Jazz Score at MoMA
(Published: April 04, 2008)
MoMA CELEBRATES THE BEST ORIGINAL JAZZ SCORES FOR FILM FROM THE 1950S TO THE PRESENT
Five-Month Film Retrospective, Gallery Exhibition, and Live Concert Series Illustrate the Creative and Collaborative Relationship between Postwar Filmmakers and Jazz Composers
Tomasz Stanko and Martial Solal among Musicians in Concert Series,
and Arthur Penn to introduce April 17 screening of Mickey One (1965)
April 16-September 15, 2008
The Roy and Niuta Titus 1 and 2 Lobbies and Theaters
NEW YORK, March 27, 2008—The Museum of Modern Art presents an extensive, multifaceted exhibition that celebrates jazz scores composed for films from the 1950s to the present, with a particular emphasis on the rich and largely unexplored relationship between postwar filmmakers and jazz composers, arrangers, and musicians. The elements in Jazz Score, presented April 16-September 15, 2008, in The Roy and Niuta Titus 1 and 2 lobbies and theaters, include an international retrospective of approximately 50 feature films and a selection of shorts, a multimedia gallery exhibition, live music concerts, and a panel discussion. The opening night film, Mickey One (1965), will be introduced by its director Arthur Penn on April 17 at 7:00 p.m.
The introduction of contemporary jazz to film scoring in the mid-twentieth century brought fresh forms of sophistication and innovation to world cinema. Until the 1950s, jazz had primarily been used in film as atmospheric or incidental music or during show-stopping musical numbers. In the postwar period, however, jazz was fully integrated into the onscreen drama for the first time, becoming an essential aspect of many films' very structure and aesthetic. Jazz Score celebrates the groundbreaking collaborations between filmmakers, composers, and musicians who, by experimenting with new forms and techniques, have radically transformed both art forms—jazz and the cinema—from the 1950s to the present day.
Alex North's Academy Award-nominated score for Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is generally credited with opening up jazz scoring to a new generation of composers, including Elmer Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Bernard Herrmann, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, and Lalo Schifrin. Significantly, this development coincided with the breakup of the Hollywood studio system, and with the commercial and artistic success of independent film directors like John Cassavetes (Shadows, 1959, and Too Late Blues, 1961), Shirley Clarke (The Connection, 1962, and The Cool World, 1964), Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie (Pull My Daisy, 1959), and Herbert Danska (Sweet Love, Bitter, 1968), who experimented not only with dramatic themes and film genres, but also with more improvisational forms of postwar jazz like hard bop, free jazz, modal jazz, and Afro-Cuban. This was equally true of New Wave filmmakers and a younger generation of European and Japanese directors in the 1950s and 1960s—including Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard, Jørgen Leth, American expatriate Joseph Losey, Louis Malle, Mikio Naruse, Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Roger Vadim—who enlisted such seminal artists as Gato Barbieri, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Krzysztof Komeda, John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Tôru Takemitsu, and others to compose jazz scores that would reinforce or provide a counterpoint to their disjointed imagery.
Jazz continues to be used in diverse ways in contemporary cinema, whether to evoke a writer's paranoid fantasies in David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (1991, music by Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman); or the tragic devastation of New Orleans, the city that gave birth to jazz itself, in Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006, music by Terence Blanchard). These collaborations, and others such as those between Clint Eastwood and Jerry Fielding, and Jim Jarmusch and John Lurie, are featured in the film retrospective.
The film retrospective opens on April 17 with Arthur Penn introducing a weeklong theatrical run of his 1965 film Mickey One (score by Eddie Sauter, saxophone solos by Stan Getz), newly restored by Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Warren Beatty in the Kafkaesque story of a man on the run from sinister figures in the nightclub world.
In another weeklong run, from May 9 through 15, MoMA presents Henning Carlsen's rarely screened Dilemma (1962), based on the novel A World of Strangers by Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer and featuring a score by Max Roach and Gideon Nxumalo. Filmed clandestinely, and perilously, in apartheid South Africa, this first fiction feature by Carlsen, a Danish director later celebrated for his adaptation of Knut Hamsun's Hunger (1966), is the story of a white liberal torn between the privileges and snobberies of the gated suburbs and his more heartfelt friendships with blacks in the township community. The film's wonderful score interweaves American jazz, blues, and South African marabi, from Max Roach's conscience-raising Freedom Now Suite (1960), featuring the soulful voice of Abbey Lincoln, to the joyous, hip-swaying melodies of Gideon Nxumalo heard in the multiracial, underground shebeen (speakeasies).
The retrospective continues with fiction features, experimental and animated shorts, and documentaries from countries as far ranging as France, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, and the United States. The selection includes classics like Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows, 1959; score by Miles Davis), Lewis Gilbert's Alfie (1965; score by Sonny Rollins), Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966; score by Herbie Hancock), and Peter Yates' Bullitt (1968; score by Lalo Schifrin). Also presented are wonderful rediscoveries, including Kô Nakahira's Crazed Fruit (1956; score by Tôru Takemitsu, Masaru Satô) and Herbert Danska's Sweet Love, Bitter (1967; score by Mal Waldron, starring Dick Gregory and featuring a young Chick Corea). The contemporary selection includes Shohei Imamura's Dr. Akagi (1998; score by Yosuke Yamashita) and John W. Walter's How to Draw a Bunny (2002), featuring improvisations by Max Roach.
A special evening on June 2 is devoted to the Academy Award-winning animation of John and Faith Hubley, focusing on their collaborations such renowned jazz musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and Quincy Jones. The program is introduced by filmmaker Emily Hubley, John and Faith's daughter, and Ed Berger, Associate Director of the Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies, features the world premieres of The Museum of Modern Art's new preservations of Adventures of an * (1957) and The Tender Game (1958).
The gallery exhibition, in The Roy and Niuta Titus 1 and 2 lobbies, opens on April 16. This aspect of Jazz Score celebrates the sophistication and innovation that postwar jazz has brought to the art of live-action and animated films. The improvisational nature of jazz suited the radical spirit of independent and New Wave filmmaking throughout the world, beginning in the late 1950s; even today, the music continues to have a dramatic impact on the visual design of film trailers and the graphics of film promotion.
The exhibition opens with a sampling of jazz-influenced merchandising that includes a display of Polish and American film posters, soundtrack album covers, movie trailers, and opening title sequences. Also featured is a projected video compilation of jazz-scored scenes spanning five decades of international cinema. The exhibition culminates with a large-scale installation of original animation art from John and Faith Hubley's Adventures of an * (music by Benny Carter, vibraphone solos by Lionel Hampton) and from John Canemaker's Bridgehampton (1998; music by Fred Hersch). The animated works are shown in full, both in the gallery and as part of the film retrospective.
The gallery exhibition presents some of the finest original film posters (such as Saul Bass's Anatomy of a Murder and The Man with the Golden Arm, a newly acquired Polish version of Elevator to the Gallows, and a series of Italian and Polish promotional posters for Blow-Up; album covers (such as Pete Kelly's Blues, The Wild One, Sweet Smell of Success, The Cool World, In Cold Blood, and Faces), moving-image clips, and movie trailers.
CONCERT SERIES: May 19 and June 14
Concerts are presented in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1, featuring contemporary musicians performing some of the original jazz soundtracks featured in the film retrospective.
May 19 at 7:30 p.m.
The Tomasz Stanko Quartet with special guest Billy Harper: A Concert Tribute to Krzysztof Komeda celebrates the film music of Komeda, who helped establish Eastern Europe's underground jazz scene in the late 1950s and who went on to write the haunting scores for some 40 films, including Rosemary's Baby. Stanko, a Polish trumpeter and composer, and Harper, an American tenor saxophonist, are considered two of the most acclaimed jazz improvisers in the world. Stanko also leads his quartet in performing his own jazz compositions for the Polish cinema. For Stanko, as for other artists living in Communist Poland, jazz represented "freedom, Western culture, a different way of life." It was performed clandestinely in cellars and at dance parties in cities like Lodz, where students like Roman Polanski and Jerzy Skolimowski turned the city's now-legendary film school into a hotbed of artistic experimentation and political dissent. As a prelude to this special concert, two of Komeda's best scores can be heard when Polanski's Knife in the Water and Skolimowski's Le Départ are screened. The Tomasz Stanko Quartet includes Marcin Wasilewski, piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, bass, and Michal Miskiewicz, drums.
June 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Martial Solal in Concert features a rare U.S. appearance by one of the world's most legendary jazz pianists and composers, perhaps best known for his 40 film scores, including Jean-Luc Godard's A bout de souffle (Breathless, 1959). Solal, who was born in Algeria in 1927 and settled in Paris in 1950, got his start performing with Django Reinhardt, Sidney Bechet, and Don Byas in the 1950s, and then began writing scores for films by such master directors as Jean-Pierre Melville, Marcel Carné, Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles, and Godard. Solal, who will perform with the French bass player François Moutin, is represented in the film retrospective with two of his finest scores: for Breathless, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and for Jean Becker's Echappement libre (1964), which reunites the stars of Godard's New Wave classic.
"Anatomy of a Jazz Score," a panel discussion illustrated with film clips, to be held at MoMA in September, brings together a filmmaker, a composer/musician, and a scholar to discuss the relationship between jazz and cinema—in particular, the idea of improvisation and collaboration—and the process of composing music for film. Dates and participants will be announced shortly.
Available in early May, the Museum's original CD features a selection of jazz tracks drawn from the film retrospective. Included are Duke Ellington's "Flirtibird," from Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959); John Lewis's "Skating in Central Park," from Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959); Gato Barbieri's "Jazz Waltz," from Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1971), and John Lurie's "Are You Warm Enough'," from Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, 1986).
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More Information: http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/film_exhibitions.php?id=8162&ref=calendar
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