10 August 2005 | byoolives
Two different movies
This movie is pre Bacall and during and after Bacall. The pre part is much better. It's not Bacall's fault. The best part of this film comes near the end. If you recall, shortly after Art's death and his breakup with Amy, Rick embarrasses himself on the bandstand one night, and the bandleader follows him to the dressing room to give him a severe reprimand. He tells Rick that the boys in his band don't drink while their working. Rick replies that he has to drink to listen to his kind of music or he'd go nuts. The leader retorts, that Rick has done pretty well with his kind of music, and who ever heard of him before he gave him a break. Then, the leader says "what do you think this is a spasm band like Art Hazzard's". Then Rick replies with what every real musician has wanted to say to every leader, fan, critic, mother in-law, well, basically anyone who just doesn't have a clue about music. Any music, not just jazz.(Symphonic musicians want to say the same thing to some idiot conductor for example). Rick says: "Why you stupid....if that tin ear of yours could really hear the kind of music that Art Hazzard was playing, you'd go out and shoot yourself". That's what the story, the characters of Rick and Smoke, and Beetoven for that matter, is really all about. Smoke sums it up later when he says something like "you know who buys records, 14 year old girls, to learn the words. The only guys who care about the music are the guys who are doing it". Only a dedicated musician (and that's the tragedy) understands what's going on up there. That's the frustration. Of course it used to be a little different back when this film was made, because at least then, people put a priority on at least learning an instrument. It was considered important to a person's growth and education. Shari Lewis, the late puppetteer, creater of lamb chop, once said that "Music is not secondary. It is as important as the three r's" (reading, writing and rithmatic). To further illustrate, I recall viewing one of the local news stations in New York . On their own, the stars and crew of the broadcast decided to make up their own top ten list of the greatest songs ever. There was not one song on that list that pre dated 1965. Imagine, totally ignored were the songs of Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, Vernon Duke, Cole Porter ,etc. By the completion of the list I was so disgusted, I wanted to say the same thing to them that Rick said. "Why you stupid.... One reviewer on this site expressed that he guessed you have to be a musician to really understand this movie. He is probably right, but maybe you don't have to be a professsional, some first hand knowledge might at least be helpful. I have known many horror stories like Rick's . Not only Bix died young, but Fats Navarro and Bunny Berigan were also great trumpet players who died young of alcoholism. Let's not forget Mozart as well. A very young friend of mine, Wes Norris (piano player) died at the age of 28 from the same affliction. I could go on. But you are probably glad that I won't. Musicians while on the bandstand have amusing ways of dealing with the ignorance of leaders, fans, etc. The musicians have substitute names for some of the songs they hate. When for instance the leader would call out "Memories" it is referred to as Mammaries. "Feelings" is known as Ceilings. Of course nicknames are also given to songs that they like. "I only have eyes for you" is I only have ICE for you and "Cry me a river" is FRY me a LIVER. And I can't tell you how many collective groans went up when ever "In the Mood" had to be played. Yes! "In the mood" was a favorite of many a musician in his youth, but as they matured they grew out of it. Of course the groan was partly due to the constant requests for it. When sometime in the future , historians look back on the current period, they will call it(with the exception of salsa) the dark ages of music. Even the musicians or at least a great many of them don't know what they are doing. And you can take that to the bank. Many of todays artists wouldn't even be able to play what was heard in this film. That's because this film's music is so much more complicated than the music of the last forty years, and it takes so much more virtuosity to play a non electrical instrument. The electronics of the new music is very limited in color, tone, dynamics and variety of sound. This relatively new emphasis on electricity,(akin to special effects in the movies) is responsible for a good deal of the ignorance around us. It's like when some 14 year old reviewer says that the greatest movie of all time is "Jaws" or "Star Wars" III, when he's never even heard of "Sunset Bouelevard". In the movie "Barbershop", Cedric the Entertainer tells Ice T, "that's the trouble with your whole generation, you have no history". The fine musician knows whom and what has come before him, just like Rick knew Art. Miles knew Dizzy, and Dizzy knew Eldridge, and Eldridge knew Louie, and Louie knew Oliver. Mozart knew Bach and Beetoven knew Mozart. etc. Charlie Parker knew Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein knew the great Louie Armstrong. I wonder what Snoop Dog knows?