Saturday, 20 January 2018

Dorothy Malone RIP


Oscar winner Dorothy Malone, mother on ‘Peyton Place,' dies at 93

Associated Press
Los Angeles Times
20 January 2018

Actress Dorothy Malone, who won hearts of 1960s television viewers as the long-suffering mother in the nighttime soap “Peyton Place,” died Friday in her hometown of Dallas at age 93.

Malone died in an assisted living center from natural causes days before her 94th birthday, said her daughter, Mimi Vanderstraaten.

After 11 years of mostly roles as loving sweethearts and wives, the brunette actress decided she needed to gamble on her career instead of playing it safe. She fired her agent, hired a publicist, dyed her hair blonde and sought a new image.

“I came up with a conviction that most of the winners in this business became stars overnight by playing shady dames with sex appeal,” she recalled in 1967. She welcomed the offer for “Written on the Wind,” in which she played an alcoholic nymphomaniac who tries to steal Rock Hudson from his wife, Lauren Bacall.

“And I’ve been unfaithful or drunk or oversexed almost ever since — on the screen, of course,” she added.

When Jack Lemmon announced her as the winner of the 1956 Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role for the performance, she rushed to the stage of the Pantages Theatre and gave the longest speech of the evening. Even when Lemmon pointed to his watch, she continued undeterred, thanking “the Screen Actors and the Screen Extras guilds because we’ve had a lot of ups and downs together.”

Malone’s career waned after she reached 40, but she achieved her widest popularity with “Peyton Place,” the 1964-69 ABC series based on Grace Metalious’ steamy novel that became a hit 1957 movie starring Lana Turner. Malone assumed the Turner role as Constance Mackenzie, the bookshop operator who harbored a dark secret about the birth of her daughter Allison, played by the 19-year-old Mia Farrow.

ABC took a gamble on “Peyton Place,” scheduling what was essentially a soap opera in prime time three times a week. It proved to be a ratings winner, winning new prominence for Malone and making stars of Farrow, Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Parkins.

“RIP Dorothy Malone, my beautiful TV mom for two amazing years,” Farrow posted on Twitter.

Malone was offered a salary of $10,000 a week, huge money at the time. She settled for $7,000 with the proviso that she could leave the set at 5 p.m. so she could spend time with her young daughters, Mimi and Diane. She had been divorced from their father, a dashing Frenchman, Jacques Bergerac.

He had been discovered in France by Ginger Rogers, who married him and helped sponsor his acting career. They divorced, and he wooed and wedded Dorothy Malone in 1959. The marriage lasted five years and ended in a bitter court battle over custody of the daughters. “I wish Ginger had warned me what he was like,” she lamented.

Malone married three times — two and a half by her calculation. Her second marriage, to stock broker Robert Tomarkin in 1969, was annulled after six weeks, Vanderstraaten said. A marriage in 1971 to motel chain executive Huston Bell also ended in divorce.

“I don’t have very good luck in men,” she admitted. “I had a tendency to endow a man qualities he did not possess.” When a reporter suggested that she was well fixed because of the “Peyton Place” money, she replied: “Don’t you believe it. I had a husband who took me to the cleaners. The day after we were married, he was on the phone selling off my stuff.”

When she was born in Chicago on Jan. 30, 1925, her name was Dorothy Eloise Maloney (it was changed to Malone in Hollywood “because it sounded too much like baloney,” she said). When she was 3 months old, her father — a telephone company auditor — moved the family to Dallas, where she was raised in a strict Catholic household.

“As a child I lived by the rules,” she said in 1967, “repeating them over and over, abiding by them before I fully understood their full meaning.”

In 1942, an RKO talent scout saw her in a play at Southern Methodist University and recommended her for a studio contract. Her first three movie roles were walk-ons with no lines; her later roles were not much improvement. A move to Warner Bros. in 1945 provided greater opportunity.


In her first film at Warner Bros., “The Big Sleep,” she was cast as a bookshop clerk who is questioned by Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart). She closes the shop, lets her hair down, takes off her glasses and seduces the private eye in a shelter from a thunderstorm. Her other films at the studio were less provocative. They included “Night and Day,” “One Sunday Afternoon,” “Colorado Territory,” “Young at Heart” and “Battle Cry.”

Free of her Warner Bros. contract, Malone was cast by Universal in “Written on the Wind,” which she later termed “the most fun picture I ever made.” Important films followed: “Man of a Thousand Faces” as the wife of Lon Chaney (James Cagney); “Too Much, Too Soon” as Diana Barrymore, the alcoholic daughter of John Barrymore (Errol Flynn); “The Last Sunset,” a western with Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson.

None of the roles matched her Marylee Hadley in “Written on the Wind,” and she welcomed the offer of “Peyton Place.”

“At the time, doing television was considered professional death,” she remarked in 1981. “However, I knew the series was going to be good, and I didn’t have to prove myself as a star.”

After the series ended, she appeared in TV movies, including “Murder in Peyton Place” (1977) and “Peyton Place — The Next Generation” (1985).

With her feature career virtually ended, she moved to Dallas to take care of her parents. After they died, she continued living in Dallas, making occasional returns to Hollywood and forays into dinner theaters. In 1992, she was again in a top feature, playing an aging lesbian murderer in the Sharon Stone-Michael Douglas sex thriller, “Basic Instinct.” It was her final on-screen role.

Funeral arrangements were pending Friday. Besides Vanderstraaten, Malone is survived by a brother, retired U.S. District Judge Robert B. Maloney, and another daughter, Diane Thompson, all of Dallas.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Peter Wyngarde RIP

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Peter Wyngarde: Cult TV star who inspired Austin Powers dies aged 90


18 January 2018

The actor Peter Wyngarde has died aged 90, his agent has confirmed.

Wyngarde played dandy detective Jason King in the 1970s TV show of the same name - which was a partial inspiration for the Austin Powers films.

He had numerous stage roles, as well as playing the gold-masked Klytus in Flash Gordon and Timanov in Doctor Who.

His agent and manager, Thomas Bowington, described him as "one of the most unique, original and creative actors" he had seen.

"As a man, there were few things in life he didn't know."

"I sometimes nicknamed him The King because he simply knew everything," Bowington added.

Wyngarde started his career on stage, in a production on Noel Cowards' Present Laughter at Birmingham's Theatre Royal in 1947; and later starred opposite Richard Burton in the big-screen adaptation of Alexander the Great.

In 1959, he starred in ITV's South - which some have claimed was the first gay drama on British television.

Set during the US Civil War, it featured Wyngarde as a Polish army lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, who must decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner's niece; or a tall, rugged officer called Eric MacClure.

Broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press.

"I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close-up in my living room," noted The Daily Sketch's critic.

"I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role," said BFI curator Simon McCallum when South was rediscovered five years ago.

The furore over the programme did not affect the actor's career, and he guest-starred in a number of 1960s television shows including The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers before debuting Jason King in the spy drama Department S.
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The character proved so popular that Wyngarde got a spin-off series, which made him a household name in the US and Australia.

He started his own fashion column in a daily newspaper and, after Australian women voted him the man they'd most like to have an affair with, was mobbed at Sydney airport.

"It was one of the most terrifying experiences I can remember," he later recalled. "They got me to the ground, tore my clothes, debagged me... I was in hospital for three days."

Wyngarde was briefly married to actress Dorinda Stevens in the 1950s, and then had a long-term relationship with actor Alan Bates.

His career suffered a setback in 1975 when he was arrested and convicted of "an act of gross indecency" with a lorry driver. He was fined £75 by magistrates under his real name Cyril Louis Goldbert.

The star said the conviction upset him deeply, but did not affect his career. However, his days as a leading man were largely finished.

He attributed his decline to type-casting by "small-minded people", but homophobia was undoubtedly a factor.

King remained his best-known character, a globe-trotting playboy with an astonishing array of outfits. And it wasn't just his sartorial extravagance that inspired Mike Myers to create Austin Powers: King even uttered the phrase "groovy, baby" in one episode.

"I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me," he once said. "I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy - I used to go to the tailor with my designs."
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However, he took the character's lifestyle a bit too literally, battling alcoholism in the 1980s. He only quit after cutting ties with a close friend in a fight he couldn't remember.

"Jason King had champagne and strawberries for breakfast, just as I did myself," he told The Observer in 1993.

"I drank myself to a standstill. When I think about it now, I'm amazed I'm still here."

Wyngarde died at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London after being unwell for a few months.

His agent said that, despite his age, the actor had roles and appearances lined up for the coming year.

Mark Gattiss was among those paying tribute on Twitter.

"What a life. What a legend. Jason King is dead. Long live Jason King!"
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Fellow Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell also paid tribute, acknowledging that many details of Wyngarde's life, including his place of birth and parentage, were unclear.

"It's terrible and impossible that #peterwyngarde is dead," he wrote, linking to the star's uncharacteristically caveat-heavy Wikipedia page.

"Such an extraordinary, detail-disputed, life. He was oddly magnificent."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42731220

And he also starred in tow of the best horror films ever made: The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) and Night of The Eagle (Sidney Hayers, 1962)

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

I Am A Child
Human Highway
Teach Your Children


It was a cold night in York which meant that The Habit was half empty for the earlier part of the evening. With fewer players, the offer of 2 songs was extended to 3. However, as the night wore on, the bar filled up nicely and for the last hour there was a good crowd in the place. The acoustic jam continued for an hour after the main event and brought the usual eclectic mix of songs: - Tom Petty, The Platters, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, The Beatles etc.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Liam Neeson as Philip Marlowe?

Image result for liam neeson in hat fedora trilby
Liam Neeson to play Philip Marlowe. ‘It’s about bloody time’
At 64, is the Ballymena actor too old to play Ramond Chandler’s much acted detective?

Donald Clarke
The Irish Times
Monday 3 April 2017

It seems as if Liam Neeson is about to play Philip Marlowe. William Monahan, writer of The Departed, will be adapting Benjamin Black’sThe Black-Eyed Blonde – a sequel to Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe stories – and the Ballymena man has agreed to walk the mean streets.

“It’s hard to tell who has the more of a lion’s heart and soul, Philip Marlowe or Liam Neeson,” Monahan said. “I hope I’ve done the both of them and a picture I could not anticipate more some service.”

Benjamin Black is, of course, a penname for John Banville, Booker prize-winning novelist and former Irish Times Literary Editor.

The first thing to say is: it’s about bloody time. We think of Chandler’s private detective as one of cinema’s essential protagonists. But it has been nearly 40 years since he appeared in a major motion picture. (Meanwhile, in the last 15 years, we have had no fewer than three Spider-Men.)

The last big-screen Marlowe adaptation was, alas, Michael Winner’s misbegotten take on The Big Sleep from 1978. Trust Mr Winner to kill off a much-loved icon.

Memories of that film bring us to a second uneasy observation. One of the main criticisms of Winner’s The Big Sleep hung around the lead’s superannuation. Robert Mitchum got away with the role in Dick Richards’s fine Farewell My Lovely three years earlier, but, by 1978, then 60, the star was looking a bit scuffed around the edges.

Is it unkind to mention that Neeson is 64? Banville’s novel is set in the early 1950s when, if Chandler is to be trusted, Marlowe was approaching his middle 40s.

Ah, never mind that. Raised on a diet of cigarettes and rubbing alcohol, tough men aged a lot more rapidly in those days. Humphrey Bogart, who died at 57, never looked younger than Neeson looks today. Age need not be a consideration.

Professors in Chandler Studies will, however, remain cautious about seeing an accurate translation of the literary character. After all, it’s never really happened before. There have been some excellent adaptations of Raymond Chandler novels.

A case could be made for The Big Sleep (1946) as the best film of Howard Hawks’s illustrious career. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) is one of the great Los Angeles odysseys. Robert Montgomery’s The Lady in the Lake (1947) made famously audacious use of the subjective camera.

Yet none of those films really featured the character we meet in the books. They were none the weaker for that. But I make the observation anyway.

Phillip Marlowe drinks too heavily, but he is not an alcoholic. He is cynical about the compromises around him, but he never gives in to amorality. Bogart’s performance in The Big Sleep does not grind against those gears. The actor was, however, neither so tall nor so handsome as Chandler suggests.

He is also probably a little less well read. Banville described Marlowe as “a bit of an intellectual” in a recent musing on the creation of The Black-Eyed Blonde. Educated at Dulwich College in South London, Chandler was always proud of his learning and passed that on to his creation.

Ian Fleming admitted that, after reluctantly accepting Sean Connery as James Bond (who was supposed to look like Hoagy Carmichael), his perception of his own character began to change. John Le Carré said much the same about Alec Guinness’s portrayal of George Smiley (who was supposed to look like Arthur Lowe).

But Marlowe’s character remains reasonably consistent throughout the books. He is never so slovenly and disorganised as Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye. He is never so amiable as James Garner in the too-swinging Marlowe (1969).

The sense of an inner Englishman that Dulwich lent to Chandler’s creation is missing from all those performances. Marlowe is a deceptively nuanced creature.

It offers no great challenge to accurately represent an empty cipher on screen. Every actor who has played Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin – has wrestled effectively with the agent’s inner nothingness.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein on something else, there’s no there there. Such great actors as Bogart, Gould and Garner have, in contrast, made a workable hybrid from their own psyches and Chandler’s immortal material.

We ask no more than that Neeson do the same.


Probably not a great idea - though there were rumours that Hugh Laurie was going to play Lew Archer in a version of The Galton Case a few years back... Jon Hamm, anyone?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Dead Poets Society #63

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Sylvester’s Dying Bed by Langston Hughes

I woke up this mornin’
’Bout half-past three.
All the womens in town
Was gathered round me.

Sweet gals was a-moanin’,
“Sylvester’s gonna die!”
And a hundred pretty mamas
Bowed their heads to cry.

I woke up little later
’Bout half-past fo’,
The doctor ‘n’ undertaker’s
Both at ma do’.

Black gals was a-beggin’,
“You can’t leave us here!”
Brown-skins cryin’, “Daddy!
Honey! Baby! Don’t go, dear!”

But I felt ma time’s a-comin’,
And I know’d I’s dyin’ fast.
I seed the River Jerden
A-creepin’ muddy past—
But I’s still Sweet Papa ’Vester,
Yes, sir! Long as life do last!

So I hollers, “Com’ere, babies,
Fo’ to love yo’ daddy right!”
And I reaches up to hug ’em—
When the Lawd put out the light.

Then everything was darkness
In a great ... big ... night.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

Last night's set lists


At The Habit, York: -

Set 1: -
Unknown Legend
Through My Sails


Set 2: -
Teach Your Children
There Stands The Glass


A grey, misty day heralded a cold, quiet night at The Habit. Despite a shortage of players, which meant 2 sets from those who wanted to play on, the bar was never empty - a constant stream of punters in fact. Ron being away on holiday meant no Elderly Brothers songs this week. As is often the case, the after-show acoustic session was most enjoyable, with songs by Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and of course Neil Young.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Phil Collins remembers The Alamo...

Yep. That Phil Collins...
Image result for phil collins the alamo bbc radio
Phil Collins: King of the Wild Frontier

The largest private collection of Alamo memorabilia resides in an impressive Geneva home in Switzerland. Also resident is singer songwriter and Genesis drummer - Phil Collins.

Davy Crockett and The Alamo are his very private passion and Collins invites presenter Patrick Humphries into his home to talk us through his impressive collection. We discover how he began collecting, where he secures his artefacts and how he has organised excavations through the profits of a gift shop at the famous Alamo battle site.

We have all heard of The Alamo but why does this American battle of March 6th 1836, when 180 Texans fought an army of 6,000 Mexicans still resonate nearly two centuries on? Collins is very knowledgeable about this particular period of American history and talks impressively about the framed the documents and letters, the dozens of rifles and swords, authentic uniforms and the many artefacts collected across 30 years. His comments, are complemented by Historian Bill Chemerka and we hear Film buff Lee Pfeiffer, he talks us through films and TV series which have enshrined the Alamo in many young minds 50 years ago.

Crockett was a largely forgotten hero, but his legend was reborn in the 1950s thanks to a Walt Disney TV show, which also introduced his legendary coonskin cap into his legacy. The John Wayne Alamo movie also raised Crockett's profile. The programme also hears from a living relative of Davy Crockett, his great great great grandson also called Davy! He reveals how the family see his famous father's legend and the events at The Alamo. However it's Patrick's visit to Phil Collins home that makes sure this is a different kind of history programme, revealing in the process why this particular piece of American history touches people so deeply.

It's available on BBC iPLayer (which you'll need to sign up for - it's free) for another 29 days (and counting...): 


And an update on the collection:

Phil Collins donates Alamo collection to Texas museum

27 June 2014

Singer Phil Collins has donated his extensive collection of Alamo memorabilia to a Texas museum.

The 63-year-old Genesis star said he had amassed more than 200 artefacts after becoming fascinated with the 1836 battle as a child.

Collins said he was donating the collection - thought to be the largest in private hands - to ensure it was better cared for in the future.

It includes items such as a rifle owned by folk hero Davy Crockett.

At an event announcing the donation in San Antonio, Collins joked he had spent "all the money I made from music" on his collection related to the battle where 1,500 Mexican troops laid siege to 200 Texans fighting for Texas independence.

"Some people would buy Ferraris, some people would buy houses, I bought old bits of metal and old bits of paper," he said. He explained he first became interested in the Alamo after watching the 1950s TV series Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.

"I've had a love affair with this place since I was about 5 years old. It's [all] at my home, in my basement in Switzerland. I look at it every day, but no one else was enjoying it."

The collection also includes Crockett's leather shot pouch, a pair of powder horns which the soldier is believed to have given to a Mexican officer before his death, muskets belonging to Mexican soldiers and one of the original Bowie knives, made famous by Alamo defender Jim Bowie.

Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson said Collins would pay to ship the collection to Texas with the understanding the state would use public funding and private donations to redevelop the Alamo site - including a new building to house the collection.

The collection will begin arriving in Texas in the next few months and will be displayed on a rotating basis at the museum.

Collins said he would continue buying Alamo memorabilia and "once I've lived with whatever I buy for a month, I'll ship it over here".


And if you really want to push out the boat, there's a book:



Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Sonny Rollins a Night (and an Afternoon) at the Village Vanguard

Image result for sonny rollins at the village vanguard
Sonny Rollins Spent A Mythical 'Night at the Village Vanguard' 60 Years Ago Today

Nate Chinen
NPR
3 November 2017

One of the greatest jazz albums ever made was recorded 60 years ago today. It's A Night at the Village Vanguard, a live date by saxophonist Sonny Rollins, featuring a muscular backdrop of bass and drums. It's not a carefully plotted concept album, nor a manifesto, but a document with the slangy nonchalance of a conversation overheard on the street, extemporaneous and unburdened. It's a slice of musical vérité that captures a true master of the form on a good day, in a generous and jocular mood.

At 87, Rollins is an acknowledged eminence in American culture: Earlier this year his archives were acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, and there's a serious effort afoot to rename the Williamsburg Bridge in his honor.

He's also legendarily self-effacing, the harshest critic and most reluctant listener of his own past work. By his estimation, he hasn't heard A Night at the Village Vanguard since shortly after it was released. But, when I asked him to talk about the album and the circumstances around its creation, he readily obliged.

"The Vanguard was sort of the premier room at that time," he recalls, speaking by phone from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. "A lot of guys played there, and they all seemed to express the music without any sort of impediment. I felt particularly comfortable."

In the original liner notes to the LP, released on Blue Note Records in 1958, Leonard Feather notes that it "constitutes a double premiere." He's referring to A Night at the Village Vanguard being both the first live documentation of Rollins as a bandleader and the first album recorded the Village Vanguard, a wedge-shaped basement room regarded, then and now, as "one of New York's foremost havens of contemporary jazz."

Feather doesn't make much of it, but A Night at the Village Vanguard is a slightly misleading title, because the album also includes material recorded at an afternoon matinee. The evening trio features bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Elvin Jones, an assertive rhythm team that combined high-end volatility with the feeling of firm traction underfoot. In the afternoon, Rollins used Donald Bailey on bass and Pete La Roca on drums — a pairing with plenty of firepower but less mystery and nuance.

Each trio carves up a standard-heavy menu, with Rollins' tenor out front. He's a garrulous, but never gratuitous, host, wheeling through tangents and drawing thematic connections. Whether caressing songbook ballad "I Can't Get Started" or charging through his own boppish "Striver's Row," he sounds athletic and inspired, completely in the zone.

Generations of saxophonists have drawn inspiration from this document — especially when working in the spartan format of tenor, bass and drums, with no chordal instrument to trace harmonic contours or provide helpful cover. I've seen Joshua Redman with his trio at the Vanguard, paying an unspoken tribute to Rollins that felt both compulsory and earnest. I've heard similar echoes in pianoless trios led by the tenor sax players J.D. Allen, Jon Irabagon and Melissa Aldana, among many others.

Two nights ago, during a benefit for Puerto Rican hurricane relief at the Jazz Gallery in New York, saxophonist Branford Marsalis teamed up with Larry Grenadier on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, in what seemed an ad-hoc grouping. Their first tune was a swinging romp through Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," precisely the sort of tune you'd expect to hear from a Rollins trio, with a buoyant sense of phrase (and even some choice quotations) that made the homage clear.

Jon Irabagon, who calls A Night at the Village Vanguard "a formative album for me," gave it a fresh listen this week, and was struck again by its genius. "Rollins had one foot completely in the tradition, he was mining these standards, and he was also part of the aliveness — the surging life-quality — of jazz," he said. "Then it's the harmonic freedom, the melodic integrity and just the playfulness that he had. It's not beholden to some kind of codified language. There are so many surprises and twists and turns. You can hear the entire history of jazz on that record, up to that point."

It would be misleading to imply that Rollins' heroic performance on A Night at the Village Vanguard is primarily of interest to other saxophonists. "It's a textbook example of what modern jazz improvisation should be," the pianist Fred Hersch pronounced in an email. "Sonny plays with intelligence, warmth, humor and an expressive technique that seems to know no bounds." Hersch, who literally wore out his first copy of the album, advises all his piano students to study it closely, "as a means to understanding the subtlety of phrasing and deep connection to rhythm that Sonny, Wilbur and Elvin display."

A powerful wave of acclaim carried Rollins to the Vanguard stage. He had been highly productive the previous year, recording a momentous run of albums for Prestige — including a defining statement, Saxophone Colossus. He then signed to Blue Note, recording his label debut, Sonny Rollins, Volume 1.

That same year he married the actress and model Dawn Finney, and while their union only lasted about a year, it yielded one enduring artifact: a genial 12-bar blues in B-flat major that Rollins titled "Sonnymoon for Two." It made its first recorded appearance on A Night at the Village Vanguard, kicking off the record's second side.

Rollins didn't have a working band at the time of his Vanguard debut, and although he'd used a quartet with pianist Wynton Kelly in a Blue Note session several weeks earlier (for the album Newk's Time), he kept tinkering with his personnel. Feather reported in his liner notes that the first week of the engagement featured a quintet, with trumpet as well as tenor in the front line.

"I was very tough on guys," explains Rollins. "And during that whole period when I was at the Vanguard, I remember I was firing a lot of guys that came in to audition by playing a set. I let go of a lot of people. I know that I was a pretty hard taskmaster at that time." He doesn't specifically recall a trumpeter, but according to research by Lewis Porter and other historians (in The John Coltrane Reference, on Routledge), Donald Byrd appeared with Rollins at the club.

The tinkering ended with the group recorded on the evening of Nov. 3. "I had the ideal trio in Wilbur and Elvin," Rollins says. "I mean, if I wanted to present myself as the Sonny Rollins Trio – well, I certainly had no excuses with Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones."

Ware was known in New York at the time as the bassist in the Thelonious Monk Quartet; Rollins first met and played with him in Chicago in 1949, in a circle of local players that included the spectacular drummer Ike Day. "He was terra firma," Rollins said of Ware, "and that's one of the requirements of playing in the trio."

As for Jones: "Elvin was definitely one of my favorite drummers, as far as rapport," Rollins said. "He was more proactive than other drummers. It fit exactly with what I heard. You know, that laid-back sort of six beat that he had, which he played so expertly."

What Jones and Ware produced together, more than any other configuration during the run, was a quality of assertive engagement, notably in the realm of rhythm, without stepping on their leader's toes. "I'm a soloist, so what I needed was support," he said. "I needed support from the bass, I needed support from the drums. And these guys could give me support."

To call it "support" isn't entirely accurate, though, as Rollins himself admits. "When I'm playing trio, everybody has to know what they're doing," he added. "Everybody's out front. Even if they're supporting me."

A Night at the Village Vanguard was released in two volumes, but in 1999 Blue Note released a "complete" edition on CD. That version, now available on an array of streaming services, is a trove of insights, shedding light on the original LP. Among other things, you can hear a version of "A Night in Tunisia" played by the evening trio, at a less urgent tempo; it's wonderful, but you can see why Blue Note's Alfred Lion decided to interpolate the matinee take.

You can also hear Rollins' banter between songs, casual and welcoming, but with a faint ironic air. At one point, introducing "Old Devil Moon," he identifies it as a song from the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow, but then wonders aloud: Was it actually from Kiss Me, Kate? The consensus in the room — Finian's Rainbow — is correct, but Rollins still isn't sure. He proceeds in a deadpan: "So we'll now give you 'That Old Devil Moon' from the hit show Lil Abner." The scattered laughter that follows is the first sound you hear, fading up, on the original LP.

When I brought up "Old Devil Moon," Rollins said it was one of his favorites. "I believe that song was from Kiss Me, Kate," he added. "But I don't know about that."

He loves the song, composed by Burton Lane, specifically for its harmonic architecture, and what it enables an improviser to do. "The form was perfect for me," he said. "I could say what I wanted to say in the declarative way that I was playing. The melody just fit right into that. That song, it gave me just the right structure for me to say what I was saying."

A Night at the Village Vanguard began a glorious, ongoing tradition of live albums made at the club, more than a few recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, manning his equipment from a table by the stage. The saxophonist John Coltrane and the pianist Bill Evans each made stone classics there in 1961. The custom continues to this day.

But there was never a follow-up Vanguard recording from Rollins, which may have something to do with the club's founder and owner, Max Gordon. When I asked about his rapport with Gordon, Rollins bellowed with laughter, paused, and then laughed some more. "Yeah, sure, I had a rapport with Max," he said. "Max was very astute. He knew what was good. I don't know how come he became such an expert on guys, but he did know a lot of stuff."

Gordon died in 1989, and his widow, Lorraine Gordon, took over the club. Max Gordon's memoir — Live at the Village Vanguard, first published in 1980 — includes a wry chapter titled "Sonny's the Greatest," with a lot of emphasis on the eccentricity and unreliability of its subject. Gordon also seemed to feel that Rollins used the club as a stepping stone. "Yeah, I know all about Sonny Rollins," the chapter begins. "He's up in the big time now."

What's remarkable about the legacy of Rollins' album is that both he and the Village Vanguard are still with us, 60 years on. This evening, the Fred Hersch Trio will be in the club, paying homage simply by bringing their best. "As one who has played (and recorded) for many years at the Vanguard, I can attest that the sound of this record captures the acoustics of the club quite faithfully," Hersch said. "There is a buzz in the air that you can feel, and it makes you believe that you have the best seat in the house for this evening of extraordinary music-making."

And whatever residual feelings Rollins may have, he doesn't hesitate to say that he takes pride in the historic attributes of his album. "That was an extra little blessing, really," he said. "You know, starting the tradition of recording there. So I'm very proud of the fact that it was the first album from the Village Vanguard. There's something otherworldly about the fact that that was the album, and it wasn't that bad."

https://www.npr.org/2017/11/03/561559986/sonny-rollins-spent-a-mythical-night-at-the-village-vanguard-60-years-ago-today

Monday, 8 January 2018