Four - One More Time
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Right after lunch today, Lauren and I decided to try out the psychiatric couch
that is now ensconced in the living room. It is facing in the perfect location to listen to music. I wanted to play something that might appeal to Lauren. It was sometime in 1993 that I received a phone call from my alto saxophonist friend Gavin Walker who told me, “You must buy the CD called Paraiso
with Gerry Mulligan and with vocals by Jane Duboc. This is the kind of music you like since you were always partial to Stan Getz’s Jazz Samba
.” Gavin was right and it has been one of my favourites since. Lauren and I had a nice listen in our comfortable couch. It was special. It made me think of those wonderful Thursday nights at the Classical Joint on Carrall Street in the 80s. I went often to listen to Gavin Walker, usually with his guitarist of choice Michael Wild.
Of course it has all changed and jazz joints are smoke-free (I don’t remember how I added all the smoke to these pictures! I suspect that my subjects added smoke from their own cigarettes.)
When I found out that the Classical Joint was going to close its doors I proposed a little story to then Straight editor Charles Campbell. He said yes and the little piece was one of my first published ones.
Four Play Out Jazz Rituals
By Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
October 27, 1989
Pause outside the window of the Classical Joint on any Thursday night around 10 and you will witness a scene that has not changed for 15 years. People sit at small, candle-lit tables playing chess or sipping their mysterious coffees.
You walk in and pay Jorge, the Argentine owner two dollars. You avoid the hard uncomfortable and look for the cushioned bench by the wall.
In one corner, never quite managing to fade into the darkness of the black walls, sits the sophisticated lady. Like many before her, she made her way in to sit entranced by the man hunched over the alto sax.
The man with the sax is Gavin Walker. Wearing a striped shirt, flapping loosely over tight jeans, he manages to nestle a lit Kool in his right hand while playing. At his feet, two more packs of cigarettes wait – “Just in case.”
Behind Walker, a drummer and a string bass player provide accompaniment. Sitting on the edge of the stool by the upright piano Michael Guild and his guitar wait for Walker’s nod to start their solo.
Gavin Walker’s jazz quartet, in a milestones of sorts, has been playing for 15 years’ worth of Thursdays at the Joint. Thelonius Monk’s “Straight no Chaser”. Miles Davis’s “Four” or “So What”. Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa”. These tunes, as Walker calls the jazz standards in his repertoire, are laced with originals like “Up in Gavin’s Flat” or “The Worm Turns Again”. Played so many times, they have evolved into something intensely personal.
Between numbers, in a deep FM Radio voice, Walker throws little tidbits of jazz trivia at the audience. You may learn that Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” takes its names form Bird’s Catholic roots. Or that bassist Wyatt “Bull” Ruther, who used to frequent the Joint for years before migrating to California, might have shared fame with Dave Brubeck had the former not passed out in a bathtub and missed a crucial recording session.
Regulars will try to stump Walker with the kind of obscure information that has ripened into a bona fide ritual over the years. One patron never fails to inquire about the health of Richard Twardzik, an obscure if brilliant piano player of the late 50’s. Walker’s dry retort, “As far as I know, he’s still dead,” never changes.
Sooner or later, a bearded man will walk in. A cigarette in his mouth and an Oz scarecrow hat on his head he carries a small wooden rectangular case with a violin inside.
Known simply as Ed, he’s a busker who plays Water Street almost every day. “Except when there’s a hockey game on television.” Although he never plays, Ed is at the Joint every Thursday. Between sets he will go out and work his favourite corner by the Town Pump. When the quartet is especially hot you might spy a smile on his face.
At about 1:30 the group begins to wind down. The last #4 Blanca bus passes by. And the rain-like noise of the street flusher blends in with the last notes of “Softly,As in a Morning Sunrise”.
I took the two grainy photographs ten years before in September 1979. The film I used was Ilford FP-5. I pushed the film to something like 3000 ASA and then I used Kodak Chromium Intensifier to nudge out some detail from the shadows.
Emily Molnar, Studebakers & Kodak Technical Pan Film
Friday, September 25, 2009
I consider myself a fortunate man in having had the opportunity to photograph dancer/choreographer (and now interim artistic director of Ballet BC) Emily Molnar six times. Photography has been kind to me in not only giving me the opportunity to photograph such interesting people as Molnar but also the distinct pleasure that comes with repetition over a period of time. Particularly with dancers there is always the excitement (also a stressful problem) of coming up with a concept. In the past I have photographed Molnar on a big red suitcase (she was either going somewhere or coming from somewhere) and on the floor with her foot sticking out in front of my camera. She once danced a solo for me until I found a position I wanted to capture. I photographed her with Crystal Pite (both danced for Ballet BC and Ballet Frankfurt) and then there was the time she posed with young dancer Alex Burton and Arts Umbrella Dance Director, Artemis Gordon.
This last time (two weeks ago) the assignment came from the Georgia Straight with the duty of somehow conveying the idea of Emily Molnar, Interim Artistic Director of Ballet BC and not Emily Molnar the dancer or the choreographer.
When Molnar arrived in my studio (I had a prescient feeling it was going to be my last session in my studio after about 17 years in it. And so it was) I had no clue as to what I was going to do. Molnar made it easy for me as she had her own idea. She had always admired a photograph of her mentor, the former director of Ballet Frankfurt, William Forsythe. The portrait in question had half his face in darkness. I told Molnar that the folks at the Straight (they want everything bright) would frown on this and we would have to compromise a tad.
I photographed Molnar in colour as the Straight likes colour. My belief is that variety would serve them better, but then what do I know, after all I shoot film and I have memory of cars that had the marking Body by Fisher and know that Raymond Loewy designed Studebakers.
On my own I then inserted a roll of the sharpest film (colour or b+w) ever made, Kodak Technical Pan. It is a b+w film with an extended red sensitivity that makes skin glow. Perhaps it was the knowledge of using a roll that I keep in my freezer and use only for special occasions with special people (and Molnar qualifies for that!) that made me pursue that little light on the left side that makes the b+w version of the picture so much better than the pleasant colour one. I have not picked up a Straight but I can bet that the folks there selected the nice colour one. But then what do they know about Studebakers?Emily MolnarMore Emily Molnarand even more Emily MolnarTechnical PanMore Technical PanAnd even more.
Runts & Bananas
Thursday, September 24, 2009
It is strange how we accept that people, individuals that they are, must by necessity be different. Yet we expect (or at least this gardener expects) plants to be all the same in the sense that all roses Rosa
‘Evelyn’ will be good garden plants if the plant has a good reputation. There are reasons for this in that many plants are clones of a mother plant. But gardeners have begun to understand that several generations of cloning can weaken the resulting plant. Many of these plants simply do not perform at all. This was the case for my English Rose, Rosa
‘Evelyn’. It has been doing little with great consistency in my garden.
But it all changed this year and I must give credit to my wife Rosemary. About 6 months ago she insisted I serve her a sliced banana with brown sugar for breakfast. This has been her daily fare since. When I go out (she is unable to drive these days because of her badly fractured ankle) she tends to ask me, “Are there bananas for tomorrow?” And it is not only bananas for breakfast. I like to throw a banana or two into the blender with some ice; a bit of sugar and water (water is Argentine style) for our lunch or dinner beverage. Or I will use yoghurt instead of water. In short I make sure we always have bananas.
Bananas are high in potassium. Potassium is one of the most important needs of a healthy rose bush. Potassium is good for their roots. I have been slicing the banana peels and dropping them around my rose bushes. It has been a banner year for roses. Roses like dry weather (if you water their roots) and obviously they like banana peels, too!
The leaf in the scan is that of Hosta
‘Sun Power’. This is a hosta that I almost gave up on. I purchased it many times and every time after a so-so year it would begin to revert to juvenility. The leaves would become smaller and looked stunted until the plant would simply go away without saying goodbye. Although it has yet to be studied in detail I have shared my experiences with Sun Power and other hostas that decline quickly with no apparent reason. My friend Donald Hodgson (he had a small wholesale hosta nursery in North Vancouver and alas he died last year) called hostas that tended to do this, runts. Runts runted. Donald and I put Sun Power on our runt list.
This year Sun Power rewarded me with huge leaves, thick and healthy and with that sexy twist of the leaves that is one of its best known qualities. Thanks to some afternoon sun the leaves have changed from light green, to chartreuse and then bleached ever so nicely to a beautiful yellow. In the dark corner of the garden where it is, Sun Power is a little botanical beacon.
Who would have suspected that Evelyn and Sun Power would have conspired to please me this year? Another poor grower, Rosa
‘Mary Web’ (right being held by Lauren) is right next to Sun Power. This year this pale yellow rose (almost the colour of whipped cream) that usually blooms once, did so twice. Why? Bananas.
Ostrich Ferns & Autumn Leaves
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I wrote about Nan Fairchild Sherlock & Matteuccia struthiopteris here
. I remembered here this afternoon as I was walking in the garden. Rosemary was crawling on her bum with the special boot on her left ankle to keep it in place. We were cutting back stuff and deciding which plants I am going to have to move. I noticed that one of my ostrich ferns (the botanical name is the one above!) had fronds that were dried out and how beautiful they were. I also noticed that like most of my ostrich ferns this one had the handsome almost black fertile fronds (see link above) in the middle that came out at about this time. I cut some of the dried out fronds to scan them and as I was bringing them in I thought of the fall jazz standard Autum Leaves and how Hilary’s godfather, Raúl Guerrero Montemayor would often tell me that this perennial jazz standard was not always so. It had been composed for a film with Yves Montand who introduced the song Les Feuilles Mortes
in the 1946 film Les Portes De La Nuit
, a gloomy urban drama set in post World War II Paris. Raúl would further tell me that the composer Joseph Kosma was Hungarian and that Jacques Prevert created one of the songs for Les Portes De La Nuit
by setting a Prevert poem to music, “Les Feuilles Mortes.” In 1949 Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics for the tune changing the original French title to Autumn Leaves
I believe that this standard is best played on a keyboard but I have a memory of another recording which has always been my favourite. Here
it is. And if you don't believe everything you read on the web you might note that the instrument that Chet Baker is playing here is not a trumpet. It certainly looks like a flugelhorn to me.
Seeping Blood From The Paris Opera Ballet
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Some weeks ago I purchased two books for Rebecca in my hopes that I can wean her away from Nancy Drew. One of the books is called Portraits – Dancing Through Fire
by Kathryn Lasky. The book is set in the Paris Opera of Degas in the latter part of the 19th century and is about a little ballerina that is a tad too short. When Rebecca saw the book her comment was, “It’s too difficult. And it isn’t a mystery.” I had a suspicion she would place the book in her bookcase in her room where it would languish with many of the other books I have given her.
To be fair this has not always been the case. She has read the rose books I have given her so many times that she knows more about roses at age 12 than I did when I first started gardening in 1986.
Rosemary decided to read Rebecca the first chapter. Now the Saturday afternoon routine is that they read each other a chapter from this book and Rebecca is hooked. The Prussians are at the gates of Paris in this novel so Rosemary has been reading about the Franco/Prussian war and Napoleon III so as to answer Rebecca’s questions.
There are a few people reading to other people in our family. Rosemary has been reading and helping Lauren read her books in French so that she can move up to the level that she is supposed to be. She is not quite there. Last night when Rosemary and I were babysitting at the girls’ house it was awfully quiet. It was 9 pm. Rosemary told me to go upstairs to see what the girls were up to. It was a sight to warm my heart. There was Rebecca reading to Lauren in bed. I asked Rosemary if Ale had ever read to Hilary. She did not remember. I asked Hilary who confirmed my suspicions that this never happened but did mention that I had read to them frequently including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
and Through the Looking Glass.
Returning to the book about the ballerina, since Degas is one of the protagonists I suspect that the little novel may be partly based on Degas’ The Little Fourteen-Year-Old-Dancer
, Marie Van Goethem who until had faded from history soon after she modeled for Degas. But unfortunately we now know that as soon as she grew up her mother nudged her into prostitution.
The info about the little ballerina sculpture version at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, very similar to the one at the National Gallery where Rebecca aged 5 posed for me in 2003 is as follows:
The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer; cast in 1922 from a mixed-media sculpture modeled ca. 1879–80
Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
Bronze, partly tinted, with cotton skirt and satin hair ribbon, on a wooden base
H. 41 1/4 in. (104.8 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.370)
The model for this essentially realistic work is known to have been Marie Van Goethem. Born on June 7, 1865, she was a student at the École de Danse in Paris, and by 1880 she had been engaged as a dancer at the Opéra. The care with which Degas observed his model is reflected not only in the sculpture itself, but also in the unusual number of surviving sketches of the model in charcoal and pastel, as well as in a preparatory sculptural study of the figure in the nude. The title, The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer (Petite danseuse de quatorze ans), given to the original mixed-media sculpture when it was exhibited by Degas in the sixth Impressionist exhibition held in Paris in 1881, provides the most solid evidence for the sculpture's date.
I have written before of my interest in the idea of that some of Degas leached into the blood of all the dancers who ever danced at the Paris Opera Ballet. When I went to Paris in the mid 80s I made sure I passed by the old opera house (not knowing that the one that Degas frequented was an ever older one that had since disappeared). I took some satisfying photographs which I tried to make look old by using Kodak b+w Infrared film.
In 2003 I went to watch some rehearsals of Ballet BC and I was transfixed by a dancer who moved like no other. She was slow and languid and darkly beautiful. She had a wonderful French accent when she spoke English. Her name was Sandrine Cassini. I finally was able to photograph her in 2004 in my studio where she posed as an adult Marie Van Goethem. After all Cassini had danced with the Paris Opera Ballet. She had it in the blood.
I took Rebecca and Lauren to any performance that Cassini danced in and we would go backstage so that the girls would meet her. It was a few years later that Cassini (who had left Ballet BC in 2005) returned with the Alberta Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy. We went to a performance and then had crepes with Cassini at a creperie on Robson. It was my purpose to transfer a bit of Cassini’s Degas into Rebecca who at the time was keen at dancing at the Arts Umbrella. She has stopped dancing and this has saddened me. Lauren, 7, has started at Arts Umbrella a week back. Perhaps her enthusiasm might rub off on Rebecca.
Or a little of that Degas ballerina blood might have seeped into Lauren at the creperie. Who knows, whichever way I look at it, the ghost of the little ballerina lives on even in the book that Rebecca is so enjoying in sharing with her grandmother.
My only excuse for the poor quality of the last picture is that I used Rebecca's first digital camera. I am sure that if Rebecca had taken it, she would have succeeded in snapping a much better one!
Lots Of Hips & Shakespeare Shows Off
Monday, September 21, 2009
Today I picked up Rebecca and Lauren at school and brought them home for a middle afternoon lunch. I then made dinner for them before we took them home around 8:30. I sat down in my psychiatric couch and told Rebecca that with my Argentine friend Juan Manuel Sanchez gone to Buenos Aires for good and with the recent death of my friend Abraham Rogatnick I need someone with whom I can have an intellectual relationship. I further told her that I needed company to go to dance, theatre and music. “So when I ask you to accompany me to the Friday concerts of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra at St. James Anglican I am not doing this to push culture down your throat but to accompany me as a friend.” I hope this tack works.
The afternoon was a glorious fall afternoon. The little girls played in the garden. Rebecca showed Lauren some of my potted hostas that are in obscure corners. They fed the fish in the pond. I cut some rose hips and scanned them with yesterday’s blooms of Rosa
‘William Shakespeare 2000’. The name may not be as pleasant sounding as Rosa
‘William Shakespeare’ is just as lovely a rose but it is difficult to grow. David Austin removed it from his catalogue. I keep it in my garden and it grows pretty well. It has shut down until next year. The improved one is still going strong so I am now convinced that it is really a very good plant. The hips you see here are from three plants. The single and large light red one, bottom right, is from Rosa
‘Pink Meidiland’. Higher up on the right are the hips from Rosa
‘Complicata’. The bright red ones on the bottom left are from the species rose, Rosa glauca
On the top right of the scan you can see the handywork of the leaf cutter bee. The leaves are also beginning to lose their colour as the season progresses and the plants wind down. Some rose blooms, particularly the multi-petaled ones like 'St Swithun' and 'Brother Cadfael' will not open. But 'William Shakespeare 2000' seems to be impervious to it all.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I must admit now that I have never read any books by either Margaret Drabble or Joyce Carol Oates. Having read a few good reviews of the former’s latest, The Pattern in the Carpet - A Personal History with Jigsaws
I might just succumb and correct my omission. But I don’t think I will read anything by Joyce Carol Oates quite yet.
Before the internet and search engines I was flummoxed consistently by people (that it happened more than once is outrageously unique) who asked me the name of Sancho Panza’s donkey. I finally bit the bullet and read the famous work by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra to find out. Not having read Don Quijote
was much more grievous an omission than than ignoring Joyce Carol Oates’s works. To my surprise and disappointment I learned that Sancho never gave his ass a name. He called it rucio
which is Spanish means dappled gray as he did not want to call him ass.
If there is any purpose in the above it has all to do with the reading of classics and its apparent infrequency as the 21st century “progresses”.
In yesterday’s blog I wrote of the idyllic day it was and how it ended with a terrific film based on a memoir by Gerald Durrell. I must add here that I took out two films. The first one was the Jonathan Miller 1966 film for the BBC, Alice in Wonderland
. The BBC had begun a series called The Wednesday Play
in 1964 which gave directors lots of latitude and freedom. This film, in stark b+w and a most serious Alice was as strange to my family as was my first viewing of Orson Welles’s 1962 The Trial
based on the Kafka story. This Alice in Wonderland was unsettling and when I saw my little girls stare at me I stopped play.
But today I saw it on my own and enjoyed it, although I must agree with the critics who said there were many moments of pure boredom in spite of performances by Peter Sellers, Michael Redgrave, Leo McKern, John Gielgud, Malcolm Muggeridge and Peter Cook as the mad hatter. Rebecca and Hilary argued that the dialogue was not familiar. I checked with my Oxford University Press edition and verified that the film was only condensed but dialogue was not changed.
The film put me into thought for the rest of the afternoon and I gave Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
a new read. It was far easier than El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha
. I came to the conclusion that most film adaptations (and children’s books) of Lewis Carroll’s story have been dumbed down, softened and made into the cartoons they mostly are.
As I read the introduction I thought of Saturday's expedition to VanDusen with Rosemary, Rebecca and Lauren. In that introduction there is is an account by Charles Ludwidge Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll) friend Robinson Duckworth, Fellow of Trinity on their trip up the Thames from Oxford to Godstow with the three Liddell sisters, Edith, 8, Alice, 10 and Lorina, 3.The story was actually composed and spoken over my shoulder for the benefit of Alice Liddell. [He rowed stroke and Dodgson rowed bow]. I remember turning round and saying: ‘Dodgson, is this an extemporary romance of yours?’ And he replied: ‘Yes, I am inventing as we go along.’ I also remember how, when we had conducted the three children back to the Deanery, Alice said, as she bade us good-night, ‘Oh, Mr. Dodgson, I wish you would write out Alice’s Adventures for me! He said he would try, and he afterwards told me the he sat up nearly the whole night, committing to a manuscript his recollections of the drolleries with which he had enlivened the afternoon.
Suddenly while going to VanDusen was certainly not going up the Thames Rebecca and Lauren plus my wife Rosemary became the three girls I entertained.As I watched the sun go down on our fall garden today I recalled the last two pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
So Alice got up and ran off thinking while she ran, as well as she might, what a wonderful dream it had been. But her sister sat still just as she left her, leaning her head on her hand, watching the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice and all her wonderful Adventures, till she, too began dreaming after a fashion, and this was her dream:-
…Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their
simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.