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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, March 26, 2012
The Bernie Upson Quartet is an Ithaca staple, consisting of: Bernie Upson on bass, Dino Losito on piano, Chuck Leo on sax, and Al Harland on drums.
I went to Maxie’s Supper Club for one of Bernie’s gigs (he plays there the third Sunday of every month.) Bernie’s passion and aptitude for his trade were evident with the first pluck of his bass string. His soulful style brought the audience back to the height of the jazz age. Check out this awesome video of Bernie playing alongside Buddy Tate in 1982 at a concert Berlin to get an idea what i'm talking about.
During a break I got a chance to sit down with Bernie and his wife Deb Clover, to learn about his long and distinguished jazz career and what advice he has for music students and aspiring musicians.
Q: What is your background?
A. I grew up in Harlem surrounded by music. I worked at the Apollo for a few years. I played with Diana Ross & the Supremes when they first came in from Detroit. I played bass for the shows at the Apollo, including Patty Labelle.
Deb on Bernie- He’s been doing this since he was 18. Ithaca’s lucky he decided to settle here.
He lived around the corner from Count Basie when he was a kid. Growing up in Harlem he was around a lot of great musicians. When he was an older teenager, he moved to Queens where he was also surrounded by a lot of jazz musicians. If you wanted to be a jazz musician it was the right time and the right place.
When he was playing in the Catskills at the Concord, he was playing in a lounge and Frank Sinatra was performing on the other stage. Then Frank came and sat down with them.
He made friends with Joe Henderson in service and they formed an army jazz band. They traveled all over the South where they were stationed. It was still so segregated. They would play in a club where they couldn’t walk in the front door.
Q: What was it that got him to where he is?
Deb on Bernie- Talent and passion for it. You can tell just by listening or looking at him. There are a lot of good players around, but there are few players who have the soul that Bernie has. I mean you can see it and hear it.
He was also in the right place at the right time. He was studying bass with Wendell Marshall (bass player for Duke Ellington). Someone offered Wendell to go on tour, but he couldn’t go, so he said, “I have a student who can go.” He sent Bernie instead. The other musicians really looked out for him. They would take his money on payday and hold on to it for him. You know as a musician there are a lot of temptations; it’s a hard life.
Q: What are you looking most forward to at FLEFF?
A. I look forward to playing for you folks.
Q: What advice would you give to music students or aspiring musicians about the music world?
A. If you’re serious about it, put your whole self into it. Never quit. Never give up. Always have something in the background in case you’re starving. Make sure it’s something you really want to do- it’s a hard life. If you chose to be an artist, make sure you want to be an artist. I would tell all young students to be an artist. Love music and if that’s your goal, pursue it. There’s definitely a chance to make it.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Blog post written by Colleen Ryan, Television-Radio '12, Anthropology minor, Lansing, NY
The list of amazing guests keeps growing and growing, and by golly I don't think there's anything about FLEFF that I'm NOT excited for.
Here are five guests I'm most looking forward to:
1. Elizabeth Coffman. She's many things that I aspire to be: Documentary filmmaker. Writer. Teacher. Mom. If you haven't checked out her writing on the Inside Higher Ed, "Mama, PhD" you should! It's great! I've been reading it all morning. Coffman is also the co-producer of Veins in the Gulf, a documentary about the disappearing coastline of Louisiana, a film I'm dying to see and that will be screened the last day of FLEFF (April 1st).
2. Menna Khalil. Suffering in the Middle East is something I know little about, and I wish I knew more. Khalil's activism and work sounds extremely inspiring, and I can't wait to see her presentation that documents Iraq Burin and stories of Palestinian village who were witnesses to uprising. To read more about her work, check out fellow blogger Brian McCormick's interview.
3. Matthew Podolsky. His non-profit organization "Wild Lens" incorporates all my passions into one: Activism. Science. Conservation. Art. Wild Lens wishes to "present biological facts in an exciting and accessible way, and broaden the public interest in environmental and wildlife conservation – one species at a time." It's pretty safe to say my dream job may be exactly that -- word for word.
4. Robby Aceto and the Cloud Chamber Orchestra. As I said in a previous post about Aceto and his improvisational music trio, I can't wait for the Cloud Chamber Orchestra's live scoring of "Nanook of the North." It will be my first experience of any kind of live music played with film. I love music, but I don't believe my brain has the ability to fathom performing live with a film, while also improvising and collaborating with two other musicians. To an audience it must seem so effortless, but holy cow the talent one must have!
5. Bernie Upson and his Quartet. I'm a wannabe jazz fanatic. Whenever I listen to jazz, I feel as if I was born in the wrong decade. I picture myself dolled-up in a smokey mid-century jazz lounge, with the bass vibrating through my veins. I'm thrilled to see such a talented group of musicians play. It's not everyday you're in the presence of jazz legends!
19 days until FLEFF. Ready. Set. Get excited. I know I am. Are you?