February 20, 2017

BET’s Being Mary Jane on Netflix

I had heard good buzz on BET’s (Black Entertainment Television) tv series, Being Mary Jane and just found it on Netflix. I needed a break from my crime show viewing and this show was the perfect antidote.
Created by Mara Brock Akil and starring the adorable Gabrielle Union, this earthy, sexy show has its share of comedy and drama. Union plays Mary Jane Paul, a successful tv show personality who lives in a beautiful house, wears designer clothing and drives a hot car, but family and romantic problems continue to mar her seemingly perfect life. Her extended family treats her like their personal ATM and she seems attracted to handsome, yet selfish and sometimes cheating men.

This program is mildly reminiscent of the late 90’s tv series, Ally McBeal, especially in its spunky heroine and in its use of engaging contemporary music throughout the show.

As a blast from the past, action-actor Richard Roundtree plays Mary Jane’s compassionate father.

When I need a break from the rigors of the day, visiting Mary Jane’s world is a charming respite.
Seasons 1 through 3 are on Netflix; Season 4 is currently on BET.

Harold Prince: Superlative Director/Producer

Producer/Director Harold Prince turns 89 this week. His remarkable career spans from being assistant stage manager on Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam in 1950 to directing a revue of songs from his hit shows in 2015.

A partial list of his Broadway endeavors looks like a history of musical theater: The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Candide, Sweeney Todd, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Showboat plus countless others.
I have a tiny little connection to him. Harold Prince was being publicly interviewed in Chicago by theater writer Jonathan Abarbanel. My musical Fat Tuesday was then showing at the old Theater Building Chicago. Our stage set was where the conversation took place in front of a rapt audience.
I had the opportunity to give Mr. Prince a hand-written invitation to attend the Pump Room that evening where I was currently performing.
He sent me a lovely letter back expressing his regrets at not being able to attend the Pump Room since he was flying out later that day. He was most gracious in thanking me for the invitation and expressed fond memories of other visits to this famous supper club. As busy as he was, his courtesy and attention to detail was demonstrated in this kind reply to my note.
Happy Birthday Harold. You are indeed a Prince!

La La Land: Oscar-worthy

I finally had the opportunity to see La La Land this past week. In short, I was delighted from start to finish. Imagine my surprise when the two men who accompanied me to the cinema proclaimed this to be “a terrible movie” and “boring,” respectively.
Another friend disliked the opening sequence with a traffic jam resulting in people getting out of their cars and singing and dancing.
As for me, I loved the opening for quickly putting the viewer into the world of Hollywood where every other person seems to be grasping for a toe hold into the world of entertainment. Although they may get to sing, dance, act, write, direct or design for TV and movies, all of these people have to keep on scrambling to pay bills and keep their cars running. The scene also has the principal characters “meeting cute” with an angry flipped finger at one another.

The use of bright colors throughout the movie whether it be with clothing, furniture, signage or scenery absolutely delighted my eyes. The score was tuneful and lyrics well-crafted. The song “City of Stars” is still going through my head. The orchestration found so many different ways of presenting the simple but potent melodies. The script dialogue is reminiscent of the rapid bantering of 1930’s screwball comedies.

Now a word about the stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. She can actually sing pretty expressively. Gosling’s singing is serviceable, but I was really impressed with his ability to simulate playing the piano really well. He reportedly sang and played piano, guitar, bass and cello in a group in 2009 so he came to the film with some musical skills. His dancing is pretty impressive, too, especially since he is six feet tall and gracefully manages his long legs. Stone and Gosling were cast for their box office names and their acting chops, but their musical and dancing skills are most entertaining.

One of the men who dissed the movie did sheepishly note the large number of Oscar nominations for this “terrible movie.” Let me compare this to the political climate. We definitely see the world through our own filters, be it for movie-watching or political opinions. Some of us just have better taste!

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in Bright Lights Doc on HBO

If you love Hollywood lore, the documentary Bright Lights featuring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds will touch you deeply.
Originally scheduled to be released in March 2017 on HBO, the project directed by Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom was sped up and released on Jan. 7, 2017 to coincide with the day-apart deaths of the famous mother and daughter.
In the footage, Reynolds appears to be a celebrity mother who was aware of the effect of her career on that of her children. Her relationship with daughter Carrie is warm and caring as you see them living next to one another in the same compound. Fisher demonstrates her incisive wit, her eclectic decorating taste and surprisingly good vocal skills. Her brother Todd also comes off as a good guy and proud of his mother. You just may laugh, cry and smile while watching this gentle slice of life program about two ladies who are part of cinema history.

setlist.fm – the setlist wiki

By hazard, I found the most interesting web site for fans of live music. Setlist.fm brags that they feature over 2 1/2 million set lists, almost 136,000 artists and over 200,000 venues.
While the emphasis is more on compiling concert set lists of contemporary pop musicians, a quick perusal of the site finds artists of many different genres: country, classical, folk, heavy metal, surf punk, rock and many more.
Want to know what Billy Joel played at Wrigley Field in August 2016? A brief search gives you his play list as well as his encores. What did the classical pianist Lang Lang play at the United Nations in October 2014? Two songs by Sting. Long dead artists are also represented.  As an example, there are several pages of Frank Sinatra concert playlists from 1939 to his last concert in Palm Springs on February 1995.
Not only is this site fantastic for music aficionados but it is a wonderful resource for musicians who do tribute shows.
Check out your favorite entertainers on setlist.fm and you can almost imagine attending their shows.
It appears that concert information can be submitted by audience members, much like the wikipedia model. Why not jot down the set list at your next live concert. You too can be a participant in setlist.fm.  Is this not a cool site?

Frank Sinatra Jr., some undersung praise

One of the personalities whom I encountered at the Pump Room was Frank Sinatra Jr. who like his father enjoyed the atmosphere and food at this famous supper club.

One night when Frank Jr. was dining at the Pump Room, he introduced himself and gave me advice on how to improve the stage lighting. I found him to be friendly, gracious and helpful.

Another time, he and his big band had been rained out of a Grant Park outdoor concert so he took the whole crew for dinner at the Ambassador East eatery. A few of my musical colleagues played for him and said working with him was a good gig. He used great arrangements and knew what he wanted, having been his father’s music director and conductor starting in 1988.

Frank Jr. had a lovely voice that was similar to his father’s, but comparisons always pointed out that he did not have his dad’s magic.

He had enough of the entertainment gene however to keep singing, acting, songwriting and conducting from 1963 until his death on March 2016. Look up his bio on wikipedia to see how involved he stayed with music and tv projects until his death.

His list of performing venues was impressive too, up until the end, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and Town Hall in New York City.

I’m thinking kind thoughts about this man who sometimes found it challenging to live in the shadow of his famous father on this his birthday week.

My original song, “In December” posted by The Norton Agency

My husband’s place of employment, The Norton Agency, a Chicago advertising company, decided to do social media posts on the 12 Days of Christmas featuring different holiday traditions of its
staff members. My song, In December was featured on the 11th Day of Christmas:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EFIUtY5RPU

Please consider checking out and sharing some of the posts, on the 12 Days of a Norton Christmas, ranging from holiday recipes, favorite places to visit, iconic holiday stories and music.

https://www.facebook.com/nortonagency/

Imagine Dragons, an alt rock band from Las Vegas

imagine_dragons_2012I always said that I would not be one of those people who became oblivious to current pop music after a certain age. Alas, I realized I was now predominantly listening to jazz, opera, musical theater and artists of yore.

Friend, composer Jim Koudelka who teaches a lot of teenagers has been my initial guide on rectifying ignorance of contemporary popular music.

Formed in 2008, Imagine Dragons, an alt pop rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada made their album debut with Night Visions in 2012. It’s Time was their first break-out song hit, but it is Radioactive that Rolling Stone magazine deemed “the biggest rock hit of the year.” Their second album, Smoke + Mirrors (2014) made it to number one in the US, the UK and Canada.

Accolades include Billboard Music Awards, the Grammys, American Music Awards and a World Music Award.  They have provided music for movies, started a charity called The Tyler Robinson Foundation for kids suffering from cancer and even made an appearance on The Muppets in 2015 which will make you chuckle after you see their Radioactive video.

Little wonder that this year, they decided to take a sabbatical. May they be rested enough to make more of their alternative rock pop gems in 2017.

Current members are Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee, Daniel Platzman. imaginedragons-radioactive-alexandradaddario-02

If you are unfamiliar with Imagine Dragons, check out this youtube video of their hit, Radioactive:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktvTqknDobU

Or On Top of the World, a very amusing video homage to the Beatles, Nixon and the late sixties:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5tWYmIOWGk

Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theater: May 2009

<img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-4400" src="http://www.elizabethdoylemusic viagra schweiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg” alt=”leonard-cohen-e1474508147892″ width=”300″ height=”168″ srcset=”http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg 300w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-768×431.jpg 768w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-148×83.jpg 148w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-31×17.jpg 31w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-38×21.jpg 38w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-383×215.jpg 383w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892.jpg 873w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />In 2009, Leonard Cohen was touring with singer/co-songwriter Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters with a kick-ass multi-cultural band consisting of bass, Hammond B3 Accordion, 12-string, electric, pedal and steel guitars, bandurria, laud, percussion, sax, dobro, clarinet and keyboards. The band was tight and on fire.

At the Chicago Theater, I sat with fellow Cohen devotee, Dan Stetzel and we marveled at the arrangements, the musicians and back-up vocals, but most notably the electric performance from the then septuagenarian Leonard Cohen.

The concert was over 3 hours with Cohen’s energy never showing any signs of flagging. In fact, he seemed to be physically possessed by his material as he danced and gesticulated with wild abandon.

From the song Dance Me To the End of Love as the opener, through his numerous compositions, to Whither Thou Goest as the closer, this was one of the most thrilling concerts I have ever experienced. And this from a man with a voice characterized by sandpaper, whiskey and bad Tuvan throat-singing. His lyrics were at times dark, but the spirit he exuded was transcendantly positive and warmly inclusive. The prolonged ovation at the end of the show was an outpouring of love between performer and audience.

Cohen and Bob Dylan have been our poet-troubadours throughout the turbulent 60’s to the present day. Both have continued writing and touring as they climbed the decades.

Besides his large catalogue of songs, Cohen published books of poetry and two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers. We are indeed a little poorer today without the prospect of more wise and wonderful words from Canadian Leonard Cohen.

An interesting web site with much Cohen info:
http://cohencentric.com/2

Cleo Laine: This Week’s Birthday Honoree

Dame Cleo Laine turned 88 this week. Born to a black Jamaican father and a white English farm girl, Laine went on to make inroads into jazz, musical theater and classical music. Milestones include her recording of Porgy and Bess with Ray Charles, her concerts with Frank Sinatra at Royal Albert Hall in London, her classical recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and her star turn in the Broadway musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Let me say that I have been a big fan for a long time. I snuck into one of her rehearsals at the famed Venetian Room in the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel. I had to leave that afternoon before her opening night, so I was trying to catch some of her act before heading for the airport. She was absolutely phenomenal.

A few years later, I was singing at the Pump Room when who should come in for dinner but Dame Cleo Laine and her very talented husband, bandleader/instrumentalist, Sir John Dankworth. After their meal, they actually hung out with our combo around the piano. They gave my band leader and me contact information for them in England and said they would love to have us perform at their home should we be in England. Little did we know that they had a very professional venue called The Stables on their residential grounds. Alas, I never made it to Great Britain and Sir John died in 2010.

While summoning up this cherished memory, I wish you a very happy birthday, Dame Cleo Laine. You are one of the classiest ladies in the music business.