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From 'Red Shoes' to 'Red Guitar'

September 23, 2007

A seasoned leader and sideman who has been on the international jazz scene for more than 20 years, guitarist Bruce Forman has played with a full roster of jazz giants -- Bobby Hutcherson, Ray Brown, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson. But Forman leads an improvised life, which means dabbling in all manner of pursuits: film work (he was featured throughout Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby"); side gigs, playing in what he calls a "western bebop" band called Cow Bop; and teaching at USC, where he has recently joined the staff of the Studio/Jazz Department.

He also was commissioned to write a jazz libretto, "The Red Guitar," an exploration of the creative process that premiered early this year. It all started, says Forman, "when I was at the International Guitar Festival and I saw this guitar. It was amazing. Bright red, white pick guard. No one wanted to play it. But I'm like the cowboy who will dance with the girl that no one will dance with. I just got this idea along the lines of 'The Red Shoes' and 'The Red Violin' -- you get into these pursuits for a reason but then love takes over you."

Forman, who will reprise "The Red Guitar" at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City on Oct. 1, gave Lynell George a sense of his cultural distractions.

TV PICKS: Believe it or not, I don't have a TV that connects to cable or broadcast (only for video/DVD). Because of it, I get a lot done: playing, writing and reading. However, while on the road, I do plenty of channel surfing to make up for it. Generally I find myself watching PBS, history or movies, although I have seen some shows that are excellently written and acted. (Don't usually watch long enough to find out which ones they are . . . yikes!)

IN HEAVY ROTATION ON iPOD: I am not a shuffler by nature. I like to immerse myself in an artist or even a particular recording. Right now I am on a huge Sonny Rollins kick (which seems to happen on about a two-year cycle). I get into something until I have internalized every nuance, then move on, but not before I have logged many hours playing with it too.

SOUNDTRACK FOR THE COMMUTE: See above, plus jazz, public and news radio.

IN THE NETFLIX QUEUE: On an old favorites kick: "The Third Man," "The Year of Living Dangerously," "Black Orpheus," "The Sandpiper," "The Woman in the Dunes," "Cinema Paradiso," "The Red Shoes."

BEDSTAND LIBRARY: "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, "Carter Beats the Devil" by Glen David Gold, "A Dirty Job" by Christopher Moore.

TOP INTERNET DESTINATIONS: I am a utilitarian Web surfer. I get what I need or go to sites that my friends suggest, but prefer to spend time with my music.

YOUTUBE PICKS: Music, music, music and some comedy: Lately, been checking out a bunch of Louis Armstrong and Barney Kessel.

CULTURAL ADDICTION: Bebop jazz, cowboy culture, playing with my western bebop band Cow Bop, mixing mediums and extreme musical challenges, historic byways and back roads (Americana), everything Italian.

SECRET WEAPON FOR NAVIGATING THE CULTURE: Sharing music with people, particularly young ones; not only is it rewarding to see the lights go on, but what they give back is a constant source of challenge and inspiration. That, and riding my horse, and time with my wife and my two dogs.

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