Category Archives: jazz

French Fry Diary 508: The Crossroads at Garwood

Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

"Potato Chips" by Slim Gaillard

Jacqui Naylor – Lucky Girl

Lucky Girl ~ Sometimes the cosmos drops opportunities and coincidences in your lap. This is one of those times. Just a few days after discovering the work of Jacqui Naylor on my own, the producers of a documentary about the San Francisco-based jazz singer/songwriter approached me about reviewing that new film. I jumped at the chance.

Lucky Girl, subtitled A Portrait of Jacqui Naylor, follows “Naylor and her band for two years on the road and in the studio while they prepared new music for her eighth album, also titled Lucky Girl. The documentary chronicles Naylor on tour to several jazz clubs including Seattle’s Jazz Alley, San Francisco’s Rrazz Room, and the Istanbul Jazz Center in Turkey. Replete with performances, songwriting sessions, and behind- the-scene moments, the film transports the viewer through a series of musical montages and local flavors. Interviews with long-time band members and others close to Naylor give an intimate look at the life of this respected jazz artist who is also a practicing Buddhist and long-time San Francisco resident.” That’s the official press release talking there, and it pretty much tells the tale, but now it’s my turn.

As I said, I came across Ms. Naylor on my own, before I ever heard of Lucky Girl. My musical tastes are very eclectic. I’m crazy all over the board, from eighties metal to seventies story songs to old school rap to funk to new wave to punk to soundtracks to nerdcore – I love it all, but what I really love most are covers. I am a sucker for a good cover tune. That’s how I found Jacqui Naylor, through her covers. She does wonderful jazzy covers of, among others, the Stones, Talking Heads, the Kinks and even Rod Stewart. I absolutely love her mash up of “My Funny Valentine” with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” behind it. And then there’s her version of REM’s “Losing My Religion.”

Killer, isn’t it? That’s why I immediately agreed to review the documentary. I already knew Jacqui Naylor was something special. And almost like a gateway drug, the doc opens with the song in all its quiet thunder. Welcome to her world.

In Lucky Girl, we have the usual musical origin stories here, the how it happeneds, and the behind the scenes workings of artistic collaboration – all presented as an experience rather than just a documentary. But there is also Jacqui putting her own spin on things as well. She does what she calls ‘acoustic smashing,’ the technique referenced above with “My Funny Valentine” that has become her trademark. She feels if she has to do the jazz standards, she should make them her own. I love it. The effect is especially fierce on Jacqui’s Christmas album, Smashed for the Holidays.

The doc is unlike most music documentaries. I mean, the structure is the same. There are interviews interspersed with the music and performances, but there seems to be a more heartfelt and almost celebratory atmosphere. The musicians and crew Jacqui works with are her family. Her husband Art Khu is also a musician and collaborator and ‘real’ family. There is much love here. We see Jacqui in her home, in the studio, on the road, and there is always love and passion.

This really is a must see documentary. If you don’t know Jacqui Naylor, you will. If you don’t like jazz, you will. It will sneak by and hug you lovingly. I guarantee you’ll end up doing what I did as I watched Lucky Girl – hitting pause, and going to iTunes to purchase the great music you’re hearing. This is sooo recommended. The DVD drops on Tuesday, and if you get the chance, go see her on tour.

Bob Welch 1945-2012

Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Bob Welch was found dead today in Nashville. It was an apparent suicide based on a note found and from the self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest.

Bob Welch was with Fleetwood Mac in the early seventies before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band, and before Mac’s triumphant Rumors album. In fact Buckingham and Nicks were his replacements. Throughout 1977 Welch battled Mac on the charts with his album French Kiss featuring the singles “Ebony Eyes,” “Hot Love, Cold World,” and the ballad, formerly a Mac song, “Sentimental Lady.”

Legal troubles with Fleetwood Mac probably led to his being left out of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies when the band was inducted in 1998. In recent years, Welch had experimented with jazz and also released remixes of his earlier work. Rumors indicated Welch had undisclosed health issues before his death.

Quickies 2-10-2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ~ I really liked this a lot. It was clever, and owed more than a lot stylistically to both “Psych” and “The Mentalist” in the way they showed how Holmes’ intellect works. Whereas the first movie worked very hard to pull in new and old fans with its new twist on the characters, this sequel played it closer to the source material. Great ending in tribute to the old stories as well. If you’re a reader, you’ll see it coming a mile away. Loved it, and can’t wait for the next one.

Three Inches ~ This SyFy pilot doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, a serious concept or a sitcom filmed like a drama. A teenaged boy discovers that he’s telekinetic, but can only move objects a distance of three inches. Superhero antics without costumes that comic book fans will hate. It might as well be “Alphas” meets Mystery Men, but with a hesitant sense of humor. Me, I hope it doesn’t become a series, but it’s always nice to see Andrea Martin, and she’s great here.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ~ Now I slept through a lot of this apparently. That seems to be a problem because to me, it didn’t seem like I missed much. Tom Cruise didn’t talk much, and it felt like wall-to-wall action. Cruise hanging off the building, which I did see, is do not miss. The problem is that I only really saw an intermittent half-hour of this flick, and it’s really almost two and a half hours long. Judge as you see fit.

Jazz Boat ~ Screenwriter Ken Hughes directed this 1960 pseudo gangster musical that was apparently supposed to be Britain’s answer to Guys and Dolls. It’s all youth gangs in London tussling over girls and money in a confrontation that finally takes place on a riverboat on the Thames, with musical interludes along the way. Much more entertaining than it sounds, we get to see what kind of star Anthony Newley could have been. I liked this a lot, serious guilty pleasure.

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The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer ~ Okay, I confess, I’ve never seen the classic 1927 The Jazz Singer before, heck, I’ve never even seen the 1979 Neil Diamond version. I know, I know, how dare I call myself a film critic and not have seen it. Well, sit still, I’m amending that tonight as I watch it.

I know of the film’s importance, in fact I know quite a bit about it, just never sat through the whole thing before. We all know the story, Al Jolson plays Jakie Rabinowitz, the son of a devout Jewish cantor who wants his son to replace him when he retires, all Jakie wants to do is be a song and dance man on stage. It’s a touching, time honored story, one that resonates today. The generation gap always works, just ask Neil Diamond.

The film is often noted as being the first talkie, but in reality, only a few sequences feature what was called ‘synchronized dialogue.’ And despite the name, there’s not really all that much dialogue beyond the six songs featured. That said, the musical sequences are amazing, and probably startled and stunned audiences for the better when it was first seen in movie theaters.

The Jazz Singer, despite its reputation is primarily a silent film, with terrific singing episodes, and it’s also a damn good flick with dynamic if melodramatic performances. But then again, silents operated on the melodrama principle, so no points off. This is a great film, not really what I expected, but still one of the best films of its era. See it if you get a chance. The DVD has some wonderful background material.

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RIP Amy Winehouse

In early 2007 friends were chattering about a stunning new voice in music called Amy Winehouse. By the summer of that same year, the single “Rehab” was everywhere and she was a superstar. And by the end of 2007, and through to the end of her life, due to her erratic and self-destructive behavior, she had become a punchline to a bad joke.

Amy Winehouse passed away yesterday, at the age of 27, due to unconfirmed circumstances. Her interesting past with various illegal substances lead many to believe it was drug or alcohol related. The singer/songwriter was a fresh new voice crossing genres and garnering multiple awards and nominations. However you see her, talent, train wreck or media target, Amy Winehouse will be missed.

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RIP Gil Scott-Heron

I love music, but I’m not a big jazz guy. I’m a writer, a published poet, I even run an online poet’s group, but I’m not a poetry guy. I only like certain kinds of rap and hip hop, but I’m nowhere near what you would call a fan. All that said, I love Gil Scott-Heron.

Gil Scott-Heron was not a jack of many trades, but a king. He was one of the godfathers of rap, a brilliant jazz musician, a genius of spoken word, a poet, a performer, a social activist, and he was one of my favorite artists. He is one of the few artists of whose work I have worn out tapes and vinyl records of. I didn’t always agree with him politically, but I love his way with words, ideas, sounds and grooves. He was a master.

The master passed away yesterday and we are all poorer for it. Whether you know him from “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” the No Nukes concert, the songs “B-Movie” and “Re-Ron” during the Reagan Administration, “Whitey on the Moon” from the Howard Stern show or just from his phenomenal catalog of music – Gil Scott-Heron will be missed.

Below enjoy the song he’s most known for, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” and my personal favorite “17th Street.”

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True Blood: I Got a Right to Sing the Blues

Sookie’s first line in this episode, “Eric, what the f**k?” says so much. It describes accurately my thoughts on the season so far, and is also the perfect commentary on this opening scene, a very tense situation in the royal court of Mississippi. Russell is a very deadly foe indeed, and not a vampire king to be trifled with, or tricked.

This is an Alan Ball script and it shows. His care and respect of the characters is plain when compared to the cartooniness of previous episodes. Under the pen of Ball, everything rolls much better. No pun intended. And under his pen, it looks like Jason has left cartoonland and entered into his initiation as a shapeshifter, just like in the books. And by the way, speaking of the books – those of you who have read them, stop telling those of us who haven’t what’s going to happen. Puh -leeze. Thank you.

The title of this episode is derived from the Billie Holiday song that plays as Lorena tried to kill Bill, as instructed. It’s a reminder of their jazz age romance/partnership, nicely played. Bill is certainly a sly one when he wants to be. Speaking of sly, Tara is quite the bitch, but then, Franklin does deserve it.

Everyone is sly in this episode. Eric does some startling and amazing face changes, his chameleonic performance is one of the prizes this night. The charisma bubbles from the interrogation of Sookie by Russell and later in the evil ride with Russell and Eric. It’s disturbing to see that Russell (a Southern stereotype unfortunately) is also a racist, and not just against the human race. Great tension, great secrets, juicy stuff.

Other things I liked this time include the secret of Sam’s family taking an exciting and unexpected turn, making all the puns of past episodes make complete sense. I also loved Jessica manipulating and glamoring (and eating) the customers at Merlotte’s. I loved the slice of Lafayette’s love life despite how it ended. More please, Lafayette is criminally underused.

All good stuff, all going to show it’s good for a series when the creator takes the reins, even if for just an episode or two. Another great cliffhanger ensures I will be here next time. Can’t wait.

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