Sunday, December 24, 2006

Woody Allen marches to his own beat

Photo: Alex -Dec. 20 2006
Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band
Fox Theatre -Redwood City,CA.

"Film buffs assume Woody Allen would like to be Charlie Chaplin or Ingmar Bergman. The fact is, he might prefer to be 1930s clarinet virtuoso Sidney Bechet.
Allen is no dilettante. Jazz has always been his great passion. Eddy Davis, the New Orleans Jazz Band's music director/banjoist/vocalist and longtime Allen pal, says, "He loves to play music more than anything. But he knows he has to make films to be able to do so." Davis met Allen in Chicago in 1963, while he was attending music school and fronting a jazz band at the Bourbon Street club. Allen was doing stand-up at Mr. Kelly's and would sit in with Davis at every opportunity.
In the '90s, they put a rehearsal band together, which was different from the band Allen had been playing with socially at Michael's Pub in New York, and the new focus was New Orleans Dixieland.
Allen's band performs at Cafe Carlyle in New York every Monday night, and such legends as Benny Goodman, Toots Thieleman and Mel Torme (on drums!) have joined in the musical fun.
Davis points out that when Dixieland began it was considered an avant-garde music form. "It was different than anything else that had come before it. It was like when rock 'n' roll started, something new was happening. It was a pop form of music."
Davis says music naturally re-creates itself. "Music doesn't get used up. It just gets copied after a while. People go back and emulate the stars and that kills every form of music. Everybody would like to play like Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker. But there's only one Louis Armstrong. Only one Charlie Parker. To copy them is not doing any justice to the music - where it came from," says Davis, the "Manhattan Minstrel," who early in his illustrious career played with the Turk Murphy Band at San Francisco's Earthquake McGoon's.
When the New Orleans Jazz Band plays, its energy breathes new life into the genre. However, Davis is well aware that the band draws packed houses, not because of the endless appeal of Dixieland, but because there are a lot of curious movie buffs out there. "Everybody goes to a happening. People come to see Woody, because he's Woody Allen".
By Paul Freeman

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