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Jazz Notes

Niehaus Moves From 'Bird' to 'Hot Men'; Pianist David Benoit Gets Stamp of Approval

February 15, 1989|ZAN STEWART

Lennie Niehaus, musical director for Clint Eastwood's "Bird," has been signed to supervise the sound track for "The Hot Men," a film about the "love-hate" relationship between clarinetist Benny Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa scheduled to begin shooting in May.

The film--to be produced by Philip A. Waxman ("The Gene Krupa Story," "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here") and to be directed from his original script by Bob Boris ("Steele Justice," "Oxford Blues")--will spotlight four Los Angeles musicians handpicked by Niehaus to recreate music played by Goodman's quartet in the '30s.

Clarinetist Abe Most, drummer Jack Sperling, vibist Charlie Shoemake and pianist Mike Lang will respectively play the musical roles of Goodman, Krupa, vibist Lionel Hampton and pianist Teddy Wilson, a unit that was noted both for its artistry and as the jazz world's first integrated foursome.

All the music for "The Hot Men" will be newly recorded by Niehaus.

CHASING A GRAMMY: Pianist-composer David Benoit, 35, sees his Grammy nomination for best jazz fusion performance for "Every Step of the Way" (GRP) as a solid stamp of approval. "Being from the South Bay and hanging in with local bands, working my way up, it's truly exciting to get this kind of recognition from the industry," the Redondo Beach resident said.

The nomination came as a surprise, Benoit said. "Actually, when I did 'This Side Up' (Spindletop, 1985), I thought that one would get a nomination, but it didn't, and neither did 'Freedom at Midnight' (GRP, 1987), so I said 'To hell with it.' So I had no expectations, but when I found out, I was thrilled."

Benoit is up against saxman Tom Scott ("Amaretto" from "Streamlines," GRP); bassist John Patitucci ("John Patitucci," GRP); the Yellowjackets ("Politics," MCA); and keyboardist Lyle Mays ("Street Dreams," Geffen).

"If I were up against Miles Davis or George Benson, it would be tougher, but the way it is, it's pretty even," he said. "Lyle, the Yellowjackets, John, we're all contemporaries of each other. Tom Scott has more experience, so he may be favored, but the balance is nice."

Benoit is currently at work on his new LP, "Urban Daydreams," "which includes some contemporary things in an orchestral setting that Don Grusin's producing," he said, "and I just did a straight-ahead date with Emily Remler and Luther Hughes, both for GRP."

The pianist's next Los Angeles appearance will be at the Greek Theatre in June.

RECORDED BEST BET: Trombonist Ray Anderson's "Blues Bred in the Bone" (Gramavision) is a mad mixture of blues, funk, swing and sentiment that teems with musical life. Anderson, possessing a gargantuan tone, is sassy and biting on the title track, alternately raucous and tender on "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," and simply a delight on the rhumba-ish "Mona Lisa." The strong cast, including guitarist John Scofield and pianist Anthony Davis, shines throughout.

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