945 movie poster described the film as “super-naturally spicy screen entertainment” in “blushing Technicolor. Can you resist? I think not!
Our February films came to an end with a screening of a film about Harold Arlen, the composer of such standards as It’s Only a Paper Moon and Stormy Weather and the music to The Wizard of Oz. The film had some wonderful performances by Rufus Wainwright, Debbie Harry, and Jimmy Scott, whose appearance was a highlight for me.
When I first moved to New York City I made a short list of jazz performers I wanted to see. The list wasn’t short for long, as a handful of names were added each time I’d scratch one off. Most of the individuals on this list were musicians who were around in the 1950s and were amazingly still around and performing. Jimmy Scott was on that list and the first show I saw upon moving to NYC. You might remember Scott from his haunting performance in the last episode of Twin Peaks.
A few of the other names on that short list that were quickly marked off include:
Sonny Rollins. 3 words: Colossus. Tenor. Madness.
The vocal acrobatics of Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross vocalese fame. I saw Hendricks with Ross once and Hendricks by himself a number of times. Hendricks, also known as the "James Joyce of Jive", wrote the now classic lyrics to many jazz instrumental standards from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk, to name a few. Annie Ross’s Twisted was famously covered by Joni Mitchell and she appeared in Robert Altman’s film Short Cuts which was based on the short stories of Raymond Carver.
O Mito, Joao Gilberto. I marked his name off my list twice. Beautiful beyond words. Hands down my favorite all-time performances. There is a character in Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore named Nakata who has the ability to talk to cats. Murakami is quite a jazz fan and I think Nakata’s ability probably originated with Joao Gilberto. Joao talked to cats. He sang to them. I like to imagine cats mesmerized by Gilberto's whispery soft voice. One day his cat Gato was asleep on a window sill and fell to its death. Gilberto's friends joked that the cat, sick of listening to Joao's voice, didn't fall in its sleep but instead jumped and committed suicide. Miles Davis later stated that Joao Gilberto “could read a newspaper and sound good".
Greenwich Village resident Blossom Dearie. Her soft voice was sadly silenced this past month. Figure Eight from School House Rock is part of the soundtrack to my childhood. Her versions of Manhattan, Someone To Watch Over Me, I'm Old Fashioned, and Our Love Is Here to Stay are among my favorite renditions and are versions I think of when I think of those songs, though Chet and Ella do find their way in every now and again. If granted three wishes one would have been to be sung to sleep by Blossom Dearie. Now I’d settle for Jimmy Scott.