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June 22, 2018:

SWINGING WITH THE SWINGLE SINGERS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here listening to the one and only genuine original Swingle Singers swing to classical music – they are so incredible and how clever is the name Swingle Singers.  So clever, in fact, when you realize that it’s not clever at all because Swingle is Ward Swingle, the gent who created the group.  And even though it’s a group one of the voices is instantly recognizable when it stands out – one Christiane Legrand, who sang the role of Catherine Deneuve’s mom in her brother Michel’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.  She also dubbed Julie Andrews in the French version of Mary Poppins and sang in The Young Girls of Rochefort.  I mentioned that I’d listened to their great Jazz Sebastian Bach album – the one playing now has The Four Seasons and other selections and is equally fantastic.  I can’t wait for more of their incredible albums.  Do beware that there is another group that used the name and recorded for Virgin Records – they’re an entirely different thing.  Not only are these albums fantastic, they SOUND fantastic – crystal clear, the voices shine through perfectly in perfect stereo, with just bass and drums to accompany them (save for their wonderful album with the Modern Jazz Quartet.

And speaking of the Modern Jazz Quartet, last night I sat on my couch like so much fish and watched a Blu and Ray entitled Odds Against Tomorrow, a motion picture directed brilliantly by Robert Wise, and featuring a great company of players, including Harry Belafonte (he produced the film through his company), Robert Ryan (absolutely brilliant – how he was not nominated for a supporting actor award is disgusting, but then this film received zero nominations), Ed Begley, Shelly Winters, and Gloria Grahame, along with a large supporting cast including a very young Wayne Rogers and Zohra Lampert. The movie is fantastic – a heist movie and a movie about racism and anger and all sorts of other goings on. Shot in black-and-white the film has a unique look and feel, but the thing that really gives it a one-off feel is the musical score by John Lewis.  Whoever had the idea to have the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet score this film it was genius.  The quartet all play on the soundtrack with a twenty-something piece orchestra.  It’s just great.  Now, this same transfer was released by BFI a couple of years ago in the 1.33 Academy ratio.  They based that on one sentence from the AFI that said this film was the final black-and-white film shot in standard ratio.  So, everyone has completely interpreted that incorrectly because I am here to tell you that in 1959 the standard ratio was not 1.33 it was 1.85.  Wise’s two subsequent black-and-white films were in scope. That is what they clearly meant because by 1959 there were no theaters that could even project 1.33 anymore, save for an art house or two, and this film played no art houses.  And just using one’s eyeballs will tell you that every shot in the film is framed for 1.85.  And yet the know-it-alls insist they know it all when, in fact, they know nothing.  The BFI also took a “restored by the BFI” credit, when, in fact, all they did was pay for MGM/UA to do a 2K transfer.  The real fact is that is all they did – they did not one iota of cleanup on the 2K transfer – it’s sprinkled throughout with specks and blotches, a few scratches, and several not so hot soundtrack pops and ticks, all of which could have been easily taken care of.

Olive has now released it here and happily in 1.85 but with still no cleanup done on the transfer.  But it’s so nice to see this film finally framed correctly for home video.  And still the pundits say they prefer the BFI because – well, because they read the oft parroted AFI sentence on Wikipedia (where I have this day added the correction to this nonsense) and elsewhere.  Those who understand how movies are framed will know instantly that 1.85 is the proper ratio.  If you’ve never seen the film, it still packs quite a punch and that score is just incredible.

Prior to all that, I got nine hours of sleep, not arising until around noon.  I printed out some orders, answered e-mails and did a few things that needed doing, then Grant and I went and had some lunch – I had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and side Caesar salad, he a chicken quesadilla.  I also picked up a couple of packages and an important envelope and did some banking.  Then I settled in to an evening of music and the movie.  One other CD I heard was yet another Rachmaninov Symphony 2, conducted by Dimitri Kitaenko in 1984 for Melodiya.  I had a performance conducted by him much more recently that I hated, and funnily he recorded it a second time for Melodiya two years after the one I was listening to.  I was quite surprised how really good this version was – everything about it – save for the sound in the loudest passages, which sounded a bit compressed and scrunched – the rest was open-sounding and lovely.  It’s a keeper.

At some point I made about five ounces of bow tie pasta with some red sauce for my evening repast – it was good.  Then I relaxed and listened to the Swingle Singers who are still swinging as I write this here sentence.

Today, I’m not sure what’s going on, other than I definitely have a work session in the late afternoon for the Kritzerland show. There may be something else prior to that, but I won’t know until someone lets me know. Other than that, I’ll eat, hopefully pick up packages, and relax.

Tomorrow, if the thing that might happen today doesn’t it might happen tomorrow – hopefully I’ll know all that soon. Otherwise I think I’ll relax as much as possible, do a show order, and then write the commentary.  Then next week is our crazy Kritzerland rehearsal week, stumble-through, sound check, and show.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, eat, hopefully pick up packages, hopefully print out a LOT more orders, maybe have a thing happen, and then do a work session, followed by relaxation, listening, and viewing. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player and your DVD/Blu and Ray player? I’ll start – CD, many items.  DVD, A Village Romeo and Juliet and the movie Intruder in the Dust, which I’ve never seen.  Your turn.  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, loving the swinging Swingle Singers.

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