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Branford Marsalis: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

The Songs:

  1. Roused About
  2. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
  3. Xavier’s Lair
  4. Cain & Abel
  5. Citizen Tain
  6. Gilligan’s Isle
  7. Dewey Baby
  8. Beat’s Remark

Personnel:

  • Branford Marsalis – soprano & tenor saxophones
  • Robert Hurst – acoustic bass
  • Jeff “Tain” Watts – drums
  • Wynton Marsalis – trumpet (on “Cain & Abel”)
  • Courtney Pine – tenor saxophone (on “Dewey Baby”)

Recorded and released in 1991, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born finds Branford Marsalis returning to the trio format that he had previously explored on 1989’s Trio Jeepy. This is a strong, exploratory set, often invoking some of the finer free jazz recordings of John Coltrane. Marsalis undertook this album and tour right before beginning his two-year stint on The Tonight Show. With the exception of the opening and closing tracks by bassist Robert Hurst, all the rest are Marsalis originals. The first track, Roused About, is a tribute to long time Monk saxophonist Charlie Rouse. The angular melodic twists clearly reflect Monk’s style. The title track gets its name from the African novel by Ayi Kwei Armah. Branford’s brother Wynton joins on “Cain & Abel”, while “Dewey Baby”, (named after a fragment played by tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman), is a typical “cutting contest” between Branford and British saxophonist Courtney Pine. Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts is featured on the odd-metered “Citizen Tain”. This album was one of Marsalis’ strongest statements in the 1990’s and received high acclaim throughout the media, including a Five-Star review from Downbeat magazine. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Bob Bernotas. Branford Marsalis: Jazz Musician.

Suggested Viewing:

Branford Marsalis. Music Tells You.

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Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011), actress, humanitarian.

Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most popular and successful actresses that Hollywood ever produced. Born in England to American parents from Kansas, she held dual citizenship. The tense situation in Europe that led up to World War II led her parents to move to California in 1939. Her striking physical presence, even as a child, led to many child film roles, such as Lassie Come Home, Jane Eyre, and National Velvet, which shot her to instant fame. Her last role as a child star was in Little Women.

Taylor struggled for a couple of years to make the transition to adult roles before finding success in Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy. She followed this with such classic films as A Place in the Sun (with Montgomery Clift), Giant (with Rock Hudson and James Dean), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (with Paul Newman), and BUtterfield 8 (with her husband, Eddie Fisher), for which Taylor earned an Oscar for Best Actress.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in "The Taming of the Shrew"

Taylor was almost as famous for her many marriages as she was for her film work. Her husbands included hotel heir Conrad Hilton, actor Michael Wilding, movie producer Michael Todd, singer Eddie Fisher, and Senator John Warner. However, she is best remembered for her two marriages to noted British actor Richard Burton. The two met while filming Cleopatra, Taylor’s signature role. The couple went on to make ten more films together, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, (which earned Taylor her second Best Actress Oscar), Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and the made-for-TV film Divorce His, Divorce Hers, as well as a stage version of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

 

Although her star power decreased starting in the 1970’s, she continued to appear in films, including Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music and Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d. Her last movie role was in the live action film The Flintstones in 1994. Taylor made her Broadway and London West End debut in 1982 in Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes. She also appeared in many television shows, including the daytime soaps All My Children and General Hospital, as well as the miniseries North and South and two appearances on The Simpsons. She also starred in the made-for-tv movie These Old Broads in 2001, alongside Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, and Joan Collins.

 

Taylor with Michael Jackson

In her later years, Taylor was well-known as an activist and fund-raiser for AIDS related charities and events. She created a foundation for AIDS research and endowed several hospitals. She also produced her own line of jewelry and perfume. She was well-known as one of the closest friends to pop star Michael Jackson. Elizabeth Taylor suffered from many physical problems throughout her life, including five broken backs, hip replacements, a brain tumor, osteoporosis, and congestive heart failure, which plagued her for the last 7 years of her life and finally led to her death. As she reflected on her struggles in life, she said:

 

“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting… I’m a survivor – a living example of what people can go through and survive.”

Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)

Robert Schumann was an important German composer of the Romantic era. Along with Schubert, he was one of the greatest composers of art songs.

Schumann grew up with a love of literature due to his father, who worked as an author, publisher, and book seller. He displayed considerable talent and a love for music at an early age and began to write his own pieces. He was studying for a career in law until seeing a performance by noted violinist Niccolò Paganini, which convinced him to pursue music as a career. Schumann began piano studies with Frederich Wieck and would have been a concert pianist until an injury to his right hand forced him to focus on composition. Schumann later married Wieck’s daughter, Clara, against the wishes of her father. She became an important source of inspiration for him and was a noted interpreter of his piano works.

Schumann’s interest in literature combined with his love of music in two ways. First of all, he was an excellent writer and became one of the best known music critics of his day. He even wrote music criticism from the point of view of two characters named Florestan and Eusebius, which represented different parts of his personality. Another character named Raro may have represented Clara, who gave balance to the other two characters. Schumann published the “New Journal for Music,” in which sought to revive interest in earlier composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, while promoting newer composers he admired, such as Chopin, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and especially the young Brahms.

Schumann’s interest in literature also manifested itself in his compositions. He was one of the main developers of program music during the Romantic period and devised elaborate musical narratives in his music. Some early examples of this in his piano suites include the Papillons, Carnaval, and the Davidsbündlertänze (“Dances for the League of David”, an imaginary society invented by Schumann which included the Florestan and Eusebius characters as members). His most popular piano suite is the Kinderszenen (“Scenes from Childhood”), which contains his best-known piece, “Träumerei”.

After a protracted legal battle, Robert and Clara Schumann were finally married in 1840. This year is often called the “Year of Song”. Schumann drew inspiration from the many love letters that the couple exchanged and composed over 150 art songs during this year, including the song cycles Liederkreis, Frauenliebe und -leben, and his masterwork for voice, the Dichterliebe. (The love story between Robert and Clara has been the source of two Hollywood movies: 1947’s Song of Love, starring Paul Henreid and Katharine Hepburn, and the 1983 film Frühlingssinfonie (“Spring Symphony”), with Herbert Grönemeyer and Natassja Kinski. In addition, pop musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler have given several public recitals recently, narrating the Schumann’s love letters over performances of their music.)

Although Schumann continued to compose piano music and art songs, he also began to branch out into other forms. He wrote an opera, concertos for piano, violin, cello, and a quartet of horns; and four symphonies, including the Symphony No. 1, “Spring”. He also wrote a number of important chamber works, including the Three Romances for oboe and the Three Fantasy Pieces for clarinet, both of which he also arranged for violin or cello.

In the last few years of his life, Schumann began to experience tinnitus and visions of angels and demons. His delusional behavior continued until he attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge. After he was rescued and taken home, he checked himself into an insane asylum, where he died two years later. Causes of his mental illness are still unknown, but doctors and music historians have advanced many possibilities, including syphilis, brain cancer, and mercury poisoning. After his death, his wife Clara edited and published his works. Together with Brahms, they worked tirelessly to perform and promote his music.

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