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Jazzy Gems From John and Faith Hubley

April 23, 1993|LEONARD FEATHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Art and Jazz in Animation" is the umbrella title of a unique series of four videocassettes showcasing work by the Hubley family, who brought a new, provocative image to the concept of animated films. Their methods were untraditional (they used mixed media, such as paint on paper) and their sound tracks reflected their deep passion for jazz and for the witty men who made it.

Married in 1955, John and Faith Hubley made a film a year until John's death in 1977. Since then, Faith Hubley, aided by her two daughters and others, has carried forward a tradition that has won three Academy Awards and several overseas awards.

Best and best known is "The Hole," a 15-minute Oscar-winning gem narrated--completely ad lib--by Dizzy Gillespie (who also plays briefly) and George Mathews. They provide the voices of construction workers debating the fate of the world from under the streets of New York. The finale is a brief, poignant vocal by Gillespie.

On the same tape with "The Hole" is "The Hat," for which Gillespie and Dudley Moore, playing and talking, offer a witty examination of pride and prejudice, and "Dig," with music by Quincy Jones and a narrated fantasy with the voices of Maureen Stapleton and Jack Warden.

Benny Carter provided the swinging sounds for three of the five short pieces in the "Voyage to Next" tape, made in the 1950s and '60s. The most notable is "Adventures of an *," in which the asterisk of the title grows to enjoy the visual joys of the world. Lionel Hampton's vibraphone plays a prominent role. On the same tape is "Tenderly," sung by Ella Fitzgerald and played by the Oscar Peterson Trio.

The Hubleys' accent on philosophy and psychology in their messages carries over into "The Cosmic Eye," with Carter again providing some of the music. Less jazz-oriented is the fourth set, "Of Men and Demons," for which Quincy Jones shares footage with Mozart, Handel and Vivaldi.

The visual imagery of the Hubleys, coupled with the evocative and often comic artistry on the sound tracks, maintains a consistently delightful level of creativity.

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