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November 22, 1989 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-11-22

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ARTS

I

the Michigan Daily

Wednesday, November 22, 1989

Performers stand, are Counted

J

BY BEN AQUINO

FOR nearly five decades, William "Count" Basie
commanded a jazz orchestra unmatched by any
other. From 1935, when he took over as leader of
Bennie Moten's jazz band, to his passing away in
1984, the Count wowed audiences all over the
world. There have been other bands, but none can
quite compare with the Count Basie Orchestra.
Count Basic carved his own niche in the jazz
world with such recordings as "Corner Pocket,"
"Jumpin' at the Woodside," "Shiny Stockings,"
and his signature piece, "One O'Clock Jump." He
also gained recognition for being a fine arranger,
with innovative charts for such songs as "April in
Paris" and "Everyday I Have the Blues." As a pi-
anist Basie was in a class by himself. His comp-
ing and soloing were light and sparse, but the few
notes he played always swung, and his band al-
ways swung with him.
Over the years, some of the finest instrumen-
talists in jazz have been associated with the Count
Basie Orchestra. The illustrious list includes such
names as guitarist Freddie Green, tenor saxophon-
ists Frank Foster and Frank Wess, trumpeters
Harry "Sweets" Edison and Ed Lewis, trombonist
Benny Morton, and drummer Louis Bellson. The
list of vocalists who have sung or recorded with
the band reads like a Hall of Fame: Joe Williams,
Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Frank Sinatra,
Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan, not to men-
tion the man who will be here with the Orchestra
this Saturday, Billy Eckstine.
Billy Eckstine first found fame in the late

1930s, when the legendary Earl "Fatha" Hines
asked him to sing with his band. Just a few years
later, Eckstine set out on his own and formed a
band that, as it turned out, became one of the
most innovative ones of its day. It helped bring
forth the bebop style, and many of its members
were also leaders of the bebop movement, most
notably Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy
Gillespie.
In 1948, Billy Eckstine broke out on his own,
and since then, he has remained one of jazz's
premier vocalists. In recent years he has worked
with the likes of Quincy Jones and Herb Alpert,
but this Saturday, he finds himself back with the
co-musical direcor of his band in the 1940s -
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. People who know
little about his music recognize him by his up-
turned trumpet and puffed-out cheeks. Those who
know his music know him as one of the pioneers
of the bebop movement, and more importantly, as
one of jazz's most tireless ambassadors of good-
will.
Gillespie started out in the late 1930s as well,
earning a job in Cab Calloway's band. In the
1940s, he played briefly in bands with, among
others, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, and Fletcher
Henderson, but his most notable musical cohort
in those days was Charlie Parker. He and "Bird"
were able to take the music to places it had never
been before, and with their help, bebop was born.
This Saturday night brings together these three
great institutions of jazz in tribute to a man who
meant a lot to all of them - Count Basie. Dizzy
Gillespie and Billy Eckstine were both friends of

Page 5
Donny Osmond
sings song of himself
BY PETER SHAPIRO
YOU know you've definitely arrived on the music scene when you're
recognized by your first name alone. Elvis, Fabian, and Yoko are such
pop icons. But when you're known by a name as common as Donny,
you've really made your mark. No, I'm not talking about Donny Ho, I'm
talking about "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers," Donny Osmond.
Like Elvis, Donny's mystique goes fair beyond his music. Donny is
the epitome of the timeless symbol of transcendent youthfulness. Donny
is a benefactor of the Dick Clark syndrome - he never grows old.
Although he is way past puberty and his voice no longer cracks charm-
ingly in the middle of a song, he is still the all-American teen idol. His
boyish good looks, seeming naivete, and exuberance in new experiences'
combine to form the embodiment of the American ideal.
But like his spiritual soulmate, Walt Whitman, Donny refuses to re-
main static. He constantly re-invents himself in a never-ending quest for
identity. From cutesy prodigy to unshaven rebel, Donny has defined a
style of bubblegum pop that goes deeper than market strategy packaging
- it parallels his search for values and beliefs. In his music, he has al-
ways attempted to reconcile his Mormon tenets with the passionate flame
of rebellion in rock 'n' roll. Presently, it seems that Donny has followed
the 20th century path of nihilistic rejection. Donny's new record, Soldier
of Love, is filled with sexual references in its exploration of his personal
role in relationships. Religion is never mentioned explicitly, but his pre-
occupation with sensual themes seems to suggest that God is indeed dead
in Donny's cosmology.
Donny is bringing his anarchic sensibilities to the Palace at Auburn
Hills tonight to sound his "barbaric yawp across the rooftops" of South-
eastern Michigan. Hopefully the show will be a retrospective of his ca-
reer that will act as a succinct summary of the cultural innovations of
one of the most important figures in the American mythos.
DONNY OSMOND, with opening act WATERFRONT, will perform at
the Palace tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.50.

Dizzy Gillespie (above) joins Billy Eckstine and
the Count Basie Orchestra in a tribute to Count
Basie this Saturday in the Michigan Theater.
the late bandleader, as well as Frank Foster,
Basie's long standing tenor saxophonist who now
directs the Count Basie Orchestra. The perfor-
mance should include some of the band's signature
numbers, as well as some standard charts and
works by both Eckstine and Gillespie.

BILLY ECKSTINE, DIZZY GILLESPIE, and
COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA perform
Saturday at the Michigan Theater at 8:30
Tickets are $18.50.

THE
this
p.m.

" Sworn to obscurity

Harlem Nights
dir. Eddie Murphy
BY TONY SILBER
There are two kinds of awful
films. One kind has no potential, no
promise, and no intention of being
anything resembling a quality mo-
"tion picture, such as Rambo I1. The
other has potential and promise, but
is unable to achieve it and thus goes
backwards from the start, such as
Heaven's Gate. Harlem Nights has
the dubious distinction of achieving
both of these. Let me explain.
It is perhaps one of the worst
films to appear on the big screen in
recent years. Thoroughly abysmal
from start to finish, the film head-
lines two major talents in the world
of comedy, Eddie Murphy and
Richard Pryor, who have now dug a
large crater with Harlem Nights.
Consequently, it may take them sev-
eral years and several films to escape
from the stigma that they have now

I inflicted on themselves.
Terrible, disappointing, disas-
trous - these are all words that
come to mind after a screening of
this cinematic refuse. It is a film
with Black stars, a Black writer and
director who have mercilessly un-
covered every harmful Black stereo-
type and attempted to poke fun at
them in a tasteless and completely
embarrassing manner. Harlem
Nights has no virtue whatsoever. It
is a testimony to cheap, racist
"comedy" which is anything but
humorous. The fact that this "film"
was conceived of and produced by
Blacks is particularly disturbing.
Harlem Nights is nothing more
than a shoddy Black rendition of The
Sting as the two heroes try to put
one over on a ruthless gangster
named Bugsy (of course). The differ-
ence is that Murphy and Pryor's ver-
sion is predictable, dull, and worthy
of hateful epithets. The dialogue
especially strikes a brutal chord as

TH ESPOTLIGHT
For all of us not leaving town for
that white imperialist celebration,
there's a lot of good stuff in town
this weekend, anyway. Dave Brom-
berg, of the melodious guitar and the
(endearingly) squeaky voice, is play-
ing two shows at the Ark in support
of his first record in more than a
decade. Sideman Serenade, boasting a
"city side" and a "country side,"
showcases the multifarious talents of
Bromberg and features some of his
nearest and dearest: Jackson Browne,
Dr. John, Jorma Kaukonen, and
more. The shows are at 7:30 and 10
p.m.; tickets are $10.75. You can
also catch the 25th anniversary of
Disney's most ideologically sound
movie, Mary Poppins, at the Michi-
gan Theater. Julie Andrews subverts
the repressed lifestyle of the Edwar-
dian bourgeoisie, broadens our vo-
cabulary, and puts up with Dick Van
Dyke's incredible Cockney accent.
There are some songs too.

RIDE ,TIE WAVE
Use and Read
gft ficig attIV Classifieds
CNiEMA DIRECTORY

Eddie Murphy, Richard Piyor and Redd Foxx each made a bad career de-
cision and wound up in Harlem Nights, a leading candidate for film fiasco
of the year.

the constant four-letter "expressions"
of these two comedians are tiresome
at best, repulsive at worst. There is
more swearing in this film than
Scarface and Blazing Saddles com-
bined.
Murphy and Pryor are backed up
in the film by their merry band of
swearing night club employees like
Redd Foxx and Della Reese, whose
motion picture and comedy experi-
ence is invisible within the drivel
which writer/director Eddie Murphy
has provided for them. The other cast
members are quite forgettable; they
merely dress up the ornate sets that
have been created by Paramount Pic-
tures at great expense, but which
will probably have to be liquidated
so that the film can show something
in the assets column when they de-

Clare a huge loss on this mess.
Harlem Nights is a comedy that
is more loathsome than humorous.
The film reinforces derogatory
clich6s, regressive cultural values,
and racist stereotypes of Blacks. An
overabundance of revolting sex jokes
and graphic violence also adds to this
totally unpleasant moviegoing expe-
rience. Though some may argue that
this film has promise and potential
in its established cast, a look at the
finished product will clearly reveal
that this is a film so devoid of any
merit and so abundant in despicable
material that a reconsideration of
values at Paramount and with Eddie
Murphy is demanded.
HARLEM NIGHTS is playing at
Showcase Cinemas.

-Auditions for the RC Players pro-
duction of Chekhov's The Three Sis-
ters will be held December 6 and 7,
6-11 p.m. Sign-up in the Green
Room, 1505 Frieze Bldg. Bring a
short prepared 1-3 minute mono-
logue and be familiar with Ronald

Hingley's translation (available at
any campus bookstore).
Auditions and Opportunities runs
Wednesdays on the Daily Arts page.
If you have items for the column,
call 763-0379.

"

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