793

Lorraine Feather: You're Outa Here (a neo-soundie)

Carl L. Hager By

Sign in to view read count
...My first reaction was, "did she really say that?" —George Griffin
Lorraine FeatherIf, like Bruno Ganz's character in Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire, Frank Sinatra happened to magically return to life this summer, the Chairman of the Board would not only have a cup of coffee with a cigarette, he would enthusiastically charter a committee of jazz fans to search the world over for the earthly delights that were/are his idea of real excitement and entertainment. "Just to be very clear on this," he'd say, "I want to hear a singer who can really swing. Someone with a little sophistication who can turn a phrase on a dime and make the lyric tell a story. I want to laugh. I want to cry."

"You want to see a soundie, Frank?" I'd ask.

"Yeah, sure kiddo," he'd say.

To which I would cheerfully explain that I had discovered a new soundie last July 26th, when I ducked into the air-conditioned darkness of the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theaters in West Hollywood... and that contrary to popular theory, excitement and entertainment are still alive in 2009.

Screen #1 at the L.A. Shorts Fest (which has now grown to be the largest short-film festival in the world, with over 300 screenings) had attracted appearances by fledgling directors Scarlett Johansson, Courteney Cox and Demi Moore (accompanied by daughter Rumer Willis and husband Ashton Kutcher) along with veteran screenwriter Kirsten Smith, to see films starring Olympia Dukakis, Sir Derek Jacobi, Elizabeth Perkins, Isabella Rosselini, Linda Hunt and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.

And lyricist/jazz singer Lorraine Feather, possibly the most talented name on the marquee.

She and animator George Griffin have collaborated on You're Outa Here (a neo-soundie), a short film produced by Feather as visual theater to accompany the hilarity of "You're Outa Here," a whirlwind stride-time adaptation of Fats Waller's "A Minor Drag" that she wrote for her 2001 album New York City Drag (Rhombus).

A soundie was the 1930s-1940s version of a music video, a three-minute selection from the popular music of the day—jazz. Anyone in a tavern or bus station with a few coins to drop into a film-projecting jukebox, called a Panoram, could behold and hear the wonders of the music world. Everyone from bandleader Duke Ellington and singer Dorothy Dandridge to drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Louis Armstrong did them. Logically enough, 60-plus years later, the same art form, digitally updated and revitalized in every way by the team of Feather and Griffin, is called a neo-soundie. Just the summer tonic Ol' Blue Eyes and the rest of the world needs.

Lorraine FeatherFeaturing a cast that includes renowned animator Max Fleischer's Krazy Kat, a dancing dog and a piranha-toothed goldfish, this short tale stars the always animated Feather as a heroically modern damsel reminiscent of Betty Boop, and follows her adventures as she gives her clueless boyfriend a well-deserved heave ho. The Toontown musical revue blows along on a hurricane of Feather's razor-sharp lyrics that she sings to Waller's infectiously frenetic tune, a rollicking stride performed by long-time Feather collaborator, pianist Dick Hyman (who has a live-action cameo, styling in a slouch Fedora) with Richard Drexler on bass and John Jenkins on drums.

Griffin's Neo-Deco animation (complete with a pair of neon pink-and-blue rotoscoped dancers) is wedded so effectively to Feather's sophisticated vocal stylings (which are, themselves, so seamlessly woven now into Waller's music) that future listenings will always conjure his kaleidoscopic, jitterbug imagery.

Griffin told Jeremie Noyer of Animated Views that when he first heard Feather's recording, "I retained about a quarter of the meaning. It was so fast and so clever that my first reaction was, 'did she really say that?' Her voice enunciated every syllable perfectly and the personality that came through was so self-possessed that a character just seemed to jump out of the song into the frame."

Feather, who has made several of her own music videos, said, "Producing the film was just a joy. George couldn't have been more simpatico; I love what he did, his musical as well as visual sense." Of Griffin's astonishment at her rapido delivery, she says, "As far as my enunciation goes . . .singing is hard, but singing fast is no harder! I don't have a lot of power but I can spit those words out; it comes naturally for some reason. I do practice of course, over and over and over. The phrasing has probably been helped over the years by being married to a drummer. [Tony Morales]"

When Feather's image bounces into the opening frames and struts straight toward the "camera lens" on the off beat, her syncopated footsteps form the backdrop for her characteristic sense of humor as she begins with a spoken line, a drolly sighing "You're more than a minor drag..." delivered with Jean Harlow's weariness, Greta Garbo's aloofness and Mae West's arch humor.

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

159

159

Lorraine Feather
Attachments

Five

Five

Lorraine Feather
Tales Of The Unusual

Scrabble

Scrabble

Lorraine Feather
Ages

Bailey's Bundles
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Catching Up With
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
  • Ages by Nicholas F. Mondello
  • Ages by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
  • Ages by AAJ Staff
Film Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Attachments

Attachments

Jazzed Media
2013

buy
Tales Of The Unusual

Tales Of The Unusual

Jazzed Media
2012

buy
Ages

Ages

Jazzed Media
2010

buy
Lorraine Feather: Language

Lorraine Feather:...

Jazzed Media
2008

buy
 

Dooji Wooji

Concord Jazz
2005

buy

Related Articles

Read Betty–They Say I’m Different Film Reviews
Betty–They Say I’m Different
By Walter Atkins
July 17, 2019
Film Reviews
Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me
By Jakob Baekgaard
July 14, 2019
Film Reviews
Bridges To Bremen
By Doug Collette
June 22, 2019
Film Reviews
The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus - Deluxe Edition
By Doug Collette
June 9, 2019
Read Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things Film Reviews
Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things
By Ian Patterson
June 5, 2019
Read Buddy Bolden: Out of History's Shadows Film Reviews
Buddy Bolden: Out of History's Shadows
By Victor L. Schermer
May 3, 2019
Read Green Book: A Serious Comedy and Jazz Allegory Film Reviews
Green Book: A Serious Comedy and Jazz Allegory
By Victor L. Schermer
December 28, 2018