Monday, September 21, 2020

DIONNE WARWICK, GENE PITNEY, BURT BACHARACH AND HAL DAVID

 


Dionne  Warwick was a vocal original . The going tradition for black pop and soul singers had been a very gospel , shout to the rafters approach that required range and training. Warwick had the training, obviously, but not the vocal range and managed in working spectacularly well within her limits. She had an interesting, off beat sense of when to sing a lyric, a subtle tone of sadness in the lower register, there was a magical sense of her speaking to you directly, softly, after a good cry. This is shown in the video of  Walk on By  , a song that begins that begins with the pacing of someone trying to hurry down a street, trying to avoid eye contact with a former lover they can't bring themselves to see, a perfect mood, at the edge of the frantic, as Warwick movingly , slowly sings the opening words of her imagined speech to her ex-paramour :



If you see me walkin' down the street

And I start to cry each time we meet

Walk on by, walk on by

Make believe that you don't see the tears

Just let me grieve in private 'cause each time I see

I break down and cry, I cry

Walk on by, don't stop

Walk on by, don't stop

Walk on by

This is one of the great heartbreak songs of the era, and it shows Warwick's particular genius for softly dramatizing a lyric by underplaying the emotion. Leslie Gore, Patty Duke and a myriad other  pop proto-divas  would have raised the roof beams with this song, but Ms. Dionne finds the right pitch. The sorrow, the self pity, the resignation is all there, but it the quality of Warwick's singing places her not in sort of hysterical moment of solipsistic self-pity but someone, actually, he is more the Hemingway stoic, shouldering the pain and the grief and dealing with what the everyday life demands. Of course, there is that sweetly sad piano figure in the chorus that presents an effective change in tempo and mood, a circling keyboard figure that halts the forward motion of the  narrative and stops the narrator, our singer Dionne, dead in her tracks, briefly and sharply  remembering the pain of breaking up.

These are rare and beautiful attributes in a singer, the capacity to emote in such a small scale; she was the exact opposite of the late Gene Pitney, who turned every sad song into an aria of teen heartache. Both singers, incidentally, were blessed to have song many songs by the Bacharach/David team, two men who knew how to write songs for a singer's vocal strengths. Bear in mind, I was a big fan of Pitney's. For comparison, above is Pitney singing "I'm Gonna Be Strong" , written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (later covered by Cyndi Lauper in her early band Blue Ash). An extreme bit of heartache here, with the perfect singer for the sad tale. The tempo is the same through out, but as it progresses, subtly but quickly, Pitney's voice is stronger, filled with more self-aggrandizing emotion, a man turning in his sleep and trying to burn his way through his lose with nothing but  stoicism, but who, in the final hour, alone, will just weep as hard and as loud as he is able. The way Pitney's voice climbs to his highest register is chilling, equaling the grandiose swell of the orchestration. Tortured high notes were precisely what Pitney's music were about, observable in the operatic, compressed, grandiose and florid teen angst songs he sang with a voice that could start out low, smooth, slightly scratchy with restraint, and then in the sudden turn in tempo and a light flourish of horns or sweeping , storm-bringing violins, slide up the banister to the next landing and again defy gravity to the yet the next level as he his voice climbed in register, piercing the heart with melodrama and perfect pitch as the most banal love stories became the raging of simultaneous tempests.

 It was corny, but Pitney had the voice and he had the songs to pull it off and make records that still have that stirring hard hitting effect; "Town Without Pity", "It Hurts To Be In Love", "Twenty Four Hours to Tulsa", "I'm Gonna Be Strong", and an substantial string of other hits he had ( 16 top twenty hits between 1961 through 1968) took the tear jerker to the next level. As mentioned by someone the other day in the British press commemorating his music, his tunes weren't love songs, they were suicide notes. Pitney's multi-octave sobbing qualified as Johnny Ray turning into the Hulk wherein the sadder he was made, the stronger his voice became. All this was enough for me to buy his records in the early Sixties when I was just making my way to developing my own tastes in musicians and their sounds.Most of the early stuff I liked--The Four Seasons, Peter Paul and Mary--I dismiss as charming indulgences of a young boy who hadn't yet become a snob, but Pitney? I kept a soft spot for his recordings in my heart, and defended him in recent years when those verbal battles about musical tastes found his name impugned in my presence. The Prince of Perfect Pitch deserves respect for turning the roiling moodiness of teenage love into sublime expressions of virtuoso emotionalism.


Monday, September 7, 2020

STUPID MONKEY CRITICISM

Rock criticism had a heyday in the sixties, when the mostly male likes of Lester Bangs , Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh and Robert Christgau combined their counter culture hedonism and the civil-rights informed progressive spirit and composed an ecstatic body of writing that supposed that rock music was more than a newly arrived art form, it was the future itself singing to us. Those of us old enough to remember can replay our favorite bits of prose that underscored the historic struggles embodied by the Beatles v The Rolling Stones, or the visionary accounting of Bob Dylan on the plight of our collectively bedraggled spirit. What of all that? Well, there was some good writing, deluded as much of it tended to be. Greil Marcus has become an ersatz cultural critic who chases around Bob Dylan's reputation in much the same fashion as the later writing of Harold Bloom rides Shakespeare's coat tails, Dave Marsh has become a dour Methuselah, serious and dull as paper clip, Robert Christgau has at least left the past behind and continued to listen to and write about new music, and Lester Bangs, pour sainted Lester, is dead as a door stop. Not that rock criticism has stopped being written, or that there's nothing good being said about younger artists. But there times when the younger criics read as if they're performing an Andy Kaufman like parody of an older generation of serious reviewers. It's disheartening when you discover these guys aren't kidding.Latest case in point that I've come across is Stephen Metcalf's hand wringing piece in Slate about Bruce Springsteen's performance at the Super Bowl. Springsteen had sinned some how, and the additional crime , from Metcalf hints at, was that The Boss couldn't sense the beleaguered critic's reservations through the ether, over the digital transmissions. Bad dog!

I am not a Springsteen fan, and have written for years on the fact that the good man is severely over rated by babbling pop pundits like Metcalf ( the likes of whom seem unable to even take a dump without summoning summaries of zeitgeists past, present and oncoming) but I do have to say that Bruce isn't required to live up to any coterie's collective fantasy about what his "purpose" is. Metcalf here seems increasingly like those noisy, bellicose and useless color commentators who shout statistics and jargon-clogged truisms over the airwaves while the real layers, like them or not, are doing the best they can on the field. 

The piece had nothing to do with Music and everything to do with the author's sadness that he's older, more cynical and just a little bitter that he aged his way past his earlier zeal and optimism. Springsteen still plays music with much the same spirit that animated him when he was a much younger man; I don't care for his music or lyrics to any large degree, but I do admire his honesty and his refusal to let age depress his vitality. Depression is what oozes between the sentences of Metcalf's mewling essay, and the astonishing thing is that somehow he seems to hold the Boss accountable for not aligning his performance on the author's soured mood. This is not heroic criticism on the level of William Hazlitt or Matthew Arnold, this is sophistry on a par with the snobbish sniveling of Dave Marsh.As far as TV performances go, it was good, quite good, but Metcalf is just an inconsolable sourpuss because he didn't get his standard Transcendent Effect. But what galls me , really, about the diatribe is the author's odd conceit that he knows intimately what the "National Mood" and how anyone should behave in a down swing. Springsteen is there for his fans, the ones who pay to see his concerts and buy his records, not the likes of Stephen Metcalf, who wants music written and performed by others to a soundtrack for his personal gloom and disgust. Plus, it's absurd to go on the way he did; if he thinks Springsteen was inappropriate in his performance, why didn't Metcalf chide The Steelers for daring to win the game? Would writers be out of a job if they decided to grow up?   ( from 2009).

Sunday, September 6, 2020

THE DEAN TELLS HIS TALE AND LOSES HIS WAY


22535453I made it halfway through Robert Christgau's memoir Going Into the City: Portrait Of a Critic as a Young Man before I had to put it down. Memoirs are a literary excuse for interesting people to talk about themselves due to an inherent belief that merely being themselves, sans abstraction or objectively intriguing art--novels, movies, poems, paintings--is enough to fill a book. it's likely that my lapse was due to the format Christgau chose; too much him, not enough of the world that formed him as a thinker about Pop Music and related concerns.I'm tempted to pick it up again, but I hesitate, I stall, I make excuses to do something else, considering that Christgau's obsessiveness, perfect for a critic, can be hard to take for long in a book that is supremely autobiographical in nature. I have been wishing that someone would take his best essays from his website and collect them into a volume or two; on rock and pop and some other matters of culture is always an intriguing point of view and it would be great to have those views between covers.

I'd been reading Christgau's insular, fannish, personal and idiomatically dense reviews for decades and rather liked the idea that I was part of the cognoscenti who could parse his sentences and follow his train of thought. "Any Old Way You Choose It", his collection of longer reviews and pieces gathered from the Sixties and Seventies, is one of my all-time favorite essay collections, a brainy, chatty, at times exasperatingly idiosyncratic journey through a couple of decades of extraordinary innovation; I love it for the same reason I still cherish Pauline Kael's "I Lost It At The Movies", for that rare combination of true fan enthusiasm and discovery. As with Kael at her best, you can sense the moment when Christgau comes to an insight, a discovery yet undiscovered by other writers; he has that element of "ah-HA! “Coming to his Consumer Guide column, where he would review anything and everything available, from the varied strands of rock, disco, reggae, folk, jazz, and pop was like meeting that clutch of friends you knew in college who considered rock and pop the emerging Grand Art. His was a column where I found someone who kept the conversation going, and strange and self-indulgent as it may have seen, it was fertile ground to debate and exchange ideas on the relative qualities of music. Anyone who's been through this bit before, the obsession with rock music is an art and establishing the critical terms with which one can assess, appraise and make note of what makes albums worth the purchase, appreciates the kind of critical thinking which becomes a habit of mind. In college I was Arts Editor of the thrice-weekly campus newspaper and was required, in addition to my studies, to write a crushing amount of column inches a week on matters of music, theater, television, movies. Rough life, I know, but it was a lot of writing none the less, and the chief debt I might have toward Christgau, an admittedly sketchy model for a minor league reviewer, was the creation of a tone, a style.

The Village Voice, founded in the fifties by Norman Mailer and Dan Wolfe, was formerly noted as a magazine where the pittance that writers were paid was somewhat compensated by the freedom they had to develop a writing style, ideas, and journalistic beats. It was a writer's publication, and that was the chief attraction for a reader who wanted more than cooker cutter reviews or cursory coverage of politics and culture. Christgau is a product of that freedom and developed an argot and style that was intended for those as obsessed and concerned with music as he was; he is a critic, not a reviewer distinction being that the critic assumes that his or her reader has the same background in the area under discussion as they do. Unlike reviews, which are final and absolute and brook no discussion beyond name calling, Christgau's essays are addressed to the concerned, the convinced, the true believer that pop music traditions matter as much as so-called High Culture expressions. This leaves him incomprehensible for many who think his writing is too dense with insular references and verbal shorthand to bother with, but that was a chief part of my attraction to his writing. There were many a time when I was in my twenties when I hadn't the slightest idea of what he was talking about-- who was Adorno? Marcuse? Sun Ra??-- but the subject matter at hand compelled me to investigate references further. It was an old-fashioned enterprise, his column in one hand, a dictionary and an encyclopedia at the ready to clarify the murkier waters of his prose. Any inspiring critic does that. Christgau and the late Lester Bangs gave me some ideas and methods in learning how to write fast, and well (or at least well enough that some light editing could be done without a major operation and my copy could be taken to the typesetter before the deadline). What is impressive about Christgau is his catholicity of taste, his constant curiosity about new sorts of noise and racket, and his ability to form connections and generate operate theories.

His writing is unique, and the Village Voice's loss will be another editor's gain. Christgau certainly tried to be confessional, tell all essayist, a horrible habit from the sixties that still infests popular nonfiction these days, as when he reprinted a long piece in "Any Old Way" about a trip across country with his girlfriend Ellen Willis and, in what was ostensibly an essay dealing with ideas, chronicled the events precipitating their break up. It was a rather aimless accounting, neither interesting as personality gossip nor compelling as an intellectual argument. It was just...awkward, not unlike someone who feels they have to talk about something that is a change in their life but cannot find the words that make you empathize. I rather enjoyed his prejudices, snobbery and the like, and I liked the fact the reserved the right to change his mind about an artist, even if only for one album. He as a critic, a dilettante, someone's who's a propensity toward prolix was intriguing, attractive, worth the bother to pour over when he was engaging the popular culture he thrived on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

JAGGER SINGS. SORT OF

Rare images of Jean-Luc Godard hanging out with The Rolling Stones | BFI
It's been a week for visiting old albums, and the Stones were the band in the spin cycle, specifically their monumental efforts Let It Bleed and Exiles on Main Street. One could wax poetic and vaguely in the style of Greil Marcus about how these songs form a moment in time when so much of the invisible stuff that holds reality together would come undone unless we seized the moment, listened to the records and acted on the philosophical irony our millionaire visionaries were laying out, but that is another round of binge daydreaming. What's important now is a realization, a reminder, of the particular genius of singer Mick Jagger's way of articulating, mumbling, growling, mewling lyrics.Mick Jagger is a vocalist who learned to work brilliantly with the little singing ability God deigned to give him: knowing that he didn't have the basic equipment to even come close to simulating Muddy Waters or Wilson Pickett, he did something else instead in trying to sing black and black informed music-- talk-singing, the whiny, mewling purr, the bull moose grunt, the roar, the grunts and groans, the slurs and little noises , all of which he could orchestrate into amazing, memorable performances. One Plus One(Sympathy for the Devil)Godard's film of the Stones writing, rehearsing and finally recording the song of the title, is especially good because it captures the irresolute tedium of studio existence (in between Godard's didactic absurdist sketches attempting to address the conundrum of leftist media figures being used by invisible powers to squelch true revolutionary change). More than that, we see Jagger piecing together his vocal, his mewling reading of the lyrics from the lyric sheet; his voice is awful, in its natural state. But we do witness Jagger getting bolder as the song progresses through the endless stoned jamming, a grunt added here, a raised syllable here, a wavering croon there. Finally, we are at the last take, and Jagger is seen with headphones on, isolated from the others, screaming his head off into a microphone while the instrumental playback pours forth, in what is presumably the final take. Jagger, all irony and self-awareness, created something riveting and for all time with the marginal instrument he was born with, and is part of what I think is a grand tradition of white performers who haven't a prayer of sounding actually black who none the less molded a style of black-nuanced singing that's perfectly credible: Mose Allison, Van Morrison, Felix Cavalari (Rascals), Eric Burdon (early Animals), Peter Wolf, late of the under appreciated J.Geils Band.We cannot underestimate Keith Richard's contribution to Jagger's success as a vocalist. Someone had to know how to write tunes Jagger could handle, and Keith was just the man to do it. Richard's guitar work, as well, riffs and attacks and staggers in ways that match Jagger's strutting and mincing. Writing is everything, as always. Fogarty is obviously influenced by black music, and his voice does simulate an idealized style of southern black patois, but it's the tunes that make CCR's music matter. Fogarty is in the same tradition of Chuck Berry in his ability to write short, punchy tunes that have a story to tell, as opposed to a philosophy to impose or a depression to share.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

LYRICS v POEMS

Designer Brown Leather Boxing Gloves Vintage Style Handmade ...Seems that we all have rocks in our head, or at least the idea of rocks, notions of round hard things that can damage us if they strike,  solid masses of earthen material that defy our ability to out think them. Stupid rocks. Ideas get in the way of things, a tenet shared by flightier versions of zen and more solid versions of a modernist decree. The essential point is that one cannot know anything about rocks until they retire from the debating society: all the focusing on how tight one's theory is as it clashes with the dense physicality of reality is like taking a trip only to worry about the contents of the luggage. You can win the argument and walk away with nothing but a fleeting smug satisfaction that your designs held fast. Zbigniew Herbert's poem "Pebble" offers us a picture of the title entity as something that is gleefully self-contained, caring less about the content of our arguments or the character that makes them.


Pebble

by Zbigniew Herbert

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits

filled exactly
with pebbly meaning

with a scent which does not remind one of anything
does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire

its ardor and coldness
are just and
full of dignity

I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth

---Peebles cannot be tamed
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

An interesting contrast for this poem would be Paul Simon's song "I Am A Rock", recorded when he was in Simon and Garfunkel; the most notable difference between the lyric and Herbert's poem is that Simon, at the time, was suffocating in his mannered seriousness.


 I Am A Rock
by Paul Simon 
A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.


 Simon eventually became a solo artist and shed the freshman composition overreach of his earlier poetic style. He developed a consistent sense of humor and revealed a superb sense of irony; best of all he pared back the dried garlands of creaky literary language from his work and was able to convey his subtler points in a fluid tongue that was informal, direct, understated. He decided to abandon Big Themes--Alienation,  Despair, Inability to Communicate--and instead take what was in his own backyard.  But he did write some grandiose statements while he was a serious younger man who hadn't yet learned to live life like it were a loose suit. Everything was so damned important, so damned serious. How serious he considered it seems nearly comical in retrospect.His desire to be a rock was the extrapolated angst of a teenager who had been hurt in love and is aghast at how cruel the world has turned out to be, It is, if we recall, a young man's first experience of having his idealism betrayed by an intrusive and uncaring world. "..and a rock feels no pain" is what S and G sing in the refrain and it comes across as whining and a wallow. Teens like myself, sensitive and eager to experience the bigger world in a hurry, related to this paean to self-pity; it is a song I have been embarrassed to admit to ever liking. It seems like only a modified version of the typical Bobby Vee or Gene Pitney three-hankie wounds of the heart that held the music charts not long before.

Herbert, in contrast, has his rock, his pebble more precisely, seem like nothing less than an entity unto itself, neither representative of anyone's anger nor a metaphor for anyone's bad experience. The pebble, in fact, is offered up as an example to be noted, studied, emulated in some sense;

The pebble 
is a perfect creature 
equal to itself 
mindful of its limits 
filled exactly 
with pebbly meaning  


"...filled exactly with pebbly meaning. " This goes along with a notion from William Carlos Williams' idea that the thing itself is its adequate symbol. This was something that I had heard by way of Allen Ginsberg in a broadcast some years ago, and it stays with me because it really does get to the heart of much of the modernist poetry aesthetic, which was to cleanse the language of the freight of a several hundred years of metaphysical speculation and restore the image of the thing as something worth investigating in itself. Herbert presents us with an item that is minute and already perfect, complex and intriguingly self-sustained; it is a mystery for us to parse on terms outside our egos. His is a poem that invites a reader to discover the world with it mind that we have to abandon our filters and templates and formula paradigms that gives phenomena an easily classifiable meaning.

Friday, August 21, 2020

PROG SLOGS

There are occasional stirrings among those my age, music fans of a certain generation of decade, who become nostalgic for the surface noise and commotion of their own record collection and, in indulging their yen for a commodity fatally beyond its expiration date, will wax, wane and syllogize until the music of the spheres play slow blues solos some now deservedly disputably fad was, actually, not so  bad, not bad at all, in fact, pretty damn good and unfairly maligned. Beware these acolytes, lest someone try to convince you of that the true worth of progressive rock, that hyperventilated amalgam of trick pony riffs that made radio something you dreaded turning on. 

I don't buy it, for the most part. The fascination with progressive rock  grew out of the long improvisations pioneered by the essentially blues-based bands like The Butterfield Blues Band, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, as the going conceit of the time was that rock and roll had become something smarter like "rock" and could now rival jazz as a young musician's medium for instrumental chops. 

The transition to classical borrowings, occasional jazz motifs and jacked up time signatures and tick-tock chord changes made for its own kind of monotony. Jazz, whatever its form or origin, was premised on the idea that, as a form, it was in a state of constant transformation--the musicians we still listen to rarely played the signature tunes the same way twice. Progressive rock, generally proud and defensive about the form's gerrymandered fussiness--this was the best place to learn the distinctions between the words "complicated" and "complex"--became insulated ever so much faster than jazz did. A one idea concept, with rare exceptions --Zappa, King Crimson, Pink Floyd--progressive rock could only become fussier, crankier, more incestuous. 

It actually became something resembling "rock" not at all, in any sense. It was the arena of sterile perfection and was truly unlistenable to a young listener having no desire (or need) to stare at the sky and ponder stoned philosophies. Punk rock was the shock rock and roll needed; stupid, obnoxious, repetitive, angry, the rude style pretty much revealed what a conceptual crock of mung progressive rock turned into. It was time to flush things away and allow the progressive rock to become something actually useful, such as fertilizer.

BILL BRUFORD AND ALLAN HOLDSWORTH

One of a Kind — Bill Bruford (Polydor):
See the source image The former Yes, King Crimson and Genesis drummer deftly leads a band of superb musicians through a session that combines the best of progressive rock (compositional organization with a rich sense of harmony and counterpoint) and the best of fusion rock (inventive soloing meshing hard-rock dynamics with fleet-fingered technique). Guitarist Allan Holdsworth performs  in fluid, fluent state of grace, and bassist Jeff Berlin works rhythmic miracles with Bruford as the do provide an engrossing set of propelling polyrhythms and twisting time signatures that gives the guitarist the means to expand his boundry -pushing excusions. Especially arresting is the compostional tone, complex, mature, with a wonderful sense of dynamics and development, showing both the influence of the impossibilities of Zappa in the limb-twisting changes Bruford's crew negoiates,and  and the etheral atmospherics of  a Brian Eno in the quieter stretches. The best moments, remain with Holdsworth, who extreme legato rivals that of any post-bop saxophonist in or out of this life, Coltrane, Shorter, Rollins, Michael Brecker, Josh Redman, you name it, and his technique, smoothly deployed as he tests the out rings of a chord progression and seems to begin solos in the center of an idea and then exploring the logical note sequences in both directions simultaneously, is stunning in the ways his spotlight moments build tension and then releases it. 

SOMETHING ABOUT OZZIE OSBOURNE

Ozzy Osbourne is now using CBD oil | Elixinol Europe James Parker has a fine appreciation of Ozzy Osbourne in Slate, inspired by Osbourne's new book I Am Ozzy. Less a review of the memoir than contained think piece that contemplates the essence of Osbourne's former band, Black Sabbath, and Osbourne's peculiar form of haplass genius, Parker does a good job of revealing why this pioneer of fuzztoned dystopia is the enduring guilty pleasure he is. Regardless of what one has read about him with regards to communing with Satan and the dark side in general, Ozzy is likable. Very likable.I interviewed Ozzy for my college paper in the 70s, and he was actually one decent guy, a decent sort and all.It was the week of the mass cult suicide of Jonestown, and as I and the photographer asked Osbourne the usual questions about life on the road, groupies, drugs and guitar strings, the television in Ozzy's hotel room was blaring an update on the unspeakable tragedy. Ozzy turned to look at the screen where a news film clip showed a jittery scan of the bodies lying over one another in the fatal compound."How can anybody do such a fucking awful thing" he said, "forcing little kids to drink cyanide. You know what that does to your insides? It eats at you, it's a terrible way to die, fucking sadists..." His gaze drifted off for a few seconds and then he returned to the interview when his manager knocked on the hotel door to remind him that there were other media folks waiting to talk to him. We spoke some more about rock and roll in general, and when the photographer and I rose to leave at the end of our interview, a "Star Trek" episode came on. I forget which episode it happened to be, but what was certain was that the special effects were cheap and cheesy even then."Oh, man, this is the greatest fucking show" said Ozzy as we left, and that's where we left him, at the extreme ends of things, Jonestown and "Star Trek". Fucking Awful or Fucking Great. And that's how he remains.
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Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Duke Murders the Mood

The reviewer at the All Music web site opines that premiere genius Duke Ellington rose to the occasion when he had the chance to compose a full movie score for Otto Preminger's film "Anatomy of a Murder". This was not a case of saying that Ellington sustains his brilliance as a composer solely already established criteria, the implication that Ellington not just rose to the challenge of writing music for the moves, but showed himself to be the equal of genuine film composing giants, bumping shoulders with Bernard Hermann and Alfred Newman. Insert your favorite composer. What bothered me especially was the claim that Ellington composed his music that served the scene and that it was discreet, unobtrusive, intuitively supportive of the narrative and the emotional dynamics under view. I disagree; I do consider Ellington to be America's greatest musical gift to the world in the  20th Century and consider him an American Master of his art, the good maestro doesn't seem to have had any idea of how to compose something that was meant to augment a filmed story. All the classic touches, coloration, impressionistic sweeps and slyly insinuated improvisations are here--as an album, this is a fine work of ensemble concert jazz composition--but the don't just intrude on the scenes and sequences, they stomp on them. There is a struggle for attention. The final effect is that of being in a crappy hotel room where the neighbors are playing the radio too loud for too long. It would be nice if this resourceful innovator could claim with pride that he had artistic success in the movies besides all the other forms he greeted and seduced into becoming his very own expression. Some shoulders remain could to the seduction. Remember that the name of his memoir is "Music is My Mistress".  Mistresses , in the movies at least,have minds of their own and will keep their own consul.