For every great movie Spike Lee serves up, he drops a clunker or two. For every Do the Right Thing (1989) or Summer of Sam (’99), there’s a Girl 6 (’96), Bamboozled (’00), or Crooklyn (’94). But one thing that’s never been in doubt is the gifted filmmaker’s reverence for – and taste in – urban American music.
At 7:30 p.m. on Fri. at Texas Hall on the campus of the University of Texas-Arlington, Lee will discuss, among other aspects of his work, the role music plays in his films. About an hour beforehand, local drummer and bandleader Adonis Rose, with the UTA Jazz Band, will perform selected works from Lee’s films at UTA’s Hereford University Center. Think what you may about some of the auteur’s “joints” (his allegedly slang term for his movies), the scores and soundtracks he co-produces are unassailable, going all the way back to his second film, School Daze (1988), a trademark Lee-ish social commentary piece that’s equal parts sad, funny, angry, and melancholy – few directors can conjure moods as strong or as colorful. Arguably the best track is “Be Alone Tonight,” by The Rays, a fictional vocal quartet of gorgeous gals (in skin-tight silver-and-black mermaid gowns) that pre-dates En Vogue by a couple of years and that featured Jasmine Guy and Tisha Campbell.
Lee followed up with Do the Right Thing, a beautifully intimate yet cinematic film whose ensemble cast includes “Radio” Raheem, a street prophet who blasts his boombox as loud as possible, earning him the enmity of the cops – and some of the other characters – but also making him a sort of mini-radio station, mainly because his song of choice is Public Enemy’s angry “Fight the Power.” (PE frontman Chuck D once described gangsta rap as “the black CNN.”) Around the time of the film, the early 1990s, Lee began to mine urban American music’s rich past. Marquee artists whose work began pulsing throughout his fims include Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Motown legends such as Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Marvin Gaye.
Lee also began incorporating more original compositions into his films. Except for a brief period in the late ’90s, when Prince and Public Enemy each scored an entire movie (Girl 6 and He Got Game, respectively), Lee devoted himself almost exclusively to jazz. Two contemporary composers have handled most of his work, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who has pretty much become Lee’s go-to guy. Blanchard scored Lee’s three most recent features: 25th Hour (’03), She Hate Me (’04), and Inside Man (’06). Marsalis and Blanchard are both natives of the New Orleans area, as is Rose. Admission to the concert is free, but Lee’s talk will set you back as much as $50.
For more info, call 817-272-3471. … More jazz will happen on Thurs., when straight-ahead local legend, pianist Jhon Kahsen, visits Scat Jazz Lounge (111 W. 4th St., Sundance Square; 817-870-9100). Also, at 3:30 p.m. on Sun., the Fort Worth Jazz Society celebrates women in jazz at International House of Stars, 1800 Evans Ave. Admission is $5-10. Call 817-536-2392.
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