Thursday, February 04, 2016

Tim Hagans: Faces under the Influence (panel discussion inspired by jazz and Cassavetes)

Faces under the Influence, concert at Helsinki Music Center, 4 Feb 2016. Tim Hagans (composer, band leader, trumpet), Sibis Alumni Big Band, Jukka Perko (sax), Jim Beard (piano), Raoul Björkenheim (electric gtr), Random Doctors (visualization). Photo stolen from, Jazzpossu,
Kirmo Lintinen had invited me to a panel discussion at the Helsinki Music Center in the context of  Tim Hagans's jazz suite Faces under the Influence inspired by the cinema of John Cassavetes.

I was not able to visit the concert itself but I had the great pleasure to listen to the suite a few times in advance. I am looking forward to a future album release.

The other members of the panel were music experts: three distinguished composers (Tim Hagans, Timo Hietala, and the chairman Kirmo Lintinen), and an expert scholar, Anu Juva, who has written her excellent dissertation on film music. I was there to speak about Cassavetes and give a few remarks about jazz in the cinema.

The composers all agreed that, with exceptions, music is not central in the films of John Cassavetes, and would, indeed, be distracting or even disruptive in them. The psychological tension of them is so absolute. (The exceptions being Shadows and Too Late Blues, with jazz, and A Child Is Waiting and Gloria, with Hollywood scores by Ernest Gold and Bill Conti).

My remarks focused on the insight of Emu Lehtinen (Digelius Music Store) of 1957 as the annus mirabilis of jazz. It was also the year when John Cassavetes started to make his improvisational debut film Shadows (two versions: the unreleased 1957 version and the official 1959 version), with music by Shafi Hadi and Charles Mingus. It was a dawn of new waves around the world. Cassavetes became a model for U.S. independent cinema. In France, Louis Malle made his solo debut film The Elevator to the Gallows with a score by Miles Davis, and Roger Vadim filmed Sait-on jamais with music by John Lewis & Modern Jazz Quartet. There are experts who find The Sound of Jazz, made in 1957, the best visual record of jazz of all times.

Expanding a little from the year 1957, next year, Roman Polanski would start his collaboration with Krzysztof Komeda (Two Men and a Wardrobe). In the U.S. Otto Preminger had turned independent and shot two years ago The Man with the Golden Arm with a jazz score by Elmer Bernstein, and two years later he had Duke Ellington compose Anatomy of a Murder.

Everywhere the studio system was crumbling, and independent film-making was on the rise. Jazz was at its peak, and its improvisational approach was a good match to new wave cinemas around the world. Also in England, when Joseph Losey reinvented himself to some of his best work, he worked with the jazz orchestra of John Dankworth (The Criminal, The Servant) who was also popular with the young generation of British cinema (We Are the Lambeth Boys, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Darling).

John Cassavetes's films were born in the spirit of jazz although he did not use music so much.

John Cassavetes made jazz films without music, and now Tim Hagans has made a John Cassavetes film without images.


Tim Hagans (USA), orchestra leader and trumpet

Sibis Alumni Big Band:

    Teemu Mattsson
    Jukka Eskola
    Mikko Pettinen
    Tero Saarti

    Antti Rissanen
    Kasperi Sarikoski
    Heikki Tuhkanen
    Mikael Långbacka

    Jukka Perko, alto sax, soprano sax, flute
    Max Zenger, alto sax, soprano sax
    Jussi Kannaste, tenor sax, soprano sax
    Ville Vannemaa, tenor sax, clarinet, flute, bass clarinet
    Mikko Mäkinen, barytone sax, bass clarinet

    Raoul Björkenheim, guitar
    Jim Beard, piano
    Kaisa Mäensivu, bass
    Jukkis Uotila, drums
    Mongo Aaltonen, perc

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