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November 22, 1991 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-11-22

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Friday, November 22, 1991 Page 8
Iloberts has all that jazz , "<K.'

by Josh Mitnick
iiarcus Roberts never plays in a
vacuum.
And when the rising jazz pi-
anist teams up with Ellis Mar-
salis in a piano duet at Rackham
Auditorium this Sunday evening,
yqu better bring your history
boks to the show.
-History, according to Roberts,
is what jazz music is all about,
and incorporating all of its ele-
ments live is at the base of his
musical philosophy.
"Everybody believes that you
have to discard history so you can
discover yourself. Historically,
that's never worked. No one ever
did that. That was great," he says.
In Roberts' book, jazz is no
different from any other academic
dikcipline.
"When you play an Ellington
standard, if you haven't studied
th'e different components that
make it a valid part of American
music, you can't really take it
anywhere," Roberts says.
For Roberts, this means that
performing the music is a contin-
udl learning process. "When I'm
playing an Ellington composi-
tion, the first thing I'm trying to
do-is establish knowledge of it,"
he says. "Next thing I want to do,
is to expand some component of it
in my own direction, based on the
time period that I've lived in. It
may be something that I got from
Coltrane, plus I have my own be-
liefs which are being developed in

stirred a Renaissance in the music
by paying homage to the leg-
endary performers and composers.
The best-known member of
this generation is probably trum-
peter Wynton Marsalis, a very
outspoken proponent of this phi-
losophy, and one with whom Ro-
berts has shared a history of
collaboration.
Roberts first played as a side-
person in Wynton Marsalis' en-
sembles in the mid-'80s. Despite
Roberts' and Wynton's extensive
collaborations he had never estab-
lished a relationship with Ellis
(Wynton's father) before now.
"I had always wanted to do
something with (Ellis). I didn't
know exactly what the context
would be," Roberts says.
Roberts says economic consid-
erations dictated the two piano
format - he originally wanted to
bring together both ensembles.
But the format has brought the
pianist into a relatively unex-
plored area of jazz creativity.
"Once we started doing it, we
started to see the huge range of
possibilities that we had playing
in that style of piano playing,"
Roberts says, adding that the duo
is still exploring the formats, the
potentials. "Frankly, it's a new
genre. It's really a brand new area
of improvisation that's being de-
veloped," he says.
Despite the generation differ-
ence between the performers,
Roberts says there is a natural
See ROBERTS, Page 11

0

Beauty takes pity on the hideous Beast (whose voice is done by Beast-like Man's Man Robbie Benson). Couldn't
spot any phallic symbols in this shot, but check out the castle in the background of The Little Mermaid poster.
Disney's animators create a
beauty of a Be ast for the 90S.

Beauty
and the Beast
dir. Gary Trousdale
and Kirk Wise

Roberts
response to all those things."
And if all this sounds famil-
iar, it should, because it reflects
the outlook of a younger genera-
tion of jazz musicians who have

LaBan and Pekar mix pictures
and words with social Politics

by Nick Arvin
Aliternative comic books
don't get no respect.
I've asked myself a lot
do-you want to do this shit
lik, something you can
sell?"' asks alterna-comicc

Terry LaBan. "And yet a lot of re-
ally talented people are doing this
. They stuff, for which there is no market."
LaBan graduated from the Uni-
'Why versity in 1984 with a B.S.A. While
? Is it, in Ann Arbor, he worked for the
really Daily, the Ann Arbor News and the
creator Gargoyle, doing political cartoons

MORNING.BECOM ES

A'

A CART' ON t6RY by T dg4,98?
NTs 1% EWR R-
LIKE. ?

and comics. Now LaBan lives in
Chicago and supports himself by do-
ing political cartoons and producing
his own comic book,Unsupervised
Existence, in his free time.
Another cartoonist, Harvey Pe-
kar, says, "There's very few people
doing alternative comic books who
can make a living at it." And Pekar
should know. He's been there from
the beginning.
Pekar has known Robert Crumb
since 1962, back when the "under-
ground" comics were first be-
ginning to appear. He's been pub-
lishing his own comic, American
Splendor, for 16 years, and has only
recently begun to realize a profit on
it. Despite appearances on Late Night
with David Letterman, the
adaptation of American Splendor
into a play and a recent option for a
movie, Pekar's primary source of
income remains a clerical job at a
hospital.
The comics that LaBan and Pekar
create - "alternative" or "inde-
pendent" comics - are not the kind
that most people think of when the
the subject of comics is brought up.
They contain no heroes in bright
spandex, no flying men, no mutants,
radioactive spiders or alien planets.
Superhero comics, LaBan says,
"shouldn't be the only kind of
comic that's there - I mean, it's
like all movies be westerns or
something."
Instead, the artists' stories are
about normal, everyday people, a
whole genre of the art that has been
virtually unexplored. As Pekar
says, "So little has been done in
comics, which means that so much
can be done."
LaBan represents a new wave of
comic book creators. His stories are
See COMIX, Page 11
CHANNEL
You thought she was gone for
good, ay? You thought if she
pulled any more, that earlobe
would come clean off. But no!
She's back! The new Carol
Burnett Show (9 p.m., Channels 2,
11 and 42) promises a truly new
and different kind of humor. Yeah,
right. Tonight's guest is Robert
Townsend.

by Aaron Hamburger
I n a recent interview, Jeffrey
Katzenberg, head of Disney pictures,
told the Daily, "There is not a word
or a set of words that I can find to
explain Beauty and the Beast."
How about The Little Mermaid?
Like The Little Mermaid, Beauty
and the Beast features a spunky
"feminist" heroine with a bright
smile and chirpy voice who longs
for adventure. Both films boast a
lovable and amusing set of support-
ing characters, highly suitable for
mass production in stuffed animal
form. Alan Menken and the late
Howard Ashman, the Oscar-win-
ning composers of Mermaid, also
wrote the musical score for Beast.
Finally, like The Little Mermaid,
Beauty and the Beast is a lively and
charming movie.
The heroine of this movie is
named Belle (Paige O'Hara), which
is French for "beauty" - get it?
Belle, whom the local townspeople
consider beautiful but loco, loves to
read and yearns to escape her
"provincial life." Belle gets her
wish when she is taken prisoner by
Beast (Robbie Benson), a horrible
monster who shuts her up in his en-
chanted castle, replete with talking
furniture. Though Beast seems
pretty grizzly, he is actually an en-
chanted prince who needs Belle's
love to regain his old human form.
As you'd expect from a cartoon
(or "animated feature" - the pre-
ferred Disney term), Beast has a
number of memorable supporting
characters. There's Gaston (Richard
White), the local egotistical hunk
who wants to marry Belle, but actu-
ally loves his own reflection more
than anything else. Veteran TV,
film and stage actor Jerry Orbach
does a great Maurice Chevalier imi-

Beyond the story, beyond the
massive animation achievement,
the real charm of Beauty and the
Beast lies in its songs. Weeks af-
ter seeing the film, you'll still be
humming that hilarious "Gaston"
tune. And the creative force be-
hind the music was the late
Howard Ashman, lyricist and ex-
ecutive producer of Beauty, who
died last March. The film is dedi-
cated to him.
Ashman's most well-known
credits include his off-Broadway
adaptation of Little Shop of Hor-
rors and, more recently, Disney's
Little Mermaid, for which he won
an Oscar for best song. Ashman
wrote six tunes for Beauty, as
well as several others for Dis-
ney's next animated feature, Al-
addin.
On all these projects, Ashman
worked with composer Alan
Menken. Menken fondly described
him as "a tyrant ... Howard and I
were uniquely suited to each
other. In a sense, we grew up to-
gether through our work at (the
off-off-Broadway Theater) WPA
in New York. We both came from
similar ethnic backgrounds, we
both loved musical theater and
loved rock 'n' roll."

}

#v

Beauty lyricist HowardAshman
(1950-1991) delighted audiences

tation as the voice of Lumiere, a
talking candelabra. David Ogden
Stiers is very convincing as a
stuffed-shirt mantle clock. And
Angela Lansbury joins in as a
friendly teapot, though she doesn't
solve any murders here.
As the voice of Belle, O'Hara's.
cute, but the real revelation is Ben-
son (remember him as the kid in The
Chosen?) as the voice of the Beast.
He growls in a deep, throaty voice
that conveys an affecting mixture of
tenderness and ferocity.
Much ado has been (justly) made
over the film's animation sequences,

which include a mixture of hand-
painted and computer-generated im-
ages. The combination is particu-
larly impressive in the film's daz-
zling ballroom dance scene. An-
other highlight for animation fans
is the alternately hilarious and as-
tounding dinner scene, in which the
silverware and plates put on a show
for Belle that would rival any
Broadway production number.
Part of the strength of this scene,
and the film, is the joyful, ear-catch-
ing musical score, including the
clever opening number, "Bonjour,"
See BEAUTY, Page 10

0j

Ashman
Some have seen Mermaid and
Beauty as representations of a new
generation of animators who are
now coming into their own. Per-
haps, but it will take an enormous
talent to maintain the musical wit
and charm so wonderfully estab-
lished by Ashman.
-Michael John Wilson

The Remarkable Case
of Dorothy L. Sayers
Catherine Kenney
The Kent State University Press/
Hardcover
Dorothy L. Sayers is certainly
one of the most memorable mystery
writers that ever set pen to paper,
but few people realize that she was
also a playwright, a poet, a scholar
and a lay-theologian interpreter of
Christianity.
The transformation from her
first publication (a book of poems
in 1918) to her final unfinished
work (a translation of Dante's
Commedia) is tremendous, espe-
cially if one considers that between
the two she brought the mystery
novel back into the fold of the tra-
ditional English novel, wrote plays

varying in form from a light com-
edy of manners to a modernization
of the life of Christ, and became a
well-known, if reluctant, critic of
the situation of the modern women.
A biography of such a woman
would undoubtedly be fascinating,
but it has already been done by at
least five other authors. Acknow-
ledging them, Catherine Kenney has
instead opted to examine Sayers'
life predominantly through her
work, in "not a biography or a
survey, but an assessment of Sayers'
major contributions to modern let-
ters and culture."
Over half of the book is devoted
to analysis of Sayers' most famous
creation, Lord Peter Wimsey, and
his mysteries. Kenney's main asser-
tion is that Sayers' best mysteries,

Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors,
are much closer to a comedy of man,
ners or a book by Jane Austen than-
anything by Agatha Christie.
The other half of the book is full
of information that most of Sayers'Z
fans had no idea existed. Here Ken-
ney introduces the reader to the
plays (religious and-secular), the es-
says and the speeches that Sayers
turned to after finishing with Lord
Peter. All of it sparkles with
Sayers' characteristic wit and intel2:
ligence, and invites the admirer to
look at the less-known half of her
writings.
After reading the introduction;,
it becomes clear that Kenney places d
Sayers in company with the best
English novelists. She gushes over
See BOOKS, Page 1

0

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