Cantara, 1980

The producer of my last movie took this on his patio near the jacuzzi. Sorry, but he kept the nude shots.

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The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson

Cantara, former ASCAP solfeggist and 70s porn actress turned screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with a man on the other side of the world, an English, middling orchestra conductor who specializes in Golden Age of Hollywood music and The Great American Songbook, by the name of John Wilson.

Not because he’s a fellow creator (he doesn’t create, but reconstructs and conducts music)—not because of his looks (he’s peaky, scrawny, blinky; his gray-green eyes lack luster; he’s got a facial tic, lousy posture, and the hands of a hod carrier; his nose is an equilateral triangle; his famous cleft chin, supposedly his best feature, always looks slightly askew; his ultra-short mousy hair can’t conceal the fact he’s already going gray; he sweats like a stevedore on the podium; and for the past few years he’s taken to wearing geek glasses)—and certainly not for his intellect (his fatuous pronouncement about the needlessness of lyrics in The Great American Songbook makes me want to smack the back of his head like the whippersnapper he is and send him home with a note).

So what is it about him? Honestly, at this point I don’t know. I’ve only been aware of his existence since April 30 and in love with him since May 4. But there are three things I do know for sure: His ear (the way he hears things) is intriguing, his industriousness is admirable, and his musicianship at times is kiiind of brilliant.

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Here‘s Sarah Willis’s 2016 interview with John and key members of his own eponymous orchestra where his technique in bringing out “The Hollywood Sound” is discussed. Discussion of his string technique with Sarah and JWO’s first violinist starts at 5:40.

All the rest of this is just Cantara trying to sort out where bonny John fits into her inner life. Which as it turns out right now is in every nook, every cranny…

Gershwin Plays Gershwin: 3 Preludes

I don’t have the clip, but this piece was on the program of the John Wilson Orchestra’s 2015 BBC Proms show “Salute to Sinatra”—yes I swear, that was the theme of that show, featuring (ugh) Seth MacFarlane, ’cause he can sing like Brian the Dog. The connection is that the version my bonny John and his orchestra played is the Nelson Riddle arrangement of Gershwin’s Three Preludes, Nelson Riddle having been one of Frank Sinatra’s most important musical collaborators. See? See? Anyway, here‘s Riddle’s version. It’s cute.

“Secret Love” by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster from Calamity Jane, Sung by Claire Teal, BBC Proms 2011

Clare Teal is great and gorgeous. She’s a wonderful musician and a fine singer, in fact one of the best singers (along with Jane Monheit and soprano Venera Gimadieva) the JWO’s ever worked with, and her choice of material on her records and in her own shows is impeccable. At the time Teal sang in the 2011 Proms she was a little more popular than John and his orchestra; the Beeb seems to have been worked like the old Hollywood studio system in getting two of their stars—one established, the other rising—together in one show.

Calamity Jane (here seen in its entirety as a much-beloved 1963 TV version with Carol Burnett) was one of those films shown by the Gay & Lesbian Arts Alliance of San Francisco in their “Forbidden Hollywood!” series back in the early 90s, the movie print lent to them by none other than Doris Day herself. Took the Bograt to see it when he was 12. Not one of his favorite movies, he preferred Deanna Durbin in those days.

“Chanson de Maxence” from Les Demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand, Sung by Anne Sofie von Otter

Je l’ai cherchée partout j’ai fait le tour du monde
De Venise à Java de Manille à Angkor
De Jeanne à Victoria de Vénus en Joconde
Je ne l’ai pas trouvée et je la cherche encore

Je ne connais rien de lui et pourtant je le vois
J’ai inventé son nom j’ai entendu sa voix
J’ai dessiné son corps et j’ai peint son visage
Son portrait et l’amour ne font plus qu’une image

Cleansing my aural memory of John Wilson’s 2000 recording of Legrand’s “Chanson de Maxence” (in English clumsily rendered as “You Must Believe in Spring” or some such). Bonny John conducts his eponymous orchestra in an arrangement by Richard Rodney Bennett, who had absolutely no feel for this song. With such a strong melody (reminiscent of Faure) and strong lyrics, all it needs is a strong emotive singer and a backup piano. I note with some distress John himself did some other arrangements in this album, particularly for “Miss Otis Regrets”. With no lyrics! What the hell good is such a hilarious song without the words???

John and the JWO are okay, but just okay. I suppose 18 years ago my darling boy’s loftiest ambition was to be the next Ray Noble.