Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alan Bergman & Gene Bertoncini

Hugh's Room was hosting a Jazz.FM91 Songwriters Series with Alan Bergman & Gene Bertoncini; this would be Bergman's only Canadian stop on the tour.

Bergman made a point to talk about Norman Jewison's appreciation of music and song in film, and was deferential to  Kevin Jewison (Norman's cinematographer son), who was sitting in the audience. Apparently the lyrics in the song 'Windmills of your mind" for the Thomas Crowne Affair (1968) so perturbed a certain singer he wanted them all changed, but Jewison Senior insisted not a syllable be touched.

Great backstories.  Like how the song, What are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life, was written.  The Director Richard Brooks came to Bergman with an assignment.  Compose a song that would play in the beginning of the movie with young lovers deeply in love; and then play later in the film, after the two had been long-married and the husband had become a workaholic and the wife an alcoholic.  Not a note or word could change, yet the song would have to suit the mood for both states.  Michel Legrand wrote the melody and Bergman and his wife Marilyn wrote the lyrics.  The film? The Happy Ending is not well-remembered, but the song itself  was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and continues to be a standard. 

It was a long night, and Alan had given it his best.  When people rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, he didn't have it in him to do an encore.  But then, he is 85. 

Bertoncini accompanied Bergman.  He was born in 1937 and still entertained as a jazz guitar virtuoso.

To see two old men celebrating music and song adds a whole different layer to the lyrics and music.  The love songs seem to have a different shimmer, a new depth.

I saw Cab Calloway in his 80s, Stephan Grapelli in his late 70s, and Frank in his early 80s and they all gave memorable performances.

Still, I wasn't expecting Bergman to be 85, and was a bit shocked when he came on stage.  He settled in comfortably and started singing in the nonchalant way songwriters have.... they know they aren't singers, but want to share the music.  And share he did, interesting backstories and tidbits about songs...  Like how 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers' started as a 45 second television theme, or how Frank Sinatra always called him 'kid' even when he was in his 60s.  His wife Marilyn was in the audience as well.  imdb shows the two have been married since 1958.  In this interview on YouTube you can see he is still smitten.

And here is Alan singing the tune What are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life. 

(this is an odd little video... it has breathtaking photos of Italy, Venice, France and then an older couple interspersed... on a cruise ship... wait.... is that Brilliance of the Seas?  It looks familiar!  lol).

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