Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Incomparable Mr. Shatner

And now, Let us all bow to that god among men -  William Shatner.

Mr. Shatner cracked my iphone. Well, not really. His presence cracked my iphone.

This Summer, the Leopard was invited on board the Intrepid aircraft carrier near the West side highway in New York for a screening of a new documentary, ‘The Captains”- essentially interviews with several actors who played “captains” on various Star Trek TV shows and movies – directed by the original Captain himself, Shatner.
While waiting outside the vessel among hordes of  Trekkers and Trekkies, a black van pulled out by my group outside the gates. Sure enough, emerging from its confines was the man himself. Rotound, balding, well-dressed and radiant. It was a surreal experience to see. This man, whom I have watched on various screens for most of my life, was standing 6 inches in front of me.  With that unmistakable smile, he offered a beefy outstretched hand for me to clasp. At that moment, my iphone slipped away, falling to the ground, and I could tell by the sound it made that the glass had shattered.

By the time I reached down to pick it up, Captain Kirk was gone. But it was worth it. For now, every time I answer the phone or make a call, the memory of my brush with greatness brings a tiny smile.    

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chick Corea ""From Miles" band at the Blue Note

There was a moment this week while attending a concert at the Blue Note Jazz Club with the brilliant jazz chameleon Chick Corea and his sturdy From Miles band - Wallace Roney on trumpet, Eddie Gomez, sax, Jack Dejohnette, drums, and Gary Bartz bass,  when the walls of the esteemed club seemed to fade and the sounds of the streets outside grew silent. All that mattered was the direct communication between the musicians and the listener, and every sound - the light crash of a cymbal, the blast from a horn, the touch of a piano key, - took one out of everyday existence.

We felt transported to another time and place, maybe where Davis' band played in some small club -- The Keystone Korner in San Francisco, maybe - with many of the original musicians present.

The bright, serpentine horn of Roney, flawlessly channeling Miles' unmistakable sound, was like an organic time machine. When I closed my eyes for a moment, I was sure I was as close to experiencing the 1974 era Miles Davis band as I would ever be.

Thanks, Chick, for bringing us back Miles, even for a moment.

The ones that get away

(Click to enlarge)

One of the hazards of the illustration business is when a project doesn't come into fruition. Case in point: The Leopard was commissioned to do illustrations for the excellent jazz saxophonist Steve Lehman's latest CD package. We had a few inspiring conversations and a lively repartee. I really felt we were on the same page.

In a timely manner, Lehman dutifully sent me photos that I would use as references, and after a couple of false starts, I began to work on drawings.   I was having fun. I happily sent the art off to Steve and awaited his response.

Lo and behold, Steve sent an email back that he liked what I did, but he had quite a few suggestions. Well, in fact, many suggestions. I couldn't believe how we could be on such different pages conceptually. After reading all his requests, I realized that my style and his style simply would not mesh. So we agreed to part ways. It's sad, and I had never had this happen before, but I really wanted him to be happy. His music is so good, he needed someone who could visualize it the way he saw it in his mind.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Female Voice download compilation

This is a first of a series of compilations that I will be offering. Each one will have a unique theme. This first in the series centers on jazz and jazz influenced vocal performances that I have been enjoying lately. Featuring: Nina Simone, Patricia Barbara, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tracey Thorn, Fontella Bass, Keiko Lee, and others.

Download links are below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


Friday, April 8, 2011

She Kills

The Leopard first became aware of the exciting rock vocalist Alison Mosshart in the video "Treat Me Like Your Mother",  an early single from the band The Dead Weather.

In the video Mosshart, in a weathered black leather motorcycle jacket and dark aviators brandishes a machine gun while advancing towards band mate Jack White in a barren field. She savagely fires at him while White fires back with a matching weapon in a weird game of "chicken".  By the end of this volatile mini-epic, both end up riddled with bullets.

There was something about the swagger of this woman, the precise growl of her singing and the way her long dark hair covers most of her surprisingly soft features that intrigued me. I downloaded the album the single came from,  Horehound,  immediately.

The Dead Weather's music, a thrilling retro mixture of garage rock, both funky and fuzzy, is a loud treat to the ears, especially on their even better second CD, Sea Of Cowards.  Mr. White sticks to the drums and vocals on these efforts, but you don't miss his striking innovative guitar work from The White Stripes. when he and and Ms. Mosshart sing, or more accurately, scream together, they share a wonderful combustible energy.

Link to Dead Weather video "Just Like Your Mother".

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leopard List: Academy Awards

The Leopard has written in numerous blogs what is the purpose artistic competition? Who's to say one's art is better than another? And who's to judge?

Still there is an enjoyment to creating lists of what you like. There were a lot of fine films released in 2010, some ignored by the Academy of Arts and Sciences, some not. Some, like "Black Swan", which I enjoyed, are widely known. But there are others you may have overlooked.

Following is a list of a few intriguing films I saw this year that are available either on Netflix, DVD, or still in theaters.

Mother     Directed by Joon-Ho Bong
This amazing little Korean film, the story of an insistent mother who will literally do anything to protest her dim witted son, is unpredictable, exciting, and touching. The title character, played with a quiet desperation by Kim Hye-ja is one of the most original I've seen in ages.

I Am Love     Directed by Luca Guadagino
This beautifully photographed Italian domestic drama starring Tilda Swinton in a subtle, layered performance starts out conventionally but becomes more and more intense. Sexually charged, the film has a lived in quality that stays with you.

Dogtooth     Directed by Giorgios Lanthimos

Because of the pitch black subject matter, this Greek film is hard to categorize. Essentially about a family thatis cut off from the world where human psychology is pushed to it's most primitive sexual and violent limits, it's a difficult film to recommend but once endured, is easy to admire.

Other Films I really enjoyed:

Exit Through The Gift Shop     Directed by Banksy
Ultra clever documentary about art by the world famous graffiti artist.

Let Me In     Directed by Matt Reeves
Remake of the excellent naturalist vampire thriller Let The Right One In from 2009, it's surprisingly almost as effective as the original. 

Cyrus     Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Very funny improvised comedy about a young man willing to go to any length not to separated fro his mother.  Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Drat Rats

It's impossible to use the New York City subway system and not encounter big, ugly, scary rats. In fact, they've become such a fixture in everyday city life that you only wonder about them if you don't see them.

The Leopard was waiting for the #2 train late the other night around 12:00am at the 157th street station in Harlem where it was relatively quiet and when the rat population is happiest. After the last train departed the station, they came out in droves - momma rats and baby rats,  daddies and Big Daddies, who came into the light to show off their dirty little pink tails. 

New Yorkers being what they are, tons of discarded food wrappers litter the tracks, and that's like a banquet to a rat. Imagine being brought a fancy gourmet meal to your door every night.  That's why these critters ain't going anywhere.

This hairy brood have become as much a tourist attraction these days as the naked cowboy is on Times Square.