Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music DVD: Beatles Stories (Seth Swirsky)

Charles A. Smith
The Beatles, who hail from Liverpool, England, are one of the most famous musical groups of all time. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon made history with their music, and created a frenzy wherever they went. This prolific and spectacular DVD, from director Seth Swirsky, is a rich documentary that tells many stories about them, ushering in a new generation of fans.
(/br> Many well known icons from the 60's are present on "Beatles Stories", including Henry Winkler and Graham Nash who many years after their zenith, are still looking great! Stars from British Rock & Roll who were  very big at the time (or were soon to be) enlighten viewers with their stories about what happened back stage in the early years, such as how the individual members of the Beatles acted and thought when the cameras were not rolling. Stars like model Nancy Andrews (Ringo's former girlfriend) and singer Hurricane Smith, who was a songwriter/engineer for the Beatles, Jon Voight, and Smokey Robinson all have interesting and unheard takes on the world renowned group. Brian Williams from the Beach Boys, and Peter Noone of Herman and the Hermits are also featured, as are many others who convey intimate tales about different members of the group or the story about the Era in which the group was formed. I was completely captivated hearing these stories about the greatest group of all time, and all music lovers -- especially fans of The Beatles, will be too. This is a group that changed the world, and "Beatles Stories" gives you a inside look at just who they really were. It's a great and refreshing revelation.Bonus tracks are included. This is a real example of great investigative reporting on a topic that will never get old. I highly recommend this DVD.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Music DVD: Hiromi: Live In Marciac (Hiromi, Anthony Jackson, and Simon Phillips)

Charles A. Smith

The performance DVD "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a collaboration between jazz composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara, bassist Anthony Jackson, and drummer Simon Phillips. Hiromi, who has graced the stage with jazz greats like Stanley Clark and Chick Corea, was born in Hamamatsu, Japan, and is one of the most prominent pianists to appear on the music scene in the last decade. She is well known for her virtuosic technique, energetic live performances, and blend of musical genres. Master contrabass player Anthony Jackson has played with Paul Simon, The O' Jays, Steely Dan, and Chick Corea, among others. Master drummer Simon Phillips has performed with Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce. No lightweights here.
Hiromi has stunned the world with her innovative compositions and style of play. I knew from the moment the DVD began to play that she was full of passion and brilliance, and that I was in for a treat. I was not incorrect in that assumption. It was a very unique musical and visual experience. As I watched the expressions of the trio's faces and listened to their music, I could clearly see their passion and synergy. It was almost as good as being there.
Recorded July 31, 2011 in Marciac, France, "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a tremendously riveting production. France is smoking hot as Hiromi, Jackson, and Phillips form the kind of connection that Bill Evans was well known for long ago. Drummer Simon Phillips holds it all together when his counterparts get twisted up in musical love, and the trio is simply resplendent, as they move from one form of jazz to another with ease and intensity. Hiromi is almost unbelievably amazing. She leads this trio with precision and a confident command of the stage and her instrument. At times, she plays with a powerful demonstration of prowess, and at others, with a delicate stroke. But she always plays flawlessly. This is the kind of performance that requires one to reach deep down within themselves and access feelings and emotions that are then thoroughly conveyed to the audience. This is Jazz and Jazz fusion at its highest level.  I highly recommend this DVD. I most certainly enjoyed it.
Click Here To Visit Hiromi's Official Website

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Film Review: Master Qi And The Monkey King (Alan Govenar)

Charles A. Smith

Alan Govenar's Master Qi and the Monkey King is a documentary that chronicles the beautiful and compelling Chinese Opera. Qi Shu Fang is one of the most prominent masters of Chinese Opera, who made the tough choice to stay in the United States and act as a cultural liaison between the cultures. Master Qi and her husband Ding Mei-kui and their company of Chinese Opera performers spread knowledge and beauty about the ancient art form of Peking Opera. Balancing modern life and her love for ancient tradition, she and her husband work and live in Queens NY, in a section of the city that now has many Chinese and Asian immigrants. This documentary shows the hard work and dedication that are demanded by this art form, as well as its' nature and perfection. This is carried over to the performers that work with and for her. 

It's enchanting to watch the excerpts from various operas and the time at work the artists put in after working other jobs. Qi's movements are exquisite and brilliant. There's also footage from the early days of her career as a prodigy finishing her schooling in three years instead of the five that was normally required. She spent her early years doing plays for the central government and the "Modern Model Play Company", then ventured into films. "Taking Tiger Mountain", in which she plays Little Changbao, a strong female character, propelled her to even higher levels of fame. Now years later, Master Qi is just as powerful and engaging as she ever was, if not more so. To be a performer of this type, one must be an acrobat,  martial artist, singer, dancer, actor, and more. What this incredible documentary does is allow the uninitiated to develop an interest in Chinese Opera, while aficionados gain further insight into a wonderful art form and one of the masters of it. This is one 200 year old tradition that you shouldn't waste another day to see! Very highly recommended!!