Hal Willner presents Amarcord Nino Rota - New York City Article
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Hal Willner’s “Amarcord Nino Rota”
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Friday, July 27
In 1981, the 25-year-old producer Hal Willner masterminded one of the great concept albums of all time, Amarcord Nino Rota, a brilliant anthology of new performances by a choice cast of contemporary jazz musicians playing the music of the famous Italian film composer. It was a masterstroke for Mr. Willner, who was to become famous as the music producer for Saturday Night Live, in that Rota’s memorable and melodic music was hardly ever heard outside of the movies he wrote it for (most famously the Frederico Fellini films Amarcord and Satyricon). While, at the same time, most of the postmodern stylists that Mr. Willner recruited were only known for playing their own compositions. The idea of putting them together - those players and this music - was inspired, and although Mr. Willner went on to produce first-rate compendiums of the music of Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill, and Disney movie songs, among many others, this collection remains most people’s favorite.
It’s been 37 years, so the time is well nigh to revisit the basic idea as the basis for a concert. It happens Friday July 27 at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and though several stars from the original LP are no longer with us (like the much missed Jaki Byard, and Steve Lacy), Mr. Willner has reconvened a new all-star cast under the musical direction of everyone’s favorite cutting-edge go-to-guy, Steven Bernstein. (You can see the list of players at the URL below, but for the record: Art Barron, Eli Brueggemann, Bryan Carrott, Shawn Edmonds, Marty Ehrlich, Craig Handy, Conrad Harris, Marika Hughes, Gary Lucas, Karen Mantler, Maxim Moston, Lenny Pickett, Tony Scherr, Bob Stewart, Gary Valente, Karen Waltuch, Steve Weisberg, Douglas J Wieselman, and Kenny Wollesen.) I doubt that anyone could top Jaki Byard’s matchless rendition of “La Strada” (it’s even better than Perry Como’s) but I’m anxious to see what they come up with.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)