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February 07, 2000 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-02-07

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Yo Momma ...
' Michigan Theater screens Pedro
Almodovar's "All About my Mother."
7 & 9:15 r.m.
michigandaily,.com/arts

LRTS

MONDAY
FEBRUARY 7, 2000

5A

Iincoln Center Jazz Sextet
gives 'historic performance

By John Uhi
Daily Music Editor
I propose amending the title of
tr peter Wynton Marsalis' recent
rd ding "Marsalis Plays Monk" to
"Marsalis Plays Duke Playing
Monk." The album consists of sup-
posedly updated
arrangements of
Monk tunes, but
never amounts to
Lncoln Center much more than
Jazz Sextet an interesting
Michigan Theater hypothesis about
how the pianist's
compositions
may have sound-
ed had Duke
E I l i n g t o n
(Monk's prede-
cessor) ever
taken his pen to

yearlong 1999 focus on musically
celebrating Ellington's 100th birth-
day. Perhaps it was an experiment,
conjecturing the ramifications of
how one of jazz's innovators would
interpret some of the modifications
to the music that took place after his
prime. Maybe Wynton's on to some-
thing here....
Marsalis is champion of an atti-
tude towards jazz known to some as
neo-classicism that suggests that, in
order to move the music forward,
musicians must understand and
apply the lessons of their elder
statesmen. The movement is noted
for its nearly exclusive focus on
musical trends established before
1960. In addition to his playing and
composing, Marsalis has used his
status as artistic director of Jazz at
Lincoln Center to promote the
music's history through projects like
the institution's The Ellington
Centennial and various education'

them. Perhaps
Marsalis was
influenced by his
Jazz Orchestra's

Lincoln Center Sextet, an ensemble
of musicians/educators who spent
last week presenting an educational
residency in Ann Arbor and Detroit.
The residency included lectures,
demonstrations and workshops for
high school and college students,
luncheons, casual discussions and
two concerts. I was able to spend
some time discussing the program
and the group's music with the sex-
tet's trombone player, Wycliffe
Gordon, who suggested that the
impetus for their sort of functional
education experience is its ability to
impart "an understanding from
someone that deals with it on-hand,
rather than just going by a textbook."
A practical idea for music that
derives its vitality from the active
interaction of its creators.
As I sat in on several of the resi-
dency's workshops, I noticed one
recommendation in particular that all
of the musicians seemed to espouse.
"You gotta develop your own sound."
I kept hearing it. But as the sextet
performed on Friday evening, I won-
dered if its members weren't taking
their own advice seriously enough.
Though the ensemble is immensely
talented, presenting an historic and
enlightening portrait of the first six
decades of jazz, none of the musi-
cians was a truly singular soloist.
Gordon came the closest. Often tak-
ing a moment to find his bearing as
he fumbled with mutes or returned to
the mic from stage-side, Gordon
transferred this dishevelment to his
solos through an array of honks,
squawks, growls and groans that
squeaked themselves into a style
with surprising finesse.
Indeed, the validity of Lincoln
Center's strict traditional ideology is
widely debated. In the January issue
of "Downbeat" magazine, saxophon-
ist David Murray, who has been one
of jazz's most significant developers

SAM HOLLENSHEAD/Daily
Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon gives a cheeky performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Sextet at the Michigan Theater on Friday.

subconsciously
Lincoln Center

programs.
One such program

is the Jazz at

since the seventies, said, "The retro
thing is really a problem for me. It
almost sounds like some museum
musicians up there playing .> it's
very difficult to tell people what's
happening when your head is stuck
in the past. You send people the
wrong message of what their lives
are supposed to be. In a way you
make a mockery of the present. What
happens is you kind of forfeit your
right to be there. Perhaps you should
be making bread or working on an
assembly line instead of being on a
bandstand playing that bullshit."
Murray's comments seemed to ring
true Friday, as the sextet was most suc-
cessful recreating pieces from the earlier
days of jazz history (New Orleans music
and standards) and exploring non-jazz
musical influences on the genre. For
instance, a gospel duet featuring pianist
Farid Barron and Gordon's plunger work
neared rapture and, along with an inter-
pretation of St. Louis Blues that cleverly
probed African, Caribbean and New

Orleans influences, was the evening's
high point. But on a version of "I've Got
Rhythm" by tenor saxophonist Victor
Goines and bassist Rodney Whitaker, the
tandem was hardly a shadow of the
astonishing 1945 recording by Don Byas
and Slam Stewart to which they referred.
And the band sounded flat when it tried
to play more contemporary music like
compositions by Wayne Shorter and
John Lewis.
There is great irony in the fact that this
sextet was least effective in rendering its
most modern material. In describing his
work with Marsalis' septet, Gordon said
"we studied all the periods of jazz. We
dealt with New Orleans music, we dealt
with bebop, we dealt with big band ...
we tried to incorporate all that into our
playing, truly being modern." Yet
Gordon does not mention studying the
music of Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler,
or The Art Ensemble of Chicago and, in
doing so, ignores much of the last forty
years of jazz history.
When I asked Gordon what he

thought of Murray's comment, he said,
"You're not moving backwards by play-
ing Louis Armstrong. When you do that,
you learn something." And he's right. It
is impossible to understand the work of
Coleman or the AEC without appreciat-
ing Satchmo, Sidney Bechet and
Ellington first. Gordon also said, "I know
most of these cats that do that (play
avant-garde). They can play. They
choose to do that, which really baffles
me." But Gordon and Lincoln Center's
similarly conscious rejection of nearly
half of the century's jazz evolution is just
as baffling. And for an organization that
poses itself as blazing jazz's legacy into
the American consciousness, it seems
irresponsible.
Nevertheless, when music students
from Ann Arbor's Community High,
School took the stage Friday as a sur-
prise opening act, still green as
solo.ists but extremely confident and
well-rehearsed, Jazz at Lincoln
Center's educational philosophy did
its best to fill its holes.

SAM HOLLENSHEAD/Dady
B ist and former University Music Prof Rodney Whitaker tears it up.

'Gun Shy' proves less than stellar gangster pic

I
0

By Leslie Boxer
For The Daily
Gangsters in need of therapy seem to
be -a Hollywood favorite -- "The
S~anos" ruled at the Golden Globes
and last year's "Analyze This" scored

big at the box office
Gun Shy
Grade: C-
At Quality 16 and
Showcase

. Now "Gun Shy" is
trying to join the
same genre with a
slight twist - this
time a good guy
is on the couch
searching for his
inner self. The
film centers on
Charlie Mayough
(Liam Neeson),
an undercover
DEA agent who
is overwrought
with anxiety
because his last
undercover gig

because Fulvio is known as violent and
unstable - we're first introduced to
Fulvio as he is about to cut off his neigh-
bor's hand because of a missing news-
paper.
So, like all other leading men in the
same situation, Charlie heads for psy-
choanalysis. Charlie ends up joining
group therapy and tells the DEA's
secrets to other whiny 40-something
men who have mundane complaints
about their white collar jobs.
Unfortunately for "Gun Shy,' the group
therapy scenes are lacking in the
comedic element that they so desperate-
ly desire. One area in which the film
finds redeeming moments of comedy is
in its own depreciation. Many of the
characters are based on self-proclaimed
"Miami Vice" cliches and win occasion-

al laughs from the audience.
An addition to the "I'm involved with
crime and I need a shrink" theme
involves Charlie's gastroentrological
problems and an overabundance of scat-
ological humor. This is how the audi-
ence is introduced to the romantic angle
in the film. "Enema queen" Nurse Judy
(Sandra Bullock) is a holistic healer that
falls for Charlie and makes his gas and
his stress more bearable. This part of the
film is thoroughly underdeveloped -
there is not enough of a romantic angle
to qualify it as a romantic comedy and
there is too little to warrant its addition
to the script. Bullock did, however, pro-
duce the film and perhaps she wanted to
play a small part so as to have her name
more outwardly associated with the pro-
ject (lucky girl). Regardless, there is no

chemistry between Neeson and Bullock
and the entire nurse Judy character is
superfluous. But, what can you expect
from a relationship that began over a
barium enema?
It seems that first-time writer/director
Eric Blakeney drew from his previous
experience as a writer for television's
"Wise Guy" and "Moonlighting." This
may account for the fact that, taken in
small doses, many of the scenes had the
potential to be funny yet often came up
short. Although the film is not devoid of
pure entertainment value, it's a cut-and-
paste version of many other better films
that have come out in the recent past.

There are those who
shy away from challenges.
And then there are those
who travel 9,000 miles
looking for them.
Selecting now for spring and
summer 2000 departures!

0

Information Meeting

. '".
0 lB

4

Tuesday, February 8

"
.
t
"

7:00 PM
International Center,Room 9
For more information,
call Nancy Parachini at
(734) 647-2182
or Peace.Corps@umich.edu.

(" www.peacecorps.gov
800-424-8580

t
.

i

C717

was a bust - it left him with a dead
partner and traumatic visions of water-
melon.
To add to Charlie's stress, he has
bi reassigned to another gangsters-
with-guns money laundering scheme as
the undercover cop figure. Charlie plays
friend to both the Colombian drug deal-
er, Fidel (Jose Zuniga), and the Italian
Mafioso, Fulvio Nesstra (Oliver Platt).
Much of Charlie's anxiety is built up

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