Monday, April 29, 2013

A Re-posting -LATIN ESCAPADE - George Shearing

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sometimes I wonder if fans of Jazz who grew-up listening to the music in the 1940’s and 50’s realize how fortunate we are that so much of it has been re-issued in CD and Mp3 formats.

Since Jazz, in general, accounts for less than 5% of all recordings sold, it is amazing how much of it has been subsequently released in digital formats.

And yet, for a variety of reasons, more than occasionally we find that a favorite LP regrettably hasn’t been included in this transition.

One such album is Latin Escapade [Capitol T737] which features pianist George Shearing and his quintet. In addition to George, the quintet is made up of a guitarist, vibraphonist, bassist and drummer. Although these are all instruments that must be struck or plucked, George’s group has managed to achieve one of the more beautiful and easily identifiable sounds in Jazz.

The uniqueness of “the Shearing Sound” comes from the way the group states the melody of each tune. This is formed by Shearing playing blocked chords around the notes of the melody with each hand an octave apart and the vibes playing in unison up an octave from the piano’s right hand and the guitar playing in unison down and octave from the piano’s left hand.

When hearing "The Shearing Sound," essentially the listener is experiencing a melody that is harmonized into four-parts in which Shearing's upper melody note is doubled on vibes and the lower note is doubled on guitar.

You can hear this four octave span quite distinctly on every track of Latin Escapade.

The JazzProfiles editorial staff  has developed YouTubes featuring four [4] tracks from Latin Escapade and embed them throughout this feature to enable a Shearing Sound sampling of the music from the album.

The first of these uses Cuban Travel Poster Art with the Shearing Quintet’s version of “Yours.”

Along with vibraphonist, Cal Tjader, who had occupied the vibes chair in George’s quintet before forming his own combo, Shearing was one of the earliest adapters of Latin rhythms in a small group setting.  Many of his 1950’s album contained Latin Jazz tracks or were thematically based on Latin Jazz themes as was the case with Latin Escapade.

George developed such a deep interest in Latin rhythms that he went so far as to insert a segment in his club sets or concert performances that highlighted tunes with a Latin-flavor. During these Latin features, Shearing would augment his quintet with conga drums and timbales with the Jazz drummer in the group playing various Latin percussion instruments, thus creating the instrumentation for authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Of course, George was always a very commercial-minded musician [in other words, he liked to eat regularly and pay his rent on time] and it certainly didn’t escape his attention that dancing to the [then, newly-introduced] Mambo rhythm was a craze that was sweeping the US in the 1950’s.

Hence, the following Mambo with Me cut from Latin Escapade which serves as the audio track to this YouTube tribute to the Mambo:

The long-playing record provided Jazz groups with room to “stretch-out” [i.e.:take longer solos] and it was not uncommon for Jazz LP’s to have 2 or 3 tracks that produced 18-20 minutes of music per side.

During his career, Shearing did make some LP’s with fewer cuts per side, especially with the quintet in performance, but he made many more with the more commercial or popular music format of 12 tracks per LP.

Although Latin Escapade belongs in the latter category, its finely crafted and well-executed arrangements, while easy on the ear, are anything but commercial.

With none lasting longer than 3:35 minutes, each of the album’s twelve tracks is a miniature musical masterpiece.

George is the only soloist and during his solos he reveals a thorough familiarity with Latin Jazz piano stylings; particularly the heavy use of riffs and “montuno” [repetitive refrains].

All of these qualities are reflected in this YouTube which uses vintage postcards of Cuba from the University of Miami’s collection and Mi Musica Es Para Ti [“My Music is For You”] from the album as its audio track.

George has always had an ear for pretty melodies. He can swing hard, too, but his affinity for appealing airs results in a healthy variety of ballads on all of his recordings. He always arranges his treatment of such tunes very artfully so as to further enhance their beauty and, in many cases, their romantic or alluring aura.

At a time in the 1950’s and 60’s when AM radio in Southern California still offered programs that specialized in “mood music,” it was not uncommon to hear a Shearing Sound ballad treatment during one of these late night broadcasts.

One such example of Shearing's charming way with a ballad can be found on his Latin Escapade interpretation of Ray Gilbert and Osvaldo Farres’ haunting Without You, the audio track to this You Tube commemorating The Shearing Sound.

Born in 1919, George Shearing is still with us although no longer performing. In 2007, he became Sir George Shearing when he was knighted by Her Royal Majesty, The Queen of England, for his services to music. Incidentally, I wonder if Sir George’s longevity is contagious as Latin Escapade guitarist Jean “Toots” Thielemans and vibraphonist Emil Richards are also still on board.

Over the years, in addition to leading his marvelous quintet, Sir George has performed with Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme and a host of other vocalists. More recently, he has appeared in concert with guitarist and vocalist, John Pizzarelli.

In addition to the recordings that he has made with these artists, George has a substantial discography under his own name – none better than Latin Escapade [1956].

After sampling the music on this album, we hope you will agree.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Daniele Scannapieco “…is good”

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Italy has seen the development of a number of fine, Jazz saxophonists in recent years and sooner or later they all perform with Italian Jazz pianist, Dado Moroni.

Rosario Giuliani, Stefano di Battista, and Max Ionata, to name but a few, have all appeared in concert and in clubs and made recordings with Dado, who is still too young to be considered an Old Master, but experienced enough to rank as one of Italian Jazz’s senior statesmen.

Daniele Scannapieco is another of the fine tenor saxophonist to make the recent, Italian Jazz scene and, not surprisingly, he, too, has made an album with Dado – Never More [ViaVeneto Jazz VVJ 054].

When you are around Dado you can expect to play The Blues and such is the case on the closing track of Never More.

The tune is entitled “… is good” and you can hear it on the following video which features Daniele along with Dado and bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jay D’Amico and Mark Weinstein – Tango Jazz

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“If there is any one word that could describe this CD that word would be MUSICALITY. Jay D'Amico, who for many years was a student of mine studying jazz piano as well as composition and counterpoint, has matured into a superb musical entity in his own right. His writing as well as his playing here is as masterful and profound as it gets.

The musicians performing with him are of the highest order and particularly the marvelous trumpet work of Richie Vitale is outstanding. This is one of those rare occasions in which a group of musicians, through their collective talents, have provided us with a magical and mystical musical experience worthy of much repeated listening.

The depth of the contrapuntal interplay in D'Amico's writing is brilliant and will reveal profound nuances each and every time you listen to it. Bravo gentlemen and thank you for this superb work of art...”
- Mike Longo, Jazz pianist, composer and educator

“After years of exploring African, Brazilian and Caribbean music, Weinstein saw an opportunity in tango. Playing and recording drum and percussion heavy genres limits flute players to the high register and takes away the more nuanced, expressive possibilities of the instrument.

On the other hand, playing in a drum-less setting has its own challenges.

It’s not only that there’s a different way of setting the groove and driving the music but, in tango, the melodies and the dancing, true or implied, are often what sets the tempo and its variations.”
- Fernando Gonzalez, writer, critic, and translator

Chris Di Girolamo is the owner-operator of Two for The Show Media and represents a number of familiar and new faces on the Jazz and popular music scene.

Two of his artists – Jay D’Amico and Mark Weinstein – have recently made new CD’s with a rhythmic emphasis based on and around tango beats.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to showcase some of the music from Jay and Mark’s recent efforts for those of you interested in moving your ears in some new directions.

In each case, we have reproduced the CD cover art, Chris’ Media Relations announcement followed by an audio track from the CDs.

You can locate more information about Chris and his artists at

Jay D’Amico: Tango Caliente-Jazz Under Glass [CAP/Consolidated Artists Productions/1034] – available 4.29.2013

About Jay D'Amico:

Tango Caliente represents Jay's latest efforts at composing and interpreting his own music. "In some ways I've been influenced by various forms found in classical music and they're evident here, but other compositions on the album go beyond that." In all his compositions, Jay insists, "I always want the melody to imitate the human voice and most importantly, it always has to swing." D'Amico's sound has evolved over the years, honed in performances with his own trio and a variety of other musicians, most notably bassist and lifelong friend Milt "the Judge'' Hinton, whom the pianist credits as one of the primary influences on his career.

"Several years back, I played a few of the tracks on my earlier release, Ponte Novello, for Milt  - he'd only performed on one track on the CD - and he just smiled at me and said, 'Man, you found your niche." That niche can be described as the melodious intersection of two very distinct musical roads, which D'Amico says are actually not that diverse to his thinking. "My music is somewhat comparable to opera, in that it's sing-able, even though my compositions are obviously all instrumental. Jazz starts from that same European harmonic tradition and incorporates African rhythms. I'm just finding my own way around that," he explains.

Born into a family where music was omnipresent, the young D'Amico began to play piano when he was eight years old. Coming of age in the 1960's, D'Amico says his earliest exposure was to American popular music, from the Cole Porter tunes his mother would sing around the house, to his first experience as a performer in a rock group. Under the auspices of Art Podell of the New Christie Minstrels, D'Amico, his brother and three cousins, recorded a single which enjoyed near hit status before the vagaries of the music industry derailed them. The drive to become a pianist took a firm hold when young D'Amico heard the music of Polish-born composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. "Actually I saw the actor Cornell Wilde portray him in a movie," he remembers. Later in college, his piano teacher told D'Amico that the melodies of the Italian opera were the greatest influence on Chopin's music. "I remember being surprised at that, but then I saw that the lyricism of opera, combined with the Polish mazurka and polonaise, came to create his style. I thought, 'I want to be able to do the same thing, to play it all!'"

An early Oscar Peterson performance on television, during which his mother told him "This is jazz and they're making it up as they go along," also resonated strongly with the burgeoning young performer and composer. D'Amico first met Milt Hinton in 1974 in a jazz workshop, and the two immediately took to each other so strongly that within a short time D'Amico started teaching the workshop with Hinton. Their collaboration as educators would last for some 18 years, until 1992. Hinton joined his protégé on D'Amico's recording debut in 1982, Envisage, which also featured drummer Bob Rosengarden (it was re-released on CD in 2003.)

In addition to Milt Hinton, another musician whose influence D'Amico cites as key is Mike Longo, established pianist and musical director for many of Dizzy Gillespie's bands. Longo's CAP Records has released all four of D'Amico's CD releases. From 1984 through September 10, 2001, D'Amico performed as the Pianist in Residence at New York's Windows on the World. In 1990, he released the solo recording, From the Top. Recording with a trio comprised of bassist Ben Brown and drummer Ronnie Zito, he released Ponte Novello in 2001. The CD featured D'Amico's original compositions along side the pianist's arrangements of arias by Puccini, Verdi and Bellini. He has also appeared on Hinton's The Judge's Decision (1985) both as pianist and co-composer.

For bio, tour dates, and more information on Jay D'Amico go to:

"If you are one that thinks "delicate" when they hear 'flute,' forget that. Weinstein's approach is full-bodied and surging and loaded with swagger and swing."
- Mark Keresman, Jazz Improv

"Mark Weinstein has quietly established himself as one of the most wildly inventive flutists in modem memory."
- Raul d'Gama Rose,
"Flautist Mark Weinstein has always been a brave and cutting edge musician."
- Ken Dryden,

About Mark Weinstein:

Flutist, composer and arranger, Mark Weinstein began his study of music at age six with piano lessons from the neighborhood teacher in Fort Green Projects in Brooklyn where he was raised. Between then and age 14 when he started to play trombone in Erasmus Hall High School, he tried clarinet and drums. Playing his first professional gig on trombone at 15, he added string bass, a common double in NYC at that time.

Mark learned to play Latin bass from Salsa bandleader Larry Harlow. He experimented playing trombone with Harlow's band and three years later, along with Barry Rogers, formed Eddie Palmieri's first trombone section, changing the sound of salsa forever. With his heart in jazz, Weinstein was a major contributor to the development of the salsa trombone playing and arranging. He extended jazz attitudes and techniques in his playing with salsa bands. His arrangements broadened the harmonic base of salsa while introducing folkloric elements for authenticity and depth. The only horn in a Latin jazz quintet led by Larry Harlow at the jam session band at Schenks Paramount Hotel in the Catskills, soloist and arranger with Charlie Palmieri in the first trumpet and trombone salsa band in NYC, arranger and featured soloist along with the great Cuban trumpet player Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros in Orchestra Harlow, and with the Panamanian giant Victer Paz in the La Playa Sextet, and with the Alegre All Stars, Mark's playing and arranging was a major influence on Salsa trombone and brass writing in the 60s and 70s.

Mark continued to record with Eddie Palmieri, with Cal Tjader and with Tito Puente. He toured with Herbie Mann for years, played with Maynard Ferguson, and the big bands of Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Jones and Lewis, Lionel Hampton, Duke Pearson and Kenny Dorham. In 1967 he wrote and recorded the Afro-Cuban jazz album, Cuban Roots for the legendary salsa producer Al Santiago. It revolutionized Latin jazz; combining authentic folkloric drum ensembles with harmonically complex extended jazz solos and arrangements. Chick Corea was on piano and the rhythm section included the finest and most knowledgeable Latin drummers: Julito Collazo, Tommy Lopez Sr. and Papaito (timbalero with La Sonora Matancera)

In the early 1970's Mark took time off from music to earn a Ph.D in Philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He became a college professor and remains so until this day. When he returned to the music scene in 1978 playing the flute, he wrote produced and recorded the Orisha Suites with singer Olympia Alfara, the great Colombian jazz pianist Eddy Martinez and percussionists Steve Berrios, Julito Collazo, Papaito and Papiro along with an Afro-Cuban chorus. Unreleased until recently, music from the Orisha Suites became the theme for Roger Dawson's Sunday Salsa Show on WRVR.

Mark returned to jazz with a vengeance, working gigs and recording over a dozen CD's since 1997. Seasoning, his first flute CD experimented with different settings for the flute, including a quartet with vibist Bryan Carrott and Cecil Brooks III on drums and a trio of flute and two guitars with Vic Juris and Rob Reich. In 1998, Mark recorded Jazz World Trios with Brazilian master guitarist Romero Lubambo and award winning percussionist Cyro Baptista. Their exploration of Brazilian themes with classical guitar and percussion contrasted with a freebop trio with Santi Debriano on bass and Cindy Blackman on drums. Jean Paul Bourelly and Milton Cardone completed the set with music based on Santeria themes.  The release of Three Deuces in 2000, paired Mark with guitarists Vic Juris, Ed Cherry and Paul Meyers.

Because of limited distribution and more demand than albums available, Mark rerecorded the material from the original Cuban Roots with new arrangements and the help of such giants of Cuban music as pianist Omar Sosa, percussionists Francisco Aquabella, Lazaro Galarraga, John Santos, Jose De Leon, and Nengue Hernandez. It was co-produced with his nephew, trombonist, violinist and arranger Dan Weinstein for Michael McFadin and CuBop Records.

In 2002 Mark had the incredible opportunity to go to Kiev, Ukraine, where his father was born, to record the music of the Ukrainian composer Alexey Kharchenko. Milling Time, the record that they made, stretched his playing in a number of directions, from modern classical music to smooth jazz to Ukrainian folk music. He continued his exploration of his roots with a jazz album of Jewish music with Mike Richmond on bass, Brad Shepik on guitar and Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion. He then turned to Brazil and the music of Hermeto Pascoal's Calendario do Som, entitled Tudo e Som with guitarist and vocalist Richard Boukas, Nilson Matta on bass, Paulo Braga on drums and Vanderlei Pereira on percussion.

In 2005 he began his ongoing association with Jazzheads record recording another version of Cuban Roots called Algo Mas, with Jean Paul Bourelly playing electric guitar, Santi Debriano on bass, Thelonious Monk award winning percussionist and vocalist Pedrito Martinez, as well as Nani Santiago, Gene Golden and Skip Burney on congas and bata drums. His next release on Jazzheads was 0 Nosso Amor with Brazilian jazz masters Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta and Paulo Braga along with percussionists Guilherme Franco and Jorge Silva. This was followed by Con Alma, a Latin Jazz album featuring Mark Levine on piano, Santi Debriano on bass, Pedrito Martinez playing conga and drummer Mauricio Hererra. Next a straight-ahead album, Straight No Chaser, with guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Ron Howard and Victor Lewis on drums. A return to Brazilian music, Lua e Sol, saw Romero Lubambo and Nilson Mata joined by award winning percussionist Cyro Baptista.

Mark took time out from Jazzheads to record an album for Ota records in Berlin with Grammy nominated pianist Omar Sosa playing vibes, marimbas and piano along with AN Keita on balafon, Mathais Ogbukoa and Aho Luc Nicaise on African percussion, bassist Stanislou Michalou and Marque Gilmore on drums. Back to Jazzheads, Mark recorded Timbasa with the percussion team of Pedrito Martinez and Mauricio Hererra, joined by Ramon Diaz with the young giants Axel Laugart on piano and bassist Panagiotis Andreou. This was followed by Jazz Brasil with NEH Jazzmaster Kenny Barron on piano along with Nilson Matta and drummer Marcello Pellitteri. His most recent album, El Cumbanchero was recorded with a string ensemble and arranged by Cuban piano virtuoso Aruan Ortiz, along with Yunior Terry on bass and percussionists Mauricio Herrera and Yusnier Bustamante.

For more information on Mark Weinstein go to:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Europe with Victor Feldman, 1960 – 1961

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

It didn’t last long.

But the eighteen month association between the Adderley brothers and pianist and vibraphonist Victor Feldman was a mutual admiration society.

Older brother and alto saxophonist Julian Adderley, affectionately known as Cannonball, was quoted as saying of his time together with Victor: “I had a ball; the band just burned. Victor is one bad cat.” Victor, never one to use many words when a few would do, outdid himself in this regard by summing up his experience with Cannonball’s quintet in one word: “Brilliant!”

On the other hand, 18 months is a long time for a jazz group to be together.

And while touring with the quintet led by Cannonball and his younger brother Nat [who plays cornet], Victor was leaving a ton of "bread" on the table.

So for professional as well as some personal reasons, coming off the road and getting back into the then-vibrant Los Angeles studio scene seemed the prudent and wise thing for Victor to do.

As was always the case, wherever he went, Victor brought a lot of new music with him as he was constantly composing.

One of his tunes that Cannonball’s group played at almost every appearance while Victor was on the band was Lisa, a tune that Victor co-composed with Torrie Zito.

You can hear Lisa on the following video montage. It was recorded during the band’s April 15, 1961 appearance at the famous L’Olympia concert hall in Paris, France. Cannonball, Nat and Victor are accompanied by Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stan Getz and Chet Baker – Just for a Moment

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The association between baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and trumpeter Chet Baker didn’t last very long.

Less than year, from about August, 1952 until June, 1953.

During that relatively brief time, the recordings they made for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label and the Mulligan/Baker quartet appearances at The Haig just outside of downtown Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard made them both internationally famous Jazz stars before each went their separate way.

After a hiatus, Gerry would reform his quartet with Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone and Chet would form his own quartet featuring Russ Freeman on piano.

But Chet also made another stop along the way when he played for a short time with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, once again in a piano-less quartet, with bassist Carson Smith and drummer Larry Bunker.

The occasion of Stan and Chet getting together resulted from Gerry Mulligan’s need to get his life back in order by overcoming some bad habits.

In his absence, Dick Bock suggested to John Bennett, the owner of The Haig, that Stan Getz fill in for a stint with Chet, Carson and Larry during June, 1953.

As Ken Poston, Director of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute has commented: “It is fascinating to hear how Getz interacts with Chet and the group applying backgrounds and counterpoint in the same manner as Mulligan.”

You can hear the musical magic Ken describes on the audio track to the following video tribute to Stan and Chet. The tune is Strike Up The Band with Carson Smith on bass and Larry Bunker on drums.

Fortunately, too, some of the music that resulted from the “moment in time” union of these two Jazz giants is available in a 2 CD set entitled Chet Baker and Stan Getz: West Coast Live.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ken Nordine – Word Jazz

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

a ken nordine poem

hey... what are you up to ? and what's it about... this stuff you call Word Jazz, they say it's far out. just why do you do it and what's it good for? is that someone knocking? who's that at the door?

the something that makes it
whatever it is
is outside the main stream
of show busy biz
you do what you have to,
compulsively free,
and after you finish,
just where will you be?

and what if you get there and nobody's there, just you and the empty way up there somewhere, you look down the distance of all that has been to see if you see how you used to fit in

“Ken Nordine, yea I know that guy.

I heard his voice 1000 times, he’s the guy in the bus station that say ‘go ahead I’ll keep an eye on your stuff for you,’ and you see him the next day walking around town wearing your clothes.

He broadcasts from the boiler room of the Wilmot Hotel with 50,000 watts of power. I know that voice, he’s the guy with the pitchfork in your head saying go ahead and jump, and he’s the ambulance driver who tells you you’re going to pull thru.

He’s the guy in the control tower who talked you down in a storm with a hole in your fuselage and both engines on fire.

I heard him barking thru the Rose Alley Carnival strobe as samurai fireman were pulling hose.

Yea, he’s the dispatcher with the heart of gold, the only guy up this late on the suicide hotline.

Ken Nordine is the real angel sitting on the wire in the tangled matrix of cobwebs that holds the whole attic together..

Yea, Ken Nordine, he’s the switchboard operator at the Taft Hotel, the only place in town that you can get a drink at this hour.

You know Ken Nordine, he’s the lite in the icebox, he’s the blacksmith on the anvil in your ear.”
- Tom Waits, 1990

For many Jazz fans, the name “Ken Nordine” and the phrase “Word Jazz” are synonymous.

But you won’t find much written about him in Jazz literature.

Maybe it’s because Ken is an anomaly, a one-of-a-kind Jazz sound.

In a sense, he possessed the ultimate in Jazz – an instantly recognizable “Voice,” in his case, literally.

Ken does word associations, vignettes, absurd dialogues with a Jazz group playing in the background. Some of these word plays are hipper-than-hip verbal expositions, many of which have a mystical, Zen-like quality to them.

What makes them so mesmerizing is the way Ken speaks the words and the sound of his rich, deep and resonating voice. Put him in an echo chamber and Ken could instantly become the ultimate, Voice Of Doom!

Much of Ken’s earliest recorded work in the Word Jazz genre can be found on four recordings he did for the Dot label: [1] Word Jazz [Dot Jazz Horizons LP #3075, Spring, 1957]; [2] Son of Word Jazz [Dot Jazz Horizons #3096, Spring, 1958]; [3] Next! (Word Jazz) [Dot LP, #3196, Spring, 1959]; Word Jazz Vol. II [Dot LP #3301, Spring, 1960.

Eighteen tracks from these Dot LP’s have been issued on CD by WordBeat/Rhino CD reissue of Word Jazz [R2 70773].

Ken celebrated his 93rd birthday om April 13, 2013.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember him on these pages with he following Irwin Chusid insert notes from the CD reissue and with a video montage made up of the cover art and photographs of Ken from his four Dot LP’s set to Down The Drain which you’ll find at the conclusion of this piece.

Irwin’s writings provide a comprehensive overview of much of Ken’s career. You can also visit Ken’s website for his blog postings, podcasts and comprehensive discography at

Irwin Chusid continues to broadcast at WFMU which is based in East Orange, NJ and you can learn more about him and review his many interesting projects by visiting

© -Irwin Chusid/Rhino Records, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“You can hear Ken Nordine, but you can't see him. In a sense, he's everywhere.
As Jeff Lind pointed out in the Illinois Entertainer: ‘Nordine would make an excellent subject for one of those American Express commercials-millions have heard his voice on radio and TV...but virtually no one except his family and business associates would recognize him on the streets.’

He's hawked Taster's Choice, Chevrolet, Gallo wines—on an estimated 300-400 radio and TV spots a year. You heard him this week and didn't know it

Commercial voiceovers are what Nordine does for a living. But what does he do for fun? Word Jazz, which he describes as ‘a thought, followed by a thought, followed by a thought, ad infinitum, a kind of wonder-wandering.’

This Rhino collection offers a provocative sampling from Nordine's four volumes of Word Jazz released on Dot Records from 1957-60. With contemporaries like Kerouac, Miles, Lenny Bruce, and Ernie Kovacs, Word Jazz set the stage for the surrealistic mind expansion of the '60s.

Neither strictly jazz nor traditionally musical, Word Jazz explores the nether recesses of one man's whimsical thought processes, a sort of Kafkaesque CATscan. Conventional logic leaves the studio, while Absurdity and Humor commandeer the console. The Chicago Reader, in tribute to his ‘multichannel madness,’ referred to Nordine as ‘The Man With the 24-Track Mind.’

Plot a map of the Word Jazz kingdom and it would resemble a Candyland game board—if the Mad Hatter wrote the rulebook. There's Adult Kindergarten, where mayors and plastic-awning salesmen hold jam sessions on tabletops and wastebaskets - as therapy. Here's a man, obsessed with Reaching Into In: ‘...hope grips him by the neck, faith bear-hugs his middle, charity twists against him with toe­holds. Three to one isn't fair.’

Faces In The Jazzamatazz haunts the Second City's boulevards, ‘striking matches against the old Chicago midnight,’ exploring the expressions of hipsters, high rollers, and those ‘hiccupping home to hangover.’

Original Sin and What Time Is It? are fables about ‘regular guys,’ whose routines are disrupted, respectively, by mice and an anonymous, persistent 2 a.m. phone prankster. In Hunger Is From, Ken goes straight for the refrigerator and never leaves the kitchen; in Down The Drain, he begins with a ‘sitting down shower’ and ends up doing the backstroke in the Caribbean.

During a 1980 interview with Studs Terkel on WFMT in Chicago, Nordine demonstrated Word Jazz's spontaneous evolution: ‘Suppose I wanted to write a book, an extraordinary book, different from any book ever written. I'd call it Crumple. Each page would be complete in and of itself, and be crumpled and placed in a large cylinder. To read the book, you'd reach in, take out a page, un-crumple and read it, crumple it up, put it back, and take out another. Pages could be read in random order. There could even be suicide notes in it.’ Add a flute to this scenario, along with some offbeat trap drums, and – Voila! - a Word Jazz is born
The inventor of this art form was born in Cherokee, Iowa, to Swedish immigrant parents, but his family moved to Chicago when he was four. He remembers that ‘in my teens, I would talk to people on the phone, and they would tell me I should get into radio because I had a good voice.’ He enrolled at Northwestern School of Speech, but quit after two weeks (‘It was too dull.’). Nordine then infiltrated Chicago's WBEZ radio in the '40s; from there, he moved to WBBM (CBS), where he did staff announcing for two years (‘under four different names,’ he admits). When TV became king, Nordine hosted a late-night, one-camera series called Faces In The Window, featuring Gothic readings of Poe, de Maupassant, and Balzac (on commercial television, years before PBS existed).

During the early '50s, he hung out with sidemen Johnny Frigo and Dick Marx (singer Richard's father) at a North Side joint called the Leia Aloha, telling stories and reciting poetry with improvisational jazz accompaniment, ‘I wasn't a beatnik, though,’ he stresses. ‘I was totally isolated from what was happening in San Francisco.’

In 1955, he was asked by Randy Wood at Dot Records to narrate the orchestra/chorus rendition of bandleader Billy Vaughn's The Shifting, Whispering Sands. (‘It was written by a southern Illinois minister," Ken notes, "and I wanted to correct the grammar.’) The single became a Top 5 hit. Impressed with Nordine's thunderous delivery, Wood signed him to a contract. Ken's first Dot LP, Love Words, featured melodramatic recitations of standard love songs. ‘The nicest thing I can say about it,’ he now recalls, ‘is that it was a very weak idea.’ If you happen across a rare copy, Nordine invites you to ‘sit on it.’

Thereafter, he hit a groove: The premier Word Jazz album was followed by Son Of Word Jazz, Next!, and Volume II, released over a four-year span. The vignettes, he explains, were ‘orally rehearsed, based on an idea, although some were thoroughly scripted.’ There was, moreover, always room for ad-lib, ‘the jazz aspect, so you had freedom within the literary changes.’ Accompaniment was provided by session boppers like Frigo and Marx, Fred Katz, Paul Horn, Red Holt, and John Pisano. Equally important was engineer Jim Cunningham, who employed imaginative (often electronic) sound effects drawn on the musique concrete of Cage and Stockhausen (check out The Sound Museum).

Though artistically acclaimed and selling respectably, the LPs weren't big moneymakers (it's doubtful Dot expected them to be), and Nordine continued doing commercials for clients such as Miller Beer and Motorola. Word Jazz made friends in odd places: Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase choreographed a routine to My Baby. Ever the cult figure, Nordine was invited to cameo on Chicago psychedelic band H.P. Lovecraft's second LP ('68), improvising the track Nothing's Boy.

He made two marginal albums for Phillips: Colors ('68), featuring two dozen 90-second impressionistic monologues on such shades of the rainbow as lavender, russet, azure, and ecru; and Twink ('69), consisting of Nordine reading 34 of Bob Shure's gently absurd dialogues backed by Dick Campbell's instrumental combo. In '72, the ill-fated Blue Thumb label released a twin-pocket retrospective, How Are Things In Your Town?, the title derived from the tag line of Flibberty Jib. It became instantly collectible when the label folded shortly after. Flibberty Jib was subsequently adapted by Levi's for an animated television commercial, narrated by the author and introduced to millions who had never heard the original.

In '78, Nordine incorporated his own private label, Snail Records (‘We want things that catch on slowly). For Snail's first release, he updated the Word Jazz formula and spawned Stare With Your Ears, which was nominated for a Grammy. All the while, Nordine stayed busy and earned a tidy nest egg with commercials and voiceover assignments.

In the '80s, the formula not only survived, it thrived. Nordine (through Snail) released the cassette-only Grandson Of Word Jazz and Triple Talk. He produced more than 300 half-hour "Word Jazz" and "Now, Nordine" programs for National Public Radio. In 1989, he did a short take on Hal Willner's Felliniesque Disney tribute album, Stay Awake, backed by jazz mavericks Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz. Willner, a long-time enthusiast (You're Getting Better is one of his favorites), later invited Nordine to appear on his free-form NBC-TV program, Night Music.

Ken attests to being a big fan of Joe Frank's contemporary radio noir program, "Work In Progress," which explores similar psychic terrain (albeit in different ways). Frank describes the parallel as ‘the feeling that the person doing the talking is alone and reaching out to you, the listener. There's something highly personal in Nordine's attempt to make meaningful contact, either through intellect, emotion, or humor. There's also an air of mystery - you don't know this person, but the person is self-revealing.’

Ken still does commercials (recently for Murine and Bank Of America), and occasionally sneaks off to his summer shack in Spread Eagle, Wisconsin to kick back on the porch, follow fireflies, and wonder-wander. He describes the hamlet as ‘25 or 30 years behind the times.’ But then, Nordine has always been a man as comfortable glancing in a rear-view window as in a crystal ball.

Word Jazz has spanned three generations - missed by most, appreciated by the knowing, and awaiting discovery by those with adventurous ears.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

“Enter Ennio”

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Liperoti said that For a Fistful of Dollars illustrated the perfect osmosis between images and music, the grandest success of Morricone's collaboration with Leone.

Morricone said, "It's a sort of poetry that comes without warning, as when two people fall in love with each other. The magic is totally unforeseeable . . . and empiric. As a result, Sergio always wanted me to compose the music before shooting, so that it could be played to the actors for them to be filled with it and understand it. That's how we did our best work, he and I."
- Geraldine Liperoti L’Epress interview with Ennio Morricone

"Popularity doesn't bother me. It attests to the affection and comprehension of the public. The important thing is to retain the pioneer spirit. I profoundly love the profession, and I work on each film as if it were the first — and the last. Giving the best of myself. Many of the 'greats' ask their arranger to write their scores for them. Me, I write all alone, from the first note to the last. All."
- Ennio Morricone, in an interview granted to Geraldine Pieroti, L’Express

“This too should be said: all his scores, no matter what the subject of the film, have an implicit mournfulness. It is as if their composer never for a moment escapes a sense, no matter how deep in his spirit it resides, of the eternal human condition.”
- Gene Lees, JazzLetter

With the help of the graphics wizards at CerraJazz LTD and the production facilities of StudioCerra, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles developed the video tribute to Italian film composer Ennio Morricone which you will find at the conclusion of this piece.

The music is by pianist Enrico Pieranunzi who, along with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron, has recorded two compact discs of Morricone’s music for the movies for the CamJazz label [see sidebar].

Subsequently, while digging through a pile of JazzLetters from 1998, we found an informative and beautifully written essay about Ennio authored by the late, Gene Lees.

We thought it would be nice to combine the video with Gene’s essay and offer the two for your review.

© -  Gene Less/JazzLetter, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

In the mid-1950s, when I was music and drama editor of the Louisville Times, I had to review just about every film that came out. I was also reviewing— and studying — the symphonic works commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra, a rather famous program operated with a substantial grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. These works were then recorded and released in boxed sets for sale.

When, a few years later in New York, my neighbor Miles Davis found out that I had those records, he asked to borrow them. He never returned them, but no matter. There was little that I found memorable in these works.

But there was much that was memorable in the movie scores I was hearing, and I began to pay them fairly close attention. Much of that music, lightly dismissed by most critics, was far better than the stuff coming out of the Louisville Orchestra, particularly scores by Hugo Friedhofer for Boy on a Dolphin, The Best Years of Our Lives, and, later, One-Eyed Jacks, which were among some of the finest orchestral works of our time. Later, when Hugo had become one of the dearest (and most admired) friends of my life, my inexhaustible mentor in matters musical, I realized that composers around the world shared my feelings for him.

The condescension toward film music has somewhat diminished since then, and we can get a good many scores on CDs, although not all that I would like to see issued. Works like the scores of Alfred Newman and Alex North command some of the respect they deserve, and I am much taken with the scores of Jerry Goldsmith and Allyn Ferguson (about whom more in a near-future issue).

Cut to:

France 1958. I was living there on a fellowship, with all the time in the world to attend all the music and movie and drama and opera festivals I could find, which I did all the way from Stock­holm to Locarno, Switzerland. And I drove quite a bit in the south of France, where I came across landscapes that struck me as suitable for shooting western movies. But, good heavens, the western was an American genre, was it not? Well, American movie-makers have never shown any particular reluctance to film European subjects, whether set in ancient Rome or modern Paris. Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Arch of Triumph were made into American films, the latter starring the Swedish Ingrid Bergman as a French hooker (in those days the movie did not exactly spell out that she was a prostitute, nor that the doctor played by Charles Boyer was an abortionist), and Joan of Arc, in which Bergman again played a French role. She played a Spanish girl in For Whom the Bell Tolls, but what the hell, Harry, an accent's an accent, am I right?

Why then shouldn't some European film maker do a western, particularly a French film maker, since French cineastes had made a mystique out of the western, as they have out of the abominable movies of Jerry Lewis, whom they have proclaimed a genius. But then, Keith Richard and Paul McCartney have now been knighted, and Andrew Lloyd Weber is a lord.

Eventually, European film-makers did essay the western. The most successful of them was an Italian, Sergio Leone, and he didn't make his film among locations I had seen in the south of France, but in Spain. He called it A Fistful of Dollars, made in 1964 and released in the U.S., where it was a huge hit, in 1967. It resuscitated the career of Clint Eastwood and indeed set him on the road to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world.

The style of Leone's films almost certainly was influenced by the career of his father, Vincenzo Leone, a silent film director. Sergio Leone, as film scholar Leonard Maltin put it, "almost single-handedly invented the spaghetti western," a term that no longer needs explanation in America. I think Henry Mancini invented it; if he didn't, he was the first one I ever heard use it. It also established composer Ennio Morricone with audiences around the world, for his work, as Maltin rightly noted, "became a kind of Leone signature." Leone then did, and Morricone scored, For a Few Dollars More (U.S. release 1967), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), followed by the huge Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of whose writers was Bernardo Bertolucci. Henry Fonda played his first (and as far as I know last) role as a bad guy. Maltin, in his Movie Encyclopedia, put it succinctly: "While these films toyed light-heartedly with genre conventions, they also embodied Leone's own convictions, which included a distrust of the capitalist entrepreneurs who, as he feels, exploited the pioneers, and a bleak nihilism that, although hitting a responsive note with 1960s movie-goers, was out of touch with the general optimism that characterized American-made westerns." He called it "a languid, operatic masterpiece."

That is quite so. But the American westerns were themselves out of touch with reality. Simplistic ugh-how Indians were always the villains fighting the noble U.S. Cavalry, when in fact the reverse was closer to the truth; Serbian "ethnic cleansing" has nothing on what the white man did to the Indians in America.

Perhaps that is why the Leone westerns caught on: some sense that they were closer to the truth about the killers and trash who flowed into the American west than the Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and even earlier westerns wove into an American delusion about the founding of the nation, particularly its western reaches. As for Leone's view of the capitalists, one need only consider the careers of the likes of Leland Stanford, and of the railway tycoons who routinely hired Chinese laborers to build their iron roads and just as routinely executed them rather than pay them. William Wellman's 1943 The Oxbow Incident was a departure from the good-guys western. Later, so was Henry King's brilliantly written and executed 1950 film The Gunfighter, which closely honored the three unities — time, place, and events — of classic Greek (and later French) drama, occurring in exactly the time it took to tell the story. This unity is so unaffectedly achieved that you don't notice it until you have come to know the film well; I can think of no other film, ever, that so closely wove together its lines of suspense. Andre de Toth was largely responsible for the script.

Whether The Oxbow Incident and The Gunfighter offered any degree of inspiration or guidance to Leone I cannot say; but obviously he had studied the genre, and just as obviously he must have been familiar with these films, and possibly with Delmer Daves' Broken Arrow, which came out in the same year as The Gunfighter, both of them tragedies. And in Broken Arrow (which had a Hugo Friedhofer score) the white men were the bad guys, and the Indians were sensitively portrayed — how accurately I cannot say. (An Indian scholar, and I mean an Indian who was a scholar of Indian history, told me a couple of years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that Indians liked Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves because, for once, at least the costumes were correct.)

Sergio Leone changed westerns forever, giving them an abrasive realism that precluded any return to anything like the Ken Maynard-Tom Mix-Tim Holt-Buck Jones-Hopalong Cassidy myth of the past, or even for that matter the better John Wayne vehicles such as The Searchers. We were jolted at first by the seedy-looking characters who peopled his pictures, unshaven and strange, looking nothing like Mexicans and even less like Americans. These weren't westerns from another country, these were westerns from another planet, as alien as, say, a film about the Edgar Rice Burroughs figures in the John Carter of Mars books, or his Pelucidar trilogy. And part of what made them so strange was Leone's use of silence and sound and of the music that infused both. Again, I think his father's experience as a silent film director may be relevant, and this is where Morricone comes in.

Our impression of the music in silent films, imposed on us by countless comedies, is that produced by a little old lady in a print dress in front of the flickering screen, playing sentimental or suspense music as needed on a tack-hammer piano with lots of rolls in the right hand. Hugo Friedhofer made me understand that this was anything but the case.

I have read in treatises on film music that the composers had to fight to get music into pictures. Not according to Hugo. I wasn't there, of course. But Hugo was. He wrote his first music-for-film when he did the arrangements for the 1929 musical Sunny Side Up, which was one of the early talkies. Thus he was involved in motion-picture music virtually from the inception of sound, and I'll take his word for what happened.

In small towns, perhaps, little old ladies tinkled the music for silent films on bad pianos, but in larger communities, the music often came from powerful Wurlitzer organs, and in major centers, from orchestras ranging up to full symphonic size. The more important pictures were accompanied by orchestral scores. Hugo was playing cello in a San Francisco pit orchestra during that period. Sometimes the scores would arrive with parts missing, and the conductor would assign Hugo to reconstruct them, which is how he got into what we might call pre-talky scoring.

Now, Hugo said, the producers of silent films wanted and expected music throughout a picture, as in the silents. It was music wall to wall, from the start of the corridor to its end. And the real struggle of composers in the early 1930s, Hugo told me, was to persuade producers and studio executives to let them leave music out of scenes involving perhaps sound effects or dialogue with which it could only clash. Scores became more discreet as time went on, Hugo said. He himself produced some of the masterpieces of the genre.

The dialogue in the Sergio Leone westerns is sparse. In For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Lee Van Cleef (whose career was also restored by Leone, much as John Travolta's recently has been by Quentin Tarantino) and Clint Eastwood had little to say to each other or anybody else. What talking there is in these movies is terse and sullen. And thus there are large long spaces of stares and leers and squints and walks and malevolent atmosphere and portentous pauses before the guns blaze. The style calls for music as much as the silent movies of Hugo's youth. (The coming of talkies devastated employment among musicians who had worked in movie houses; it cost my own father his professional career as a musician.) Even the sound of gunfire in Leone movies was distinctive, as distinctive as that of shots in the Warner Bros, movies. (You can spot a Warner Bros, movie of the 1930s, if you're surfing on television, by the sounds of gunshots and the Janssen Symphony.)

After the reforms of Hugo and composers such as Alfred Newman and Bronislau Kaper, music in films became subtly supportive. Ideally, it was (at least in Hugo's aesthetic) not supposed to be heard at all, only felt. That is not a view I share, and Hugo told me that Erich Korngold (whom he idolized, personally and professionally, and whose orchestrator he once was) looked on the Erroll Flynn swashbucklers for which he composed music as operas without arias.

And I think that must have been Leone's point of view. Leone went counter to that philosophy of the unheard. He hired Ennio Morricone, and he wanted that music not only to be heard but to intrude, to prod, to tell the story, even if necessary to irritate.

Leone used an amplified guitar in westerns. I found this disconcerting. I first encountered the sound in some Henry Fonda western, and I recoiled, thinking, "Where is the amplifier plugged in, in 1890?" or whatever year it was. And it bothered me as much in the Leone westerns. But of course, my reaction was ridiculous. They didn't have modern violins and French horns and valve trumpets in the time of Richard the Lion Heart, and that didn't disconcert us in Korngold's score for Erroll Flynn's Robin Hood. So, gradually, I became inured to Morricone's use of electric guitar in his extremely obtrusive scores. But I still didn't like his music. I was pulled up a little short on this when I found that Henry Mancini did like and respect it. To me, however, Morricone's music still had a cartoon quality. I thought he was incapable of subtlety. He thus is one of those musicians like Claus Ogerman whom I at first underestimated.

Then, two or three years ago, in New York, I was attending with a friend a wine-and-cheese party populated mostly by writers and aspiring writers somewhere in an apartment complex near NYU. Through the talk, I became aware of some music coming from a CD, fresh and touching. I asked the host what it was. He told me that it was Ennio Morricone's score for Cinema Paradiso. When it was over, I asked him to play it again. When I got home to California, I bought it. Morricone has a distinctive and distin­guished sense of melody, and the one he invented for Cinema Paradiso is surprising, wistful, and sinuously beautiful.

Since then I have been paying attention to Morricone's music. I picked up an Italian import, a CD titled Morricone 93: Il Cinema che Suona, which contains themes from a number of his movies. Heard with unprejudiced ears, they are quite effective. He has a taste for pulsing ostinatos, and he likes to use twanging instru­ments, such as guitar and harpsichord, and what sound to me like wooden or reed flutes and pan pipes. (Some of them sound like Andean flutes.) You hear that sound in the 1973 Leone film starring Henry Fonda titled My Name Is Nobody. That score has some odd stuff in it. Leone quotes Wagner's pompous Ride of the Valkyries but on harmonica or a little button accordion. It's buried in the score, but it's quite droll. There is another thing about the Leone-Morricone collaboration: it often seemed to me that the film was shot to the music. This turns out to be true.

When the intrusive is not called for, as in pictures emphasizing dialogue, Morricone can be subtle, discreet, almost inaudible.

I knew absolutely nothing about the man, however, until I came across an article about him in the French weekly news magazine L'Express.

Ennio Morricone, born in Rome October 11, 1928, started his musical life on trumpet, to which he was introduced by his father, who was a jazz trumpet player. Morricone is now seventy. He is probably the most prolific composer in film history, having written at least 400 scores, twenty-two of them in 1972 alone, which works out to one every sixteen days. He may not be as fast as Georges Simenon, each of whose Maigret novels was written in exactly eleven days. But Simenon collapsed in exhaustion after each such marathon writing session, and he didn't turn out twenty-two novels in a single year. Surprisingly, only six of Morricone's 400 films were with Leone.

A photo shows Morricone as a man with a round pensive face on which sit sage horn-rimmed glasses. His Express interviewer, Geraldine Liperoti, described him thus: "Caught in his Roman apartment, then in the privacy of his studio, where are mixed in joyous disorder books, music scores, CDs, chess board, and even a seventeenth century organ . . . from this flood of memorabilia emerges an artist who is all nuances: at once modest and sure of his value, serene and unpredictable, shy and jocular." She com­mented on the variety of his scores, his almost dizzying output. She noted that he had almost backed into a film career.

"That's true," he said. "When I got out of the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia, I dreamed only of classical music. But the time after the war was a very hard period in Italy, and I needed to feed my family. So I started playing the trumpet evenings in clubs frequent­ed by Americans. I went there with no pleasure. It was with pain that I earned the money from diverting the occupants." He emphasized the word "occupants" a little. He meant the American military occupying forces.

"Then I wrote some arrangements for television, theater, and cinema. I worked clandestinely, for the prejudice against music deemed light was very strong at that time. Little by little, my name became known, and then Sergio Leone asked me to collaborate on For a Handful of Dollars.

"Leone, who knew my work on two previous westerns . . . . "

Ah, there is an insight for us on this side of the Atlantic: Leone did not make the first European westerns. "Sergio Leone . . . came to my residence .... When I opened the door, seeing his singular mouth ... I realized we had gone to the same primary school for boys .... Later, we even found a class photo.

"For that film, he told me he wanted a Mexican military song. I got out a little berceuse that I had composed for a television broadcast seven years early but never used. I played the trumpet, and so that's how the principal theme of For a Few Dollars More was born. I never confessed my little ruse to Sergio until many years later. Because of this, it became a game with him: he chose from among scores rejected by other directors."

Liperoti said that For a Fistful of Dollars illustrated the perfect osmosis between images and music, the grandest success of Morricone's collaboration with Leone.
Morricone said, "It's a sort of poetry that comes without warning, as when two people fall in love with each other. The magic is totally unforeseeable . . . and empiric. As a result, Sergio always wanted me to compose the music before shooting, so that it could be played to the actors for them to be filled with it and understand it. That's how we did our best work, he and I."

Did they have any thought that they were revolutionizing westerns?

"No. Moreover, when we saw For a Fistful of Dollars for the first time, Sergio and I, we found it awful. Sergio's films, and my work with him, got better, right up to his masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in America. And that wasn't a western. Of the four hundred film scores I've written, only thirty-five have been westerns, and you've only spoken to me of the westerns. Why?"

Liperoti said, "Because the impact on the public was immense. And what do you think of the expression 'spaghetti western'?"

"Ah! I detest this expression! Intelligent people have to call them Italian westerns. This isn't a soup we're talking about!"

Morricone apparently developed a reputation for falling asleep during recording sessions. The interviewer asked him about it.

"You know," he said, "I get up at 5 a.m. every day. One night, at four in the morning, I was asleep during a recording. Leone sent everyone home, put out the lights, turned on the microphone, and shouted in a cavernous voice, 'Ennio-o-o-o, you have no shame, to be snoozing while everyone is working.' I woke up thinking that it was the devil who'd spoken to me. It happened when we argued. Leone was a very anxious person. He had a need to transfer his anguish to others. But it never lasted more than five minutes."

Liperoti said to Morricone that he was known for the use of unusual instruments — she used the word 'insolite', for which I have never found a good translation; and anyway in her article she was probably translating from Italian into French — such as bells, the triangle, a whistle, even human and animal cries. Actually, Morricone was not working without precedent. Henry Mancini used all sorts of non-orchestral instruments, including boobams from the South Pacific, in his scores. The harmonica (which Morricone used in Once Upon a Time in the West, in a two-note motif that set up a haunting effect and told some of the story) has been common in western-movie scores.

Morricone said, "It was never my point to be provocative. I just thought that the sounds of animals were pertinent in the universe of the western. During my apprenticeship ... I always lent an ear to sounds, no matter how modest. Even the common tap of a pencil on a table, isolated from context, can be reborn in music. The cry of the coyote, if one listens well, is eminently musical. To translate it into music in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I asked two singers to cry together, then I mixed their two voices adding echo. When Leone heard the result, he went nuts with joy ....

"In Once Upon a Time in the West, the harmonica had to resonate like a cry of pain, for it incarnated all the humiliation of [Charles] Bronson's character. During the recording, we found the musician played in a sort of monotone. Sergio threw himself on him and choked him. That's why the sound is so brilliant."

As for the Ride of the Valkyries quote in My Name Is Nobody, he said, "I always retained a nostalgia for classical music. Even if I am aware that there is an enormous moat between the public that goes to concerts and that which goes to the cinema, these winks are a way of bringing the two worlds together No one knew, for example, that the principal theme of The Sicilian Clan [a 1969 French film with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon — ed.] was an homage to Bach. I elaborated it in superposing a first melody inspired by one of his preludes for organ and a second, which I was amused to compose from the letters B-A-C-H, which, in German, correspond to our si, la, do, si. It was an appreciation to a composer I love."

Morricone detests long voyages, and for all the work he does in American films, he will not go to the United States. He said: "If they want to work with me, they come here. If not, I don't do the film. Warren Beatty, for example, loves to come to Rome. I didn't even have to ask him."

Liperoti commented that this was the privilege of celebrity, to which Morricone replied:

"Popularity doesn't bother me. It attests to the affection and comprehension of the public. The important thing is to retain the pioneer spirit. I profoundly love the profession, and I work on each film as if it were the first — and the last. Giving the best of myself. Many of the 'greats' ask their arranger to write their scores for them. Me, I write all alone, from the first note to the last. All."

Morricone has been nominated four times for the Academy Award, including once in 1987 for The Mission. He lost to Herbie Hancock, who got it for the French film Round Midnight, about a jazz musician loosely — very loosely — based on the late life of Bud Powell, and starring Dexter Gordon as a "great" saxophonist of supposed significant originality. Gordon was hardly that. The film's sheer silliness need hardly be documented here. The score was made of jazz tracks. Liperoti asked Morricone if he was bitter about losing that year.

He said: "Certainly I was disappointed. Especially since ... the music that won was not a true original score: it was composed of pieces of already existing songs. I said nothing, but everyone protested the evening of the ceremony. To win an Oscar, it is necessary to campaign to the voters, and the production houses I worked with neglected to do it. But okay, I didn't make a complaint. I have received many other distinctions."

In 1986, The Mission, a film set in late eighteenth-century Brazil, featured Jeremy Irons, Robert de Niro, Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, a very good script by Robert Bolt, and an exceptional score by Morricone. The film, which is very dark, is about the slaughter and enslavement of the autocthonous population. Its point is that this ethnic cleansing continues even now in the upper Amazon rain forests.

In 1989, Morricone scored Brian de Palma's suitably outraged but cluttered Viet Nam sermon Casualties of War. He also scored that godawful de Palma version of The Untouchables, with a David Mammet script so bloody stupid, even more absurd than his script for The Edge, that in it the Canadian Mounties come galloping across the border in their red uniforms (they hadn't worn them on duty, any more than the U.S. Marines wear dress blues in combat, in years) to aid the American cops on United States soil, where of course they have no legal authority. The violence and camera gimmicks, including a shoot-out sequence copped from Potemkin, conspire to keep one watching, but the suspension of disbelief requires effort, and the Morricone score assists you into the cocoon of credulity. Any composer who could make that turkey fly has to be taken very seriously. [Emphasis, mine and gleefully so!]

Morricone has continued to work, very successfully and effectively, in American films, including last year's Bulworth. Warren Beatty, who wrote, produced, and starred in Bulworth (an interesting picture, by the way) obviously likes Morricone: he used him in the earlier (1991) Bugsy, about the life and death of Bugsy Siegal).

The last film on which Morricone worked with Sergio Leone was The Nine Hundred Days of Leningrad, presumably about the German siege of that city.

"It was the only time he refused to talk music with me ... For him, the film was a sort of dream which he knew he would never realize. A little earlier, he had refused a heart transplant. The last months of his life, he was very tired and knew that he was going to die.

"I often called to ask him when we would go to work. But he kept putting it off. It was only afterwards that I understood why. His nephew, Enrico, acknowledged it to me on the day of his death.

"Sergio was a great gentleman."

Sergio Leone died ten years ago, on April 10, 1989. A rare collaboration ended. When Morricone too is gone, it will no doubt be written that he was an unusual composer, a very fine one, and he changed film scoring.

This too should be said: all his scores, no matter what the subject of the film, have an implicit mournfulness. It is as if their composer never for a moment escapes a sense, no matter how deep in his spirit it resides, of the eternal human condition.”