Let Us Now Praise Altman

NO SHORT CUTS TAKEN: Among the many gifts
qualifying robert_altman.jpg for the descriptive title as “late,
great American director” was his inspired way with music in his
films. He addressed musical culture and its hosting environment
directly Nashville and Kansas City, and made
music integral in films including McCabe and
Mrs. Miller
, with key Leonard Cohen tunes setting the
languid frontier tone, and his finale, A
Prairie Home Companion
, chock full of good musical times.
To boot, Altman’s films always had musical corollaries, with their
ambient spirits and collaborative élan. We spoke with Altman many
moons ago, just at 1990’s European production Vincent and
was making its way to these shores—and when Altman’s own
renewed cred in Hollywood allowed him to return to these shores, as
well, after a period of avoiding the dull fake gleam of ‘80s tinsel
town. At the time, he was preparing his Raymond
adaptation Short Cuts, one of several
compelling projects—including The Player and Gosford
—which made his last artistic phase so rich Back when, I
mentioned to Altman that his films gained power through their
atmospheric qualities. He took that as a compliment, as intended:
“It’s not the story so much. The story is there is something that
will occupy the viewers in linear time. They are linear; they do
take a certain amount of time. It’s not like looking at a painting,
unfortunately, where you can look at it as long or as short as you
want. But I’m trying to impress people the same way you do with a
painting, by making impressions so that material is in their
computer and they can apply it to other themes that occur.” As to
the question of whether film is more analogous to music than to
theater and literature, Altman commented “I’d relate it more to
painting, actually, and also music and dance—movement. But we can’t
argue with the American success chip out there. Those dollar bills
and how many you have dictates how good you are.” Our interview
wrapped up thusly:

Q: Have you always felt like an outsider in
A: Well, no. I never joined the club
particularly anyway, so it was never any of my desire. I do my
work. Everything I do is collaborative. I love it. With everything
I see and do, I see something new, too, and that’s what I’m passing
on to an audience. Q: So you’re not the kind of maniacal
auteur who likes to keep his thumb on everything?
A: Nope.
I like to keep my nose in everything, but not my thumb on it.

saxophonist David Binney is clearly one of those should-be towering
jazz figures too little known here, although the European jazz
scene is well aware of his prowess and unique musical persona.
Around these parts, many know him as someone from around these
parts. He was raised in Ventura and his mother, the abiding jazz
fan Dolores, lived in Carpinteria for years until her passing of
cancer last year. 2006 has been an especially productive year for
Binney, who released not one but two impressive albums: Out of
, on Binney’s own Mythology label, David_Binney.jpgwas recorded in Seattle and features
oblique guitar hero Bill Frisell as creative ally, along with drummer Kenny
Wolleson and the wondrous keyboardist Craig Taborn, also
part of the new album Cities and Desire, on Criss Cross.
Both albums demonstrate Binney’s distinctive voice as composer and
player, one which can be intense but underscored with an angular,
sophisticated sense of beauty and longing.
TO-DOINGS: Contemporary music aficionados, get
thee to UCSB’s Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall tonight, as the Ensemble
for Contemporary Music gives its fall concert. This one includes
the first public performances by the University’s new Corwin Chair
holder, Clarence Barlow, who will also be feted at next
spring’s “Primavera” festival. (got e? fringebeat@independent.com).

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