Monthly Archives: December 2012

Take Five Jazz Great Dave Brubeck Dead at 91

Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck

Jazz pianist-composer Dave Brubeck, whose recording of “Take Five” sold over a million copies in 1960, died Wednesday of heart failure at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut, near his home in Wilton, Connecticut. He would have turned 92 on Thursday.

Brubeck was on his way to an appointment with his cardiologist when he was stricken Wednesday morning, said longtime manager-producer-conductor Russell Gloyd.

His “Take Five” was heard on the soundtrack of the 1973 Ralph Bakshi adult cartoon movie Heavy Traffic. As well, he composed for — and performed with his ensemble on — “The NASA Space Station,” a 1988 episode of the CBS TV series This Is America, Charlie Brown.

David Warren Brubeck was born in Concord, California on December 6, 1920.

Designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, he continued to be one of the most active and popular musicians in the world up until his death. In a career that has spanned more than six decades, his experiments with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and distinctive harmonies remain hallmarks of a unique musical style unfazed by fad and fashion.

Born into a musical family — his two older brothers were professional musicians — at age four he began piano lessons from his mother, a classical pianist. When his family moved to a 45,000 acre cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras, his life changed dramatically. He stopped music lessons and began to work with his father as a cowboy. On weekends, he played piano with a local dance band.

He entered the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California as a pre-med student with the idea of becoming a veterinarian and returning to ranch life. Working his way through school as a pianist in local clubs, he became increasingly involved in jazz, and decided to switch his major to music.

After graduating with a bachelor of music degree in 1942, he married Iola Whitlock, who was a fellow student at Pacific, and enlisted in the Army. While serving in Europe under General Patton, he led an integrated GI jazz band. After his discharge in 1946, he began his studies at Mills College with French composer, Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to introduce jazz elements into his classical compositions. This experimentation of mixed genres led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet that included Paul Desmond, Cal Tjader and Bill Smith. In 1949, Brubeck formed an award-winning trio with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, and in 1951 established the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. This historic collaboration lasted seventeen years, and even after the dissolution of the “classic” Quartet, Brubeck and Desmond frequently performed together.

The Quartet’s recordings and concert appearances on college campuses in the 1950s introduced their individual style to thousands of students, many of whom became lifelong “fans.” Their audiences were not limited to campuses, however. The Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond played in jazz clubs in major cities and toured in package shows with such jazz artists as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. They repeatedly won top honors in trade magazine critic’s and reader’s polls, including the Black newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier.

In 1954, Time magazine ran a cover story about Brubeck’s remarkable ascendancy in the jazz world. Also in 1954, the Dave Brubeck Quartet “breakthrough” album, Jazz at Oberlin, made the charts in Billboard. In 2005, his CD London Flat, London Sharp was also charted by Billboard, making Brubeck the artist who appeared on Billboard charts over the longest period of time.

In 1958, the Quartet performed in Europe for the first time and toured Poland and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department. This led to the introduction of music from other cultures into the Quartet’s repertoire. Then, in 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded an experiment in time signatures, Time Out. To everyone’s surprise, the album sold over a million copies, and Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk, based on a Turkish folk rhythm, and “Take Five,” composed by Paul Desmond, began to appear on jukeboxes throughout the world.

In 1959, Brubeck premiered and recorded his brother Howard’s Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. In 1960, he composed “Points on Jazz” for the American Ballet Theatre, and in later decades composed for and performed with the Murray Louis Dance Co. His musical theater piece, The Real Ambassadors, starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae, was recorded in 1960 and performed to great acclaim at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Early in his career, Brubeck wrote primarily for the Quartet, and some of those pieces, such as “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke,” became part of standard jazz repertoire. His first orchestral composition, “Elementals,” written for an improvising jazz combo and symphony orchestra, was premiered and recorded in 1962.

The “classic” Dave Brubeck Quartet with Desmond, Eugene Wright (who joined in 1958) and Joe Morello (1956) was dissolved in December 1967; “The Light in the Wilderness,” the first of many works combining classical and improvised elements, was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in February 1968 by conductor Erich Kunzel. Brubeck’s second major work, “The Gates of Justice,” a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Old Testament, was also premiered by Kunzel in Cincinnati in 1969.

Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan joined a newly formed Dave Brubeck Trio (with Jack Six, bass and Alan Dawson, drums) in 1968, and they recorded and toured the world together for seven years. In the mid-1970′s, Brubeck performed with three of his musical sons, Darius, Chris and Dan. He later led a quartet that featured former Octet member clarinetist Bill Smith with son Chris on electric bass and Randy Jones, drums. In 1988, this group, along with former bassist Eugene Wright, had the honor of accompanying President Ronald Reagan to Moscow to perform at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit. Since the Quartet’s first appearance at a State Dinner for King Hussein of Jordan, during the Johnson administration, Brubeck performed at The White House on many special occasions.

Through the decades that followed the dissolution of the “classic” quartet, Brubeck composed many fully notated compositions. These include ballet suites, a string quartet, chamber ensembles, pieces for solo and duo-piano, violin solos, orchestral works and large-scale works for chorus and orchestra, most notably a mass, “To Hope! A Celebration”, that has been performed throughout the English speaking world, Germany, Russia and Austria. In 2002, Classical Brubeck was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices. The double CD includes his Easter oratorio “Beloved Son,” “Pange Lingua Variations,” his exciting Pentecost oratorio, “The Voice of the Holy Spirit,” and a composition for string orchestra, “Regret,” all under the baton of Gloyd, who, since 1976, was associated with Brubeck as conductor, producer and manager. Throughout his career, Brubeck continued to experiment with interweaving jazz and classical music. He performed as composer-performer with most of the major orchestras in the United States, and with prestigious choral groups and orchestras in Europe and America.

While increasingly active as a composer, Brubeck remained a leading figure in the jazz mainstream, appearing at jazz festivals (recently at Newport with Wynton Marsalis), recording (for Telarc) and touring internationally with today’s version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet — Bobby Militello, sax and flute; Randy Jones, drums; and Michael Moore, bass.

Brubeck was a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University and held numerous honorary degrees from American, Canadian, English and German universities, including an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Fribourg University, Switzerland.

He received national and international recognition, including the National Medal of the Arts presented by President Clinton, a Lifetime Achievement Award from National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts declared him a Jazz Master. His international honors include Austria’s highest award for the Arts, a citation from the French government, and the Bocconi Medal from Italy.

Brubeck served as chairman of The Brubeck Institute, established in his honor by his alma mater, the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Dave Brubeck is survived by his wife Iola; four sons; daughter Catherine Yaghsizian; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was anticipating a 92nd birthday concert. The performance in Waterbury, Connecticut will go on, but in the form of a tribute.

L.A. Critics Name “Frankenweenie” Best Animation

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie,” directed by Tim Burton, has been named the Best Animation of 2012 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day was declared runner-up in the category.

The 38th Annual LAFCA Awards were announced Sunday.

Amour was named Best Picture of the year. Its star, Emmanuelle Riva, tied for Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook).

Runner-up for Best Picture was The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson was named Best Director, while Best Actor went to Joaquin Phoenix and Best Supporting Actress went to Amy Adams.

The Master also earned Mihai Malaimare Jr. a runner-up nod for Best Cinematography. The movie’s Jack Fisk and David Crank won for Best Production Design. Jonny Greenwood was named runner-up for Best Music Score.

Documentarian Frederick Wiseman received the Career Achievement award.

Founded in 1975, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association is comprised of Los Angeles-based professional film critics working in the Los Angeles print and electronic media.

Plaques of recognition are presented to winners during LAFCA’s annual ceremony, held in mid-January.

Cartoon of the Day: Mouse Cleaning

Mouse Cleaning

Mouse Cleaning

Back before their television empire, back before the Flintstones and Scooby Doo, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera played a cat against a mouse. From Tom & Jerry, today’s cartoon of the day is Mouse Cleaning from this date in 1948.

Mammy-Two-Shoes tells Tom that if the house gets dirty or untidy, he will be thrown out. Once she leaves, Jerry uses a cigarette ashtray to spread filth all over the place. Gags and chase sequences ensue. Jerry diverts a coal chute into the living room as Mammy comes home.

She and Tom collide outside the front door. When Tom pokes his head out of the coal, he becomes a stereotypical black Stepin Fetchit-style character. Mammy thinks Tom is a man and asks, “Hey you! Has you seen a no-good cat around here?” Tom replies (in a stereotypical black voice), “No ma’am! I ain’t seen no cat around here! Uh-uh! No cat, no place, no how, no ma’am!”

Mammy spots Tom’s tomfoolery and yells “Thomas!” Tom runs away and hobbles along the sidewalk, shuffling and mumbling.

This cartoon was redubbed in the 1960s, with Mammy-Two-Shoes speaking in an aggressively non-racial white-bread accent (her legs are still 100% “of color,” though!).

Additionally, the scene where Tom, in blackface, does his “Stepin Fetchit” routine was excised and replaced with some newly-created animation by the Chuck Jones MGM unit nearly 20 years later.

Kenneth Muse did the animation in the sequence where Tom juggles eggs and an ink pad, according to animator Mark Kausler. Ed Barge animated the old horse and the coal, while the final sequences were done by Ray Patterson and Irv Spence.

Three “Simpsons” Episodes Nominated for WGA Award

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

Three episodes of “The Simpsons” are among the five nominees for the Writers Guild of America Award in the category of animation.

The three are “Holidays of Future Passed,” written by J. Stewart Burns; “Ned and Edna’s Blend Agenda,” written by Jeff Westbrook; and “Treehouse of Horror XXIII,” written by David Mandel and Brian Kelley.

Also up for a WGA Award are “A Farewell to Arms” (Futurama), written by Josh Weinstein, and “Forget-Me-Not” (Family Guy), written by David A. Goodman.

In the Television Graphic Animation category, the nominees are “CBS News Animations,” animation by David Rosen, and “The Oscars” (Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood), animation by Bob Pook, CBS.

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) jointly announced on Thursday nominations for outstanding achievement in TV, news, radio, promotional writing, and graphic animation during the 2012 season.

The awards will be presented jointly in all competitive categories during simultaneous ceremonies Sunday, February 17 in New York at the B.B. King Blues Club and in Los Angeles at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE. For more information, visit www.wga.org or www.wgaeast.org.

Cartoon of the Day: Santa’s Workshop

Santa's Workshop

Santa’s Workshop

In keeping with the holiday spirit, today’s Cartoon of the Day is Santa’s Workshop. From the middle of the Silly Symphonie series, this short was produced in Technicolor, and directed by Wilfred Jackson.

Santa is assigned by his elves in preparation for the famous sleigh ride on Christmas Eve. As Santa reads off the list of good or bad boys and girls, the elves go about constructing the toys and making things ready for Santa’s long trip. As the toys are finished, they come to life, and they march into Santa’s big bag.

Because they are considered politically incorrect, several scenes are deleted from current video releases: one in which dolls are frightened by a spider, so their hair sticks up on end and gets curled; a stereotypical black doll saying “Mammy”; and a black doll riding a donkey cart.

If you’ve not seen this short, pop on over to BCDB today and give it a look!

Brave, Muppets Animated Film Music Nominated For ’13 Grammys

Grammy

Grammy

Tunes from such animated or partly animated films as Pixar’s Brave and Disney’s The Muppets are up for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

Nominations were announced Wednesday night by The Recording Academy.

For Best Song Written For Visual Media, the nominees include “Learn Me Right” (from Brave), written by Mumford & Sons (performed by Birdy and Mumford & Sons) and “Man Or Muppet” (from The Muppets), written by Bret McKenzie and performed by Jason Segel and Walter.

The Muppets (Various Artists), on Walt Disney Records, is up for a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.

Nominated for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media is The Adventures Of Tintin – The Secret Of The Unicorn, composed by John Williams. It’s on the Sony Classical label.

For the fifth year, nominations for the annual Grammy Awards were announced on primetime television as part of The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music’s Biggest Night, a one-hour CBS entertainment special broadcast live for the first time ever from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Fun., Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West topped the nominations with six each; the Black Keys, Chick Corea and Miguel each garnered five nods; and producer Jeff Bhasker, mastering engineer Bob Ludwig and Nas are each up for four awards.

“The Grammy Awards process once again has produced a diverse and impressive list of nominations across multiple genres,” said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy. “This year’s nominees truly represent an exceptional and vibrant creative community that exemplifies some of the highest levels of artistry and excellence in their respective fields. Combined with the fifth year of our primetime nominations special, we’re off to an exciting start on the road to Music’s Biggest Night, the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, on February 10.”

This year’s Grammy Awards process registered more than 17,000 submissions over a 12-month eligibility period (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012). Grammy ballots for the final round of voting will be mailed December 19 to the voting members of The Recording Academy. They are due back to the accounting firm of Deloitte by January 16, when they will be tabulated and the results kept secret until the 55th Grammy telecast.

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles and once again will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8 to 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

Cartoon of the Day: Frosty The Snowman

Frosty The Snowman

Frosty The Snowman

What would the holidays be without great Rankin-Bass animated specials like Frosty The Snowman? 43 years young today, Frosty The Snowman is not that horrible sequel Frosty Returns (which was cel animated), but proper stop motion animation and narration by none other than Jimmy Durante.

A discarded silk tophat becomes the focus of a struggle between a washed-up stage magician and a group of schoolchildren after it magically brings a snowman to life. Realizing that newly-living Frosty will melt in spring unless he takes refuge in a colder climate, Frosty and a young girl who he befriends stow away on a freight train headed for the north pole. Little do they know that the magician is following them, and he wants his hat back. This animated short is based on the popular Christmas song of the same name.

June Foray was recorded as the voice of Karen (along with the Teacher), but only her voice as the Teacher remained in the finished cartoon, as she was replaced as Karen by another actress. “To this day, I am unsure of the reason,” Foray recalled.

The story of Frosty the Snowman had earlier been animated in a five-minute, black and white cartoon originally shown on “Garfield Goose and Friends.”

One of the sequels to this cartoon, “Frosty Returns,” was not produced by Rankin/Bass.

National Board of Review Lauds Animated Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” has been named Best Animated Feature of 2012 by the National Board of Review, the Board announced Thursday.

John Goodman was given the Spotlight Award for several roles, including his voice work in the animated Paranorman. (He was also recognized for his work in the live-action Argo, Flight and Trouble With the Curve.)

The National Board of Review awards are often considered the beginning of the movie awards season.

Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty was named the 2012 Best Film of the Year by the organization.

Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful film,” said NBR president Annie Schulhof. “Kathryn Bigelow takes the viewer inside a definitive moment of our time in a visceral and unique way. It is exciting, provocative and deeply emotional.”

Bigelow was named Best Director for her work on the film, while Jessica Chastain was named Best Actress.

The other films on the top 10 list are (in alphabetical order) Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Looper, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Promised Land and Silver Linings Playbook.

For Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper won for Best Actor and David O. Russell for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Beasts of the Southern Wild earned Quvenzhané Wallis an award for Breakthrough Actress and Benh Zeitlin one for Best Directorial Debut.

The Top 5 Foreign Language Films were Barbara, The Intouchables, The Kid With a Bike, No and War Witch.

Top 5 Documentaries (In Alphabetical Order): Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Detropia, The Gatekeepers, The Invisible War and Only the Young.

Top 10 Independent Films (In Alphabetical Order): Arbitrage, Bernie, Compliance, End of Watch, Hello I Must Be Going, Little Birds, Moonrose Kingdom, On the Road, Quartet and Sleepwalk With Me.

Other awards given by the National Board of Review:

Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, Compliance
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, Argo
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, The Impossible
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Documentary: Searching For Sugarman
William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 years of Bond films
Best Ensemble: Les Miserables
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Central Park Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Promised Land

A select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students, the National Board of Review viewed over 250 films this year, including animated, studio, independent, foreign-language and documentary selections. These screenings were frequently followed by in-depth discussions with filmmakers, directors, actors, producers, and screenwriters. Voting ballots were tabulated by the accounting firm of Lutz & Carr, LLP.

The National Board of Review honors diverse members of the film community at their annual Awards Gala, which also acts as a fundraiser for student grant philanthropy. Hosted by Meredith Vieira, this year’s gala will take place January 8 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.

Cartoon of the Day: La Planète Sauvage (Fantastic Planet)

La Planete SauvageEnglish Title: Fantastic Planet

La Planete Sauvage English Title: Fantastic Planet

A cartoon we get asked about a lot (and I do mean a LOT!) is La Planète Sauvage (English Title: Fantastic Planet). Not one I saw when I was growing up, but many of you obviously did. This joint production by French and Czechoslovakian filmmakers was seen as a metaphor for Soviet oppression of Czechoslovakia, and pressure from the Communist government.

On the fantastic planet of Ygam, located in a far solar system, a race of huge blue creatures called Draags keep Oms as domesticated pets. Oms are the descendants of the human survivors of Earth, comparably antlike in size and mistreated by the Draags. With the aid of a Draag knowledge device, an escaped orphaned Om manages to unite a society of wild Oms to revolt against their oppression. The wild Oms attack the Draags in their most vulnerable spot, a mystical moon orbiting around their home world: a moon which holds a powerful secret to the Draags’ existence.

Originally brought to America in the early 1970s through Roger Corman’s New World Pictures “European Acquisitions,” the film was wildly successful on the B-movie circuit with the “post-hippie trippers,” seen as a metaphor for class struggle.

Production design based on the artwork and drawings of Roland Topor.

First shown publicly at the Cannes Film Festival, May 1973. Commercial release: December 6, 1973. Re-released in February 1977.

Also known as: “Divoká Planeta” (Czechoslovakia), “The Fantastic Planet”, “Planet of Incredible Creatures” and “The Savage Planet.”

So when did you first see this sci-fi social commentary animated film? Does it still hold up today?

Bydlo Named One of Canada’s 10 Best Short Animated Films

Bydlo

Bydlo

Bydlo,” an animation directed by Patrick Bouchard for the National Film Board of Canada, was named Tuesday evening as one of Canada’s top short films of 2012.

The 12th annual Canada’s Top Ten list was announced at a Toronto gala organized by the Toronto International Film Festival Group. Actors Sarah Gadon and Don McKellar were the hosts.

An allegory of mankind heading for disaster, Bydlo is a tragic vision inspired by the fourth movement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Drawing on the composer’s brilliant ability to evoke work and labour in his music, Bouchard brings the earth to life through animated clay sculptures, creating a concrete and terrifying world, a tactile nightmare in which man is his own slave driver.

The film has been nominated for next year’s Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject. It premiered June 7 at the Annecy International Animation Festival.

Others in this year’s list of Top 10 Canadian shorts are (in alphabetical order) Chef de meute (Herd Leader), directed by Chloé Robichaud; Crackin’ Down Hard, directed by Mike Clattenburg; Kaspar, directed by Diane Obomsawin; Ne crâne pas sois modeste (Keep a Modest Head), directed by Deco Dawson; Lingo, directed by Bahar Noorizadeh; Malody, directed by Phillip Barker; Old Growth, directed by Tess Girard; Reflexions, directed by Martin Thibaudeau; and Paparmane (Wintergreen), directed by Joëlle Desjardins Paquette.

A list of Canada’s Top 10 feature films was announced as well.

“From a hilarious sex quest to an apocalyptic satire, this year’s diverse list of documentaries, comedies, dramas and epics serve the country’s savvy moviegoers the eclectic cocktail of films they have grown to count on from Canada’s Top Ten,” TIFF senior programmer Steve Gravestock said in a statement.

Added TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey: “We couldn’t be more impressed by the calibre of films the industry has produced this year,”

TIFF will screen films from both Top 10 lists at its Lightbox headquarters in Toronto from January 4 to 13. The screenings will be accompanied by special introductions and question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers. Some of the films will come to other Canadian cities in the new year. Screenings are planned for Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton.

A panel made up of filmmakers, movie industry people and journalists across Canada chose the two lists.