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Movie Review: 'Shrek 2'

Film critic David Edelstein reviews the follow-up to the popular Disney animated feature Shrek.

05:44

Other segments from the episode on May 21, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 21, 2004: Obituary for Elvin Jones; Review of the film "Shrek 2;" Interview with Charles Schultz; Review of the CD “Fats Waller: The Centennial Collection.”

Transcript

DATE May 21, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Profile: Remembering the career of jazz drummer, Elvin Jones, who
died this week at the age of 76
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

Today, we remember drummer Elvin Jones, who died Tuesday at the age of 76
following a long period of failing health. Jones was one of the greatest and
most original drummers in the history of jazz. His most influential work was
with John Coltrane from 1960 to '66.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Jazz critic Francis Davis wrote this about Elvin Jones for The
Village Voice: `It was the complexity of his own subdivisions, the artful
suggestion of triple meter over basic four that kept you riveted after the
shock wore off. He was the drummer most crucial to the evolution of jazz in
the period following bop, and you feel sorry for the generations who will know
him only from his recordings, denied the thrill of watching him in action.'

After leaving the John Coltrane Quartet, Jones led a number of small groups
known as the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His career lasted over 50 years.
Terry Gross spoke with Elvin Jones in 1998 shortly after his 70th birthday.
Before speaking about his work as a drummer, they talked about his childhood
and his family. Jones was born into what would become one of the most
celebrated families in jazz. His older brother, Hank Jones, is a
distinguished pianist. His brother, Thad, who died in 1986, was a cornetist,
arranger and bandleader. Elvin's first recording as a leader, made in 1961,
featured both of them.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of 1998 interview)

Mr. ELVIN JONES: I wanted to play since I was two years old, and I've always
wanted to play drums. I never really wanted to play an instrument. You know,
we had a piano, and Hank and a older sister who played piano, as well. And
she's a classical pianist. And Hank, you know, and all the rest--our other
brothers and sisters all did it. Everybody took piano lessons, and they could
do something, at least play the scales.

TERRY GROSS, host:

How did you know that it was drums for you?

Mr. JONES: Because I saw them. I used to see the circuses, and Ringling
Bros. We lived in a place in Pontiac, Michigan, where right in front of our
house was a huge great, open field, I guess, you know, maybe a thousand acres
or so. And it was just where all the circuses used to come, and they'd pass
right by our house to--you know, with all their elephants and, you know,
zebras and horses and all of that, camels and all these things. I used to see
them when I was a little boy.

And, you know, I'd see--they would always have a circus parade, basically, and
I just got fascinated with the drums, with the percussions. I'd watch the
drummers, you know. They'd be dressed up in these fancy, beautiful uniforms.
It similar to the, I guess, the uniforms I used to wear when I started playing
in the high school band. But like I said, that started me off. So I was
very, oh, just enraptured with that. And I would follow that band for a mile
or so and just to walk next to the drummers.

GROSS: You were in the marching band in school, weren't you?

Mr. JONES: Oh, yes.

GROSS: Do you think that the kind of parade drumming and marching band
drumming that you were so fond of as a child affected your drumming later in
life?

Mr. JONES: Well, it certainly--I developed a good sense of time because when
I had to march and the standard tempo was 120 beats per minute. And, of
course, that--it does something to you after you walk, if you march for two or
three miles and go out to play a football game and go through the formations
of making letters or whatever. And I think it certainly gives you another
sense of what percussion really is all about and how it relates and how it
blends with everything else, that it's just a much a part of music as any
other instrument in a band.

GROSS: When you started to play the drums, what did you do to strengthen your
hands and to learn how to coordinate your hands and your feet?

Mr. JONES: Oh, God. Well, I didn't start using my hands and my feet that
much. You know, I started simply with a pair of drumsticks, a textbook and a
drum pad, and altogether the whole thing cost about--less than $3. And it was
not so easy to get $3 in those days. But I just tried to learn the basics,
tried to learn the rudiments, tried to learn to, you know--I did what my--you
know, the assignments given to me by my teacher.

GROSS: How old were you before you had an actual set of drums in your house
instead of just a drum pad?

Mr. JONES: Oh, I think I was 21 years old. I had been in the Army--the Army
Air Corps, rather, and I did my service. And when I got discharged, with the
mustering outpay that I had, I borrowed another $35 from my oldest sister and
I bought a set of drums. That's the first set of drums I ever had. I was
almost 22 years old.

GROSS: When you got out of the military, I think for a while you played in a
house band in Detroit at a club where a lot of well-known musicians came, and
you'd...

Mr. JONES: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: ...accompanied them. So that must have been a great way to get
exposed to playing with a lot of people.

Mr. JONES: Yes, it was. It certainly improved my education a great deal.
Because my main purpose was to try to learn as much as I could about what--the
music that had fascinated me so much. Because I was in the Army, I was in the
Air Corps, and I first heard a real what I would think--in organized big time
what I thought was some of the greatest music I've ever heard in my life on a
recording. I heard Dizzy Gillespie, and big Sid Catlett was the drummer who
was just amazing, this guy. And they played Dizzy's composition of "Salt
Peanuts," And Sid Catlett played an eighth bar introduction, and it was--with
brushes. And I'd never heard anything so beautiful, so precise, so musical
and that I was completely enraptured by that.

And so from that point on, I tried to--I listened to every record that I could
possibly get. You know, there weren't many records floating around in the
barracks in those days, and even if there were, it's not so easy to find a
record player to play them on. We had one and, you know, the needles were all
dull, so--but we managed to listen to it anyway. But I thought that was just
fascin--I was just fascinated. I've been fascinated from that point on. I've
never lost that enthusiasm. I think it just the most beautiful thing I'd ever
heard in my life.

GROSS: How did you end up playing with John Coltrane in the early '60s--I
mean, when you first started playing with him in the early '60s?

Mr. JONES: Well, before that, when I lived on East 6th Street right off 2nd
Avenue. And on 4th Street and the Bowery, there was this club, the Five Spot,
the first Five Spot. And there, I met Thelonious Monk, who was playing there
every night with John Coltrane and with Shadow Wilson and Wilbur Ware, who was
the bass player. And I used to sit there every night with--you know, I'd hold
a glass of beer for three or four hours and listen to that music. And any
rate, that's how--I first met John Coltrane there.

And then later, he started to play with the Miles Davis Band, and then had
occasion to substitute for Philly Joe Jones once or twice. And during this
time, John asked--he was thinking about forming his own group, and he asked me
if and when this happened would I consent to play with him, and I told him I
certainly would. And he only had to--when the time came, all he had to do was
ask me.

DAVIES: Jazz drummer Elvin Jones, speaking with Terry Gross in 1998. Jones
died Tuesday at the age of 78.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Before we return to Terry's conversation with jazz drummer Elvin
Jones, let's listen to something recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 1961
with John Coltrane and Elvin Jones on drums. This is Coltrane's composition
called "Spiritual."

(Soundbite of "Spiritual")

GROSS: I'm wondering if your drumming in the opening of "Spiritual," as
recorded at the Vanguard, was composed--you know, was thought out beforehand
or if this is improvised.

Mr. JONES: It was all improvised. We never had a rehearsal in the whole time
that we were together, not one time. Everything was improv--as a matter of
fact, I never really knew until I heard a downbeat exactly what it was we were
going to play. It was sort of like that. You know, once you started to
playing, we just sort of rallied around the flag and it came off like that. I
don't know. It's very unique. I've never had that kind of experience ever
before or since.

GROSS: Did you ever say to him, `I want to know more before we start'?

Mr. JONES: No, I wouldn't--I didn't ...(unintelligible). I couldn't--he was
the bandleader. I thought he could play anything he wanted, and I knew he was
capable of playing anything. He could play in the New York Philharmonic if he
wanted to, you know. He had that kind of discipline, you know. He was as
disciplined as well as any other musician I've ever seen, you know, in any
kind of orchestra or whatever. And so he knew exactly--John always knew what
he was doing. And he had confidence in the rest of us that we would be able
to complement and enhance and make it into something that was tangible.

GROSS: Now you've said that the band would never rehearse. I imagine you
didn't see any charts or sheet music before playing, is that right?

Mr. JONES: No.

GROSS: No?

Mr. BISHOP: It was all in our head--all in our minds.

GROSS: When John Coltrane's solos got longer and then your solos got longer,
too, I wonder what it was like to accompany him in, like--What?--40-minute
solos. I mean, that's the length of a whole set.

Mr. JONES: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you, there was one occasion in Philadelphia
where you are now--You remember the Showboat Lounge?

GROSS: Yeah, that was a jazz club before I moved here, yeah.

Mr. JONES: Yeah, right. Anyway, we used to play there quite often in Pep's
bar and all and the Blue Note up in North Philly. But we used to play--the
routine was on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, it would be a matinee. And we
played a matinee that--this particular matinee, John was playing a very
fast-tempo piece and something happened to his horn, I guess, a pad fell out
or whatever, you know. And it was just all he could do--he could barely get a
tone out of it, just squeaks and squawks. So--and he wouldn't stop. And so
we--and he played until he finally got--he finally started making scales out
of all of these sounds that were coming out of his horn and he played this
piece for three hours.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BISHOP: And every--but the thing about it is when he--after--when we
finished, I didn't--I was ready for--ready to play the next suite. I said,
`OK, what are we going to play next?' And the matinee was over, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BISHOP: So you're talking about 40 minutes ...(unintelligible). I tell
you, sometimes it--the way we were--the way that group was, I think it
was--the time didn't really have any significance, you know. I didn't get
tired; nobody got tired. I just--to pursue an idea of a mode to its natural
conclusion. And if it took an hour or 40 minutes or two hours or whatever,
then that--so be it.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: What about when the music of the group started moving away from time
signatures and getting freer? As the drummer, how did you feel about that?

Mr. JONES: Well, it was just like anything else. I don't think any--it
really didn't matter, because that's what you try--what you refer to as an
abstract. And so it--there was nothing strange about abstracts, because I
used to watch--look to or watch--you know, go into a museum in Detroit, they
had a lot of Jackson Pollock's paintings, you know, and Matisse and Picasso
and all these guys. That's all abstract, you know. I didn't think it was any
different than anything else. It was just a musical abstract. But the
portrait is there, nevertheless.

GROSS: What were your brothers', Hank Jones and Thad Jones, reactions to your
work with Coltrane? Did they think it was getting too far out? Did they like
it?

Mr. JONES: I guess so. I don't know. I know Thad--they liked me, you know.
Now that's the main thing. They didn't care what I played. I'm the baby
boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So did you not even know what they thought of the music?

Mr. JONES: No, I never asked them. They understand. They always knew I
could play very well and they knew I was a good drummer. And they told me
that many times.

DAVIES: Jazz drummer Elvin Jones, speaking with Terry Gross in 1998. Jones
died Tuesday at the age of 76.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Credits)

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Coming up, Charles Schulz--a complete collection of his Peanuts comic
strip has been released in a 25-volume series. The first has just been
published.

Also, David Edelstein reviews "Shrek 2," and Kevin Whitehead celebrates the
centennial of the birth of Fats Waller.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New film "Shrek 2"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

The mischievous fairy tale "Shrek" began as a 1990 book by the late William
Steig about a warty ogre and an even wartier princess. Transformed into a
smash animated feature in 2001, it's now spawned a sequel, "Shrek 2." David
Edelstein has this review.

DAVE EDELSTEIN reporting:

It was weird to be maybe the only person on the planet indifferent to the
original "Shrek," with it eyesore colors and smirky in-jokes and fast-talking
black guy sidekick disguised as a donkey. I felt, like, well, an ogre in a
sea of happy pixies. I admit that was a sourpuss reaction because "Shrek" did
have great stuff. The first scene, for instance, in which the uncouth
bug-eating monster hero uses a prudish old fairy tale as toilet paper. Or the
evil Lord Farquaad's exhortation to his troops, which looks more prophetic
every day, `Some of you may die but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.'

I wasn't prepared, though, for the blast of happiness that is "Shrek 2." It's
a leap forward on every level, beginning with the plot, which isn't another
cookie-cutter odyssey. The movie opens with the ogre Shrek, voiced by Mike
Myers, and his princess bride, Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz, on their
honeymoon. In the last film, a father ashamed of the curse that made her a
part-time ogre had locked the fair Fiona in a tower. But in the climax, she
learned that it was the conventionally willowy blonde who wasn't her real
self. Now the lovebirds revel in their shared ogreishness. They're even
unfazed by the pitchfork-wielding mob that tends to come out when flatulent
green giants have noisy albeit PG-rated sex in the middle of their fields.

The problem is that no one will let them live happily ever after as ogres.
The couple knows they're in trouble when an invitation comes from Fiona's mom
and dad, the king and queen, voiced by John Cleese and Julie Andrews, who
don't realize that their beauteous daughter has not only married a mammoth
trumpet-eared slab of green beef, but joyously become one herself. Dinner at
the castle with the in-laws is no picnic.

(Excerpt from "Shrek 2")

"KING HAROLD": Bon appetit.

"DONKEY": Oh, Mexican food. My favorite.

"QUEEN LILLIAN": Well, let's not just sit here with our tummies rumbling.
Everybody dig in.

"DONKEY": Don't mind if I do, Lillian.

"KING HAROLD": So I suppose any grandchildren I could expect from you would
be...

"SHREK": Ogres, yes.

"QUEEN LILLIAN": Not that there's anything wrong with that, right, Harold?

"KING HAROLD": Oh, no, no. Of course not! That is assuming you don't eat
your own young.

"PRINCESS FIONA": Dad!

"SHREK": Oh, no. We usually prefer the ones who've been locked away in a
tower.

"PRINCESS FIONA": Shrek, please.

"KING HAROLD": I only did that because I love her.

"SHREK": Oh, right. Day care or dragon-guarded castle.

"KING HAROLD": You wouldn't understand; you're not her father.

"QUEEN LILLIAN": It's so nice to have the family together for dinner.

(End of excerpt)

EDELSTEIN: It's a shock when the king hires an assassin to bump off his new
son-in-law, but a happy one when it turns out to be Puss-in-Boots, voiced by
Antonio Banderas. The former "Zorro" stops the show by recasting the Mexican
avenger as an impudent feline with a weapon more disarming than a foil--a pair
of schlop-kitty painting saucer eyes that are impossibly adorable--although
Eddie Murphy's Donkey warns him the position of annoying talking animal has
already been taken. Sharing that function is the best thing that could have
happened to this braying ass.

The issue in "Shrek 2" is not how one rescues a princess but how one makes the
marriage work within a family and a society that has problems with what you
might call the `alien other.' Even Fiona's sugary fairy godmother, voiced by
"Absolutely Fabulous'" brilliant Jennifer Saunders, can't handle it. Behind
that twinkly facade, she turns out to be a steely corporate creature and the
mother of Prince Charming, who feels entitled to the princess. She hatches a
plan to turn the young woman back into a willowy blonde. She's the true
target of "Shrek 2." She's like a Disney executive with firm and acquisitive
ideas about what constitutes happily-ever-afterdom.

You could say the film boils down to a progressive plea on behalf of so-called
misfits to let them stay true to their essential misfit selves, a lesson in
how to keep your head when those around you are surgically altering theirs.
Fortunately, there's no need to boil it down, just a frolic in the wave upon
wave of parodies, songs and stupendous visual and vocal turns.

I still don't love the 3-D virtual reality look. My taste runs to cartoons
that are cartoonlike, that tickle your synapses by madly altering the laws of
time and space, in the manner of last year's "Triplets of Belleville." And my
ideal animated film would have fewer fast-food tie-ins and more original
songs. But that final rush of demented fairy-tale revisionism, the "Godzilla"
"Gingerbread Man," "Pinocchio" re-enacting "Mission Impossible" in ladies
underwear, the king who looks better as a frog. To resist it all, you'd have
to be an ogre. I take that back. Ogres are a gas.

DAVIES: Dave Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine "Slate."

Coming up, the creator of the comic strip "Peanuts," the late Charles Schultz.

This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New CD "Fats Waller: The Centennial Collection"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

Today marks the 100th birthday of Thomas Fats Waller, the New York stride
school pianist, singer, musical comedian, pioneering jazz organist and
composer of hit tunes like "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Honeysuckle Rose." Jazz
critic Kevin Whitehead says we probably don't celebrate Waller enough
nowadays, but his centennial is a good excuse to correct that.

(Soundbite of music)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD reporting:

"African Ripples" from 1934; that's one Fats Waller, the piano virtuoso. He
got a lot of his flashy technique and driving beat from his mentors, the great
stride fans, James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith. They still had
one foot in ragtime. Waller had a more modern sense of desire which
influenced his own Harlem protege, Bill Basie, years before he was promoted to
Count.

But to the public Waller was better known as a witty singer who kept up a
running comic commentary as he sang. On that score, he owed a lot to black
Vaudeville star Bert Williams. Here's Williams in 1921.

(Soundbite of vintage performance)

Mr. BERT WILLIAMS: Oh, there's lots of meaning in that word `unexpectedly.'
Now hooch is another one that's not often heard unexpectedly, not now, not
now. Now I used to drink gin, sup by sup. Then I learned to drink it cup by
cup. Yeah, Prohibition come along and messed everything up, sort of
unexpectedly. I could have done with a few bottles, but I didn't think it was
gonna last.

(End of excerpt)

WHITEHEAD: Fats Waller took Bert Williams' shtick into outer space. As one
critic put it, his comic asides appeared set in a hallucinatory world where
strange surrealist notions are pursued.

(Soundbite of Waller performance)

Mr. WALLER: (Singing) Check your weapons at the door, be sure to pay your
quarter. Burn your leather on the floor, grab anybody's daughter. The roof
is rockin'. The neighbors knockin'. We're all bums when the wagon comes,
I mean, this joint is jumpin'!

(Speaking) Let it be! Yas! Burn this joint, boy. Yas! Oh, my! Yas!

(Soundbite of woman screaming; Waller performance)

Mr. WALLER: Don't you hit that chick, that's my broad! Where did you get
that stuff at? Well, I'll knock you to your knees! What? Put this cat out
of here! What? Get rid of that pistol! Get rid of that pistol! Yeah! Get
rid of it, yas! Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! Ha, ha! Oh, man, just
gettin' it ready! No, baby, not now, I can't come over there right now.

WHITEHEAD: As a great jazz musician and great entertainer, Waller's only
rival was Louis Armstrong. His sheer joy of playing jazz blasts through like
a foghorn on "The Joint Is Jumpin'" But even without the laughs, he'd have
been a great singer for his superb rhythm and pleasing light baritone.

(Soundbite of Waller performance)

Mr. WALLER: (Singing): Gotta get my old tuxedo pressed, gotta sew a button
on my best, 'cause tonight I've gotta look my best. Lulu's back in town.
Gotta get a half a buck somewhere, gotta shine my shoes and slick my hair,
gotta get myself a boutonniere, Lulu's back in town. You can tell all my
pets, all my Harlem coquettes, Mister Otis regrets that he won't be aroun'.
You can tell the mailman not to call, I ain't comin' home until the fall and
then again I might not get back home at all, Lulu's back in town. Yeah.

WHITEHEAD: Fats Waller's more thoughtful side come out when he sat down at
the pipe organ. There, his floating sense of time and underwater tone quality
gave his blues a disembodied dreamy quality. His organ solos made a perfect
fit when director David Lynch used them on the soundtrack to his surreal
classic, "Eraserhead."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ALBERTA HUNTER: (Singing) Lord, I'd rather be there than anyplace I know.

WHITEHEAD: Fats Waller with Alberta Hunter. This music comes from the Waller
set, "The Centennial Collection" from RCA Bluebird, a long CD plus a short DVD
of Waller film clips and soundies, those precursors to music videos where he
proves a black entertainer could roll his eyes and keep his dignity.

At the piano, his head danced for his whole body, and he had the most
expressive eyebrows this side of Groucho Marx.

(Soundbite of Waller performance)

Mr. WALLER: (Singing) Every honey bee fill with jealousy when they see you
out with me. I don't blame them, goodness knows, Honeysuckle Rose. When
you're passing by flowers droop and sigh and I know the reason why. You're
much sweeter, goodness knows, Honeysuckle Rose. I don't buy sugar, you just
have to touch my cup. You're my sugar; it's so sweet when you stir it up!
When I'm takin' those sips from your lips, does the honey drip. Mercy.
Goodness knows, you're my Honeysuckle Rose. Yas!

WHITEHEAD: Since Waller recorded for RCA for almost his whole career, the CD
selection could have been better. There are some rarities and neglected gems
but no organ solos or organ group numbers, nothing by his big band and few of
his own great tunes. Missing songs include "I'm Crazy About My Baby," "Blue
Turning Grey Over You," and "The Jitterbug Waltz." But between the two discs
"Your Feet's Too Big" turns up three times.

RCA in the States rarely does right by Fats, having a band in both the LP and
CD Waller reissue series they started. Luckily, his recordings are out of the
copyright period in Europe where labels like Chronological Classics have done
rather better by the Berkeley boy who, 70 years ago, played some fancy stuff
modern pianists still can't touch.

(Soundbite of Waller performance)

DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, The Absolute Sound
and Downbeat. He reviewed "Fats Waller: The Centennial Collection" on RCA
Bluebird.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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