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Saturday, August 21, 2004

FresnoBee.Com > Elmer Bernstein, composer of many great film scores, dead at 82

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Film composer Elmer Bernstein, who created a brawny, big-sky theme for "The Magnificent Seven," nerve-jangling jazz for "The Man With The Golden Arm" and heart-rending grace notes for "To Kill a Mockingbird," has died.
Bernstein, whose prolific career spanned seven decades and earned him 14 Academy Award nominations, an Oscar win and an Emmy Award, died in his sleep at his Ojai home Wednesday, said his publicist, Cathy Mouton. He was 82.
Although he won an Oscar only once for the 1967 film "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - considered one of his weaker works - Bernstein was revered for experimenting with various techniques that bolstered the films.
"It's one thing to write music that reinforces a film, underscores it - the traditional sense of stressing, underlining - or gives it added dramatic muscle," director Martin Scorsese once said. "It's entirely another to write music that graces a film. That's what Elmer Bernstein does, and that, for me, is his greatest gift."
Among his more notable efforts were the scores for "Some Came Running," "Birdman of Alcatraz," "The Great Escape," "Hawaii," "The Great Santini," "Cast a Giant Shadow," "My Left Foot," "Devil in a Blue Dress" and "The Age of Innocence." He also composed several works for symphony orchestras.
In addition, he scored such movie classics as "The Ten Commandments," "The Magnificent Seven," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Great Escape" and "True Grit." Other credits included "National Lampoon's Animal House," "Airplane!" "Stripes," "Meatballs," "Ghostbusters," "Trading Places" and "The Rainmaker."
"Film music, properly done, should give the film a kind of emotional rail on which to ride," Bernstein told The Associated Press in a 2001 interview. "Without even realizing that you're listening to music that's doing something to your emotions, you will have an emotional experience."
"To Kill a Mockingbird" presented Bernstein quite a challenge. For six weeks he could find no way to approach the story, which concerned racism and the Depression in a small Southern town.
"Then I realized that the film was about these issues but seen through the eyes of children," he once recalled. "The simple score was played by a small ensemble, at times employing single piano notes, much like a child picking out a tune."
For "The Man with the Golden Arm," in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician, he discarded the studio orchestra for a jazz ensemble. For the landmark western "The Magnificent Seven," Bernstein composed a galloping march that remained famous for years afterward in TV ads for Marlboro cigarettes.
A piano prodigy who studied composing under Aaron Copland in New York, Bernstein moved to Hollywood in 1950 to work on his first movie score, for the football film "Saturday's Hero." After a few more routine assignments he made his mark with the moody music for the Joan Crawford thriller "Sudden Fear."
Although both hailed from New York, he was no relation to the legendary composer Leonard Bernstein.
"That's a common question," Mouton said. "They were friends and fellow New Yorkers, but they were not related in any way."
A supporter of left-wing causes, Bernstein's career was nearly destroyed by the Hollywood Red Hunt of the 1950s when he was summoned before a congressional subcommittee and told to identify communists in the film industry. He refused, saying he'd never attended a Communist party meeting.
"I wasn't important enough to be blacklisted, so I was put on a gray list," he once said.
Still, major studios refused to hire him, and he resorted to turning out music for low-budget films like "Robot Monster" and "Cat Women of the Moon."
Ironically, it was the vocally anti-communist director Cecil B. De Mille who broke the gray list by hiring Bernstein to replace the ailing Victor Young on "The Ten Commandments."
De Mille asked him, "Do you think you can do for Egyptian music what Puccini did for Japanese music in 'Madame Butterfly'?" The young composer accepted the challenge.
Through 200 movies and 80 television shows, Bernstein would prove that he could adapt to any kind of music. He won an Emmy Award in 1964 for "The Making of The President: 1960."
He is survived by his wife, Eve, sons Peter and Gregory, daughters Emilie and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.
A memorial service is pending.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Portland Tribune > To Bill Summers, it makes perfect sense that African-American musicians would tour the world offering a tutorial on Latin music

All that jazz
Reflecting trends, 23rd annual Gresham festival goes global
By ERIC BARTELS Issue date: Fri, Aug 6, 2004
The Tribune
To Bill Summers, it makes perfect sense that African-American musicians would tour the world offering a tutorial on Latin music. After all, he says, Latin music is from Africa.
“I was an altar boy in the ’50s and ’60s,” says Summers, the percussionist and driving force behind Los Hombres Calientes. “I know what Latin is.
“All of these instruments — guitars, woodwinds, horns — they all originated in Africa. Every last one of them. It puzzles me. Why don’t they call it African music?”
Summers, who brings his open-ended musical question to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival this weekend, says Los Hombres’ visit represents a shift in the promotion of jazz music.
“The jazz festivals nowadays have more than just jazz,” he says. “Most jazz festivals are more like world music festivals. They cover the gamut.”
Festival coordinator Steve Reischman, who says the pool of traditional jazz talent is shrinking, doesn’t disagree.
“There is a trend of world music in the jazz world,” he says. “You try to open people’s senses and eyes to a new kind of music.” Besides, he says, “there’s always been a very heavy Latin component in jazz.”
Summers, 55, says the newest thing in Latin music is the history you don’t know: “It’s not that people don’t want to give credit where credit is due. They don’t know what’s going on. I play black Cuban music because it’s not Cuban, it’s African.
“You can actually trace the history by looking at drums that were created in Central Africa.”
Along with the instruments and styles imported to the New World came terms like bongo, babalu and cha cha cha, he adds.

A city of music

Latin music has a long history in Los Hombres’ New Orleans home base. “New Orleans had 12 Spanish governors,” Summers says. “The archdiocese for New Orleans was in Havana. There’s a great connection between Cuba and music in New Orleans.
“Musicians from New Orleans, they’re very well-schooled. They put the other areas of the country to shame when it comes to education in the arts.”
To be sure, Los Hombres feature an improvisational feel that places them in the jazz neighborhood. But the band is a stylistic kaleidoscope. Trumpets that screech and cry atop driving salsa rhythms turn to silk over a lilting samba backdrop a moment later. Then, without warning, brassy horn salvos conjure the muscular ’70s R & B sound of an Earth, Wind and Fire.
“I’ve played with Ice T, Ice Cube, Tupac,” Summers says. “I’ve played with people in R & B: Barry White, Stevie Wonder. I’ve recorded with Sting. I love hip-hop. I love R & B. I love country. I don’t have this hang-up that jazz is better.
“I don’t consider myself a jazz musician, and I don’t consider Los Hombres Calientes a jazz band. It is the quintessential world music band. We play music from Brazil, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Our goal is to show the interrelation between the music of the world. Our approach is a worldwide approach.”

Eclectic lineup

The festival’s Reischman has taken a similar tack. Headlining Saturday will be the Heath Brothers, an act Reischman says “preceded the Marsalis family as the first family of jazz.” Also performing at the two-day event are vocalist Abbey Lincoln, guitarist Charlie Hunter, the James Carter organ trio and Madeleine Peyroux, whom Reischman likens to Billie Holiday.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” he says.
Los Hombres Calientes will not be joined by trumpet-playing frontman Irvin Mayfield, who has a scheduling conflict. Motown veteran Marcus Belgrave, like Summers a Detroit native, will replace him.
Summers says he and the 26-year-old Mayfield have formed a productive musical partnership. The duo’s most important discoveries often require a determined sense of adventure: “He and I together, going into the jungles and the rain forests and the backwoods.”
When a trip to Haiti put them in a luxurious Port-au-Prince hotel, they inquired about which of the capital’s poverty-stricken neighborhoods to avoid.
“That’s where we spent the next three or four days,” Summers says.
“This is a cool band doing cool things,” Reischman says. “My hope is that once people go through the gates, they’re gonna go, ‘Wow! I’ve seen something I didn’t anticipate.’
“You’ve got an evolving jazz idiom out there. Maybe it’s not dying.”

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Macon Daily > Jazz at Newport Turns 50 Amid Worries for Future

By: Justin Kenny
Sat Aug 7, 2004 07:12 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Wein, the 78-year-old founder of the now legendary Newport Jazz Festival, can boast a half century of success in drawing big audiences to hear jazz, but he worries about the future of the quintessentially American musical genre.

The event, now called JVC Jazz Festival Newport, turns 50 years old next week and has long been a magnet for jazz's top talent including Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck.

This year's festival, which opens on Wednesday for a five-day run, is seeing the strongest ticket sales in five years and is attracting some of the biggest names in jazz today.

Despite his feelings of pride and nostalgia, Wein is worried about what will happen to the festival after he's gone.

"The problem with jazz is that the legends are gone .... We have many, many wonderful young musicians but they haven't the following that say a Miles Davis had," said Wein.

This year's festival line-up includes Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Harry Connick Jr., Ornette Coleman and the man who has played more Newport festivals than any other artist, 83-year-old Dave Brubeck.

But Wein said he has an uphill battle when he's selling jazz. Most years at Newport, Wein supplements a jazz lineup with rhythm and blues and world music artists to appeal to a wider audience.

"I am very unhappy in what is happening, in not just jazz, but in show business in general because the only thing people are interested in is celebrity nowadays. That's the only thing that really sells tickets," said Wein.

"The concept of creating a great cultural event -- it doesn't have the meaning it had before. This is a world of celebrity. You put one name on there that has what you call celebrity and it sells more tickets in one hour than you can sell in 6 months to a great festival," said Wein.

"I worry about that because there's not that much celebrity involved in jazz at the moment. It's just great music."


Wein is arguably one of the most influential men in American jazz. In 1954, the short Jewish kid from the Boston suburbs made musical history when he launched the first major outdoor popular music festival in the United States at Newport.

Wein used the event as a springboard and created and produced hundreds of festivals (not just jazz) around the world including the Newport Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Wein still has the ability to draw crowds. Tens of thousands flock to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to hear a blend of rock, funk, jazz, blues, cajun, zydeco and world music every spring.

The lessons of marketing to today's celebrity-oriented audience has been a difficult one for the jazz ambassador who has seen his festival propel and reignite some of the great giants of jazz.

"A number of musicians became influential and successful through appearances at Newport," according to columnist and jazz historian Stanley Crouch.

"Miles Davis made his comeback at Newport so did Duke Ellington. Duke Ellington was kind of at the bottom of the business and then he played a concert there in 1956 and this blonde got carried away and started dancing in front of the band, then the whole audience started dancing and they went crazy. So, Duke Ellington went all they way up from the bottom right back up to the top," said Crouch.

While much of the festival's glory lies in the past, Wein is hoping to create a few legendary moments at this year's birthday celebration. Some of the planned highlights include a tribute to John Coltrane featuring the late musician's son Ravi and Michael Brecker on saxophone, bassist Christian McBride and Coltrane contemporaries pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Roy Haynes.

Friday, August 06, 2004

NPR > Trumpeter Masekela Reflects on Career in New Book

Morning Edition audio
Aug. 5, 2004

South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela, now 65, tells his life story in a new book, Still Grazing. The trumpter reflects on a life of performances, parties, and political protest. Ashley Kahn reports.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Musician Don Tosti is shown in an undated photo provided by his family. (AP/Courtesy of family)

Canadian Press - Pioneer of the Latin jazz 'Pachuco' sound dead at 81

August 3, 2004

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) - Don Tosti, a musician and composer who blended elements of jazz, boogie and blues to create the Latin 'Pachuco' sound of the 1940s-era Zoot Suit culture, has died. He was 81.

Tosti died Monday in his home. Doctors diagnosed him with advanced prostate cancer in May, according to his sister, Marylin Martinez Wood. Tosti began playing music as a boy and forged a career spanning several decades and styles, from classical to jazz to rhythm and blues. He was best remembered for his Pachuco-style compositions like the hit Pachuco Boogie. Recorded in 1948, it was the first million-selling Latin song.