Music &Photos &SpornFilms 10 Oct 2010 07:59 am

Jazzy Bones

The Amazing Bone was one of the earlier films I did with Weston Woods. It was an attempt to do Doctor DeSoto one better by taking a more famous book by Steig and adding some richer animation and a lot more attention. John Lithgow was hired to read the book. I flew to LA and back in the same day to get to the recording. (I could’ve done it by phone, but where’s the fun in that?)

We recorded at the old A&M studio. It was originally Charlie Chaplin’s studio and had ultimately come into the hands of Herb Alpert. I
was early; Lithgow was on time. Our recording engineer was named “Magic.” John read the part brilliantly with few needed retakes. He kept in character for all the voice changes as he read straight ahead. We finished early, and I had a great voice track. I remember exactly the tone of voice when he said goodbye to me, then to “Magic.” He voiced the quotation marks around Magic’s name. I could only smile.

It was a beautiful day, and I had a couple of hours to waste before I had to return my car. So I spent time driving; I love to drive. A lot of touring around Beverly Hills. I remember driving down one quiet street lined with palm trees, and suddenly I realized there was an old clunker of a car tailgating me. I couldn’t imagine what the hell was going on. Then I realized someone was shouting my name. I stopped.

It was Bill Moritz. He came out gave me a big hug; we chatted for a moment, and he went on his way. It was one of those perfect kind of days. I knew Bill because of his association with Elfriede Fishinger. We’d had dinner countless times in NY with John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy.

After a brief chat, Bill went on his way, and I continued my lovely afternoon heading back to the airport. It was one of those wonderful days.

The voice track was brilliant when finally edited together and the animation began. We decided to record the music early on in the process. I’d agreed verbally to use Steig’s son, Jeremy, to do the score. I had been a fan of his flute music and owned several of his albums.

The score was performed completely by Jeremy Steig and the noted bass player Eddie Gomez.

As a fan of jazz, it was glorious for me to be working with Eddie Gomez, who had once been a member of the Bill Evans Trio. I lived and breathed through Bill Evans‘ music for a long time, and to have only one degree of separation was something I cherished for the short span of that Amazing Bone recording.

(click on any image to enlarge.)
Above:Eddie Gomez confers with Jeremy Steig about the score they’re composing & performing.

2 3
1. Eddie Gomez plays his bass.
2. Jeremy Steig plays pan pipes.
3. Jeremy Steig plays assorted bottles.

The score took about 7 hours to record and mix.

There were many breaks for Eddie and Jeremy to confer in the bathroom. It got to the point where the engineer/mixer asked them to please stay in the recording session because the breaks were taking longer than the session. They bristled at his comments, and I had to settle things down. However, the more the two went to the bathroom, the slower things got and the music took longer to record. I let things take their own course; the two knew what they had to do.

Regardless, I didn’t care what it took. I was in heaven experiencing the music. The two performers did a great job, and I loved every moment.

During a break Jeremy and I sat down to discuss the music so far. It was great.

All photos were taken by the producer, Paul Gagne. He’s become a long-time friend. I thought I remembered a photo of him with Jeremy, but I don’t have it.

When I did Abel’s Island, another William Steig book, I asked for Jeremy again. This time it turned into hell with Jeremy’s impossible demands late in the production, his new wife writing me foul-mouthed letters, and my having to fire them (although I did pay them in full) four days before the scheduled mix. I hired the talented Arthur Custer to do a score and he had those four days and half the budget Jeremy was paid. I became a full-fledged producer with that decision, and I’m ecstatic with how it ultimately turned out. Despite threats of legal action from William and Jeremy Steig. That was the last Steig book I was allowed to do.

2 Responses to “Jazzy Bones”

  1. on 10 Oct 2010 at 8:50 am 1.richard o'connor said …

    Great entry, Michael. You really should have an animation memoir published.

    Your voice tracks tend to be superb -even when they’re not performed by a stellar talent like John Lithgow. I’d love hear more on your approach to working with voice actors.

  2. on 10 Oct 2010 at 10:19 am 2.Dave Levy said …

    Amazing Bone is one of your all-time brilliant films.. so nice to hear some of the production details…

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