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Short Takes: Aug. 10, 1992

4 minute read


At the End, A Miss by Miles

Although both rely on improvisation and solos, jazz and rap have never found much common ground. The great jazz trumpeter MILES DAVIS was in a recording studio trying to remedy this at the time he died last September. But the unfinished album, Doo-Bop, recorded with the rapper EASY MO BEE, merely skims the rich possibilities of a synthesis. Mo Bee and Davis perform together on just three of the record’s nine cuts. Even then, they do not unite. While Mo Bee’s rapping is nimble and sharp, and Davis’ muted horn hot and restless, the , numbers have a slapped-together, disconnected feeling, like a long-distance correspondence between strangers. Jazz fans, like rap fans, tend to be purists. Both will be frustrated by this record.


Private Journey

The supple guitar riffs and fluid compositions of PAT METHENY are still the best evidence around that jazz-pop fusion works. But Secret Story is not just another eloquent instrumental statement. It is a “theme” album with a surprising subject: Pat Metheny. The tracks form an emotional though virtually wordless chronicle of his ill-fated romance with a Brazilian woman. Above the Treetops uses a sweet-voiced Cambodian women’s choir to herald the excitement of new love. The intensity builds through the poignant Longest Summer (on which Metheny makes his piano debut). The wrenching finale, Not to Be Forgotten, won’t be. And neither will Metheny’s daring new venture into himself.


Panic at First Bite

Imagine that the last in a centuries-long line of vampire exterminators is an airhead Los Angeles adolescent. Imagine that her secret weapon against the children of the night is her “keen fashion sense.” Imagine a good, cute actress named Kristy Swanson as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and a piquantly mixed cast that includes Luke Perry and Donald Sutherland. By now, you are perhaps dreaming that this summer’s most pressing need — for a funny sleeper — has been fulfilled. Wrong. Or, as Buffy says, “Does the word duh mean anything to you?” It does to director Fran Rubel Kuzui, whose frenzied mistrust of her material is almost total. Somebody should have given her a garlic necklace — or a Miltown — and told her to chill out.


A Cult Classic Resurfaces

Phone rings, door chimes, in comes ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY. At 10 one May Sunday morning in 1970, cinema verite filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) took his camera into the studio to document the recording of Company, the witty, brittle musical that established Stephen Sondheim as Broadway’s premier lyricist-composer. Pennebaker fashioned the joy and angst of the 18 1/2-hr. endeavor into a thrilling mini-musical in itself. Virtually unseen for two decades, the film is now available on video (RCA Victor). High points: Dean Jones earnestly attacking Being Alive, Elaine Stritch agonizing through The Ladies Who Lunch. As a good show should, the 53-min. video leaves its audience craving more.


The Real Thing |

Existential thrillers are the UFOs of literature. Everybody has heard about them, but few have actually seen one. A. Alvarez’s DAY OF ATONEMENT (Random House; $21) is the real thing: the story of the Constantines, a middle-aged couple with one friend too many. Tommy Apple dies under mysterious circumstances, leaving his property to Joe, whom he liked, and Judy, whom he loved. The estate turns out to be worth millions — some of it from drug sales. Moral and marital dilemmas, close-ups of traffic-jammed London, episodes with dealers and police provide enough suspense to fuel a dozen novels. It is unlikely that any could keep pace with the work of Alvarez, whose most famous book, The Savage God, was a study of suicide. This one examines homicide, with even more disturbing results.

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