Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Accompanying Gloria Swanson in 'Zaza' (1923)—
Kino Lorber's Blu-ray reissue gets good marks

Gloria in a rare introspective moment from 'Zaza.'

Wednesday, June 6 marks the official release of Kino-Lorber's Blu-ray reissue of 'Zaza' (1923). It's a Gloria Swanson vehicle that's been unavailable for home viewing until now.

I recorded a piano score for 'Zaza' earlier this year, and it's gratifying to see comments now coming in as the release gets reviewed.

From Mike Gebert of the Nitrateville vintage film discussion group:
"Jeff Rapsis contributed the piano score, based on the original cue sheets, and it's pretty much ideal, moving adroitly between comedy and tasteful Continental melodrama."
And this is from a review on the Web site:
"The film is accompanied by an entertaining piano music score by Jeff Rapsis."
From Brian Orndorf of
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix contains a score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, and he brings a hearty piano mood to the feature, doing a considerable job supporting onscreen activities. It's a simple track, but clear and commanding, with ideal balance and presence, without any dips in quality.
This is from Matthew Hartman of High-Def Digest:
"With a DTS-HD MA 2.0 piano score from composer Jeff Rapsis that follows the original 1923 cue sheet, this is a pretty fantastic score for the film. The piano work gives the film a nice old-time feel with the right blend of jaunty entertainment and hitting the lower dramatic tones. It never feels overly dramatic or too wild and fits the tone of the film perfectly."
And here's one from
This release features an enthusiastic piano score by Jeff Rapsis, which was adapted from an original 1923 cue sheet. The score makes liberal use of the 18th century French ballad Plaisir d’amour, which the film states is the favorite song of H.B. Warner’s character. Modern viewers will likely be more familiar with Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love, which uses the same melody. Just be assured that everything is quite correct and the movie has not developed Elvis fever.
Let me know if you see any others!

On that last one: I'd forgotten about how similar 'Plaisir d'amour' is to the tune of 'Can't Help Falling In Love,' so I'm glad that got mentioned. I'm not a stickler for period authenticity, but I wouldn't use a signature Elvis tune for a Gloria Swanson film set in post-World War I France!

I'm collecting these here not to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little) but to thank the writers for commenting on the music. Getting feedback of any kind is useful, and it's always great to see the music considered as part of a silent film's total package.

I also want to thank Rob Stone at the Library of Congress and Bret Wood at Kino Lorber for giving me this opportunity.

The Library of Congress has a 35mm print of 'Zaza,' and Rob invited me to accompany a screening of it at the Packard Campus Theatre in 2016.

This led to Rob introducing me to Bret at Kino, who asked me to put together a piano score based on the original cue sheet, which was obtained from the George Eastman archive.

And I would be remiss without mentioning all the efforts of Bill Millios, a filmmaker here in my New Hampshire home base who has been supportive of so many film/music projects.

In this case, Bill graciously gave up a few Saturday mornings to act as engineer in recording the score, which was performed on a Yamaha grand piano in the recital hall of the Manchester Community Music School way back in January. (Brrr!)

And on that note, I need to thank Judy Teehan and Valerie Gentilhomme at the music school for their assistance as well. Thank you, ladies!

Until now, I've focused on live performance as a way to improve my accompaniment technique and develop a working musical vocabulary, if vocabulary is the right word for vocabulary. (What a paradox!)

But I was excited at the chance to lay down a track for such a high profile flick (Gloria Swanson!), and I feel ready to do more.

So we'll see. Part of my capacity to do more depends on my ability to create and edit professional quality sound files, which is sorely lacking.

Changing that was one of my New Year's resolutions, and I'm afraid not much has been done in that direction. But there's always 2018!

Before we get there, however, some good screenings await, including a Buster Keaton program on Thursday, June 1 at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth N.H.

The film is 'Seven Chances' (1925), and the start time is 6:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Buster and a bevy of would-be brides in 'Seven Chances' (1925). None of them appear to be Gloria Swanson.

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