Posted at 11:31 AM on November 26, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Film
Alex Gibney's new documentary "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" wrestles with some troubling issues - and prostitution isn't even in the top five. The film works through dirty politics, financial double-dealing, corruption, the hubris of the powerful, and the use of scandal as a modern political tool.
The Oscar-winning director examines the story of ambitious New Yorker who took on Wall Street as state attorney general, then as New York governor trained his guns on a political quagmire at the State Capitol in Albany, only to crash spectacularly when his regular use of high-priced prostitutes came to light.
Gibney, who brought us "Enron: the smartest guys in the room," "Taxi to the Dark Side" (which won him the Oscar,) and "Gonzo: the life and work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson." admits to being pro-Spitzer. That doesn't mean he is easy on him.
Spitzer did five interviews with Gibney, but his trademark eloquence disappeared every time Gibney tried to dig into the reasons why Spitzer, who some people saw as a likely presidential candidate, and pre-Obama, arguably the Democrat with the highest profile, risked everything through his actions.
What Gibney has more success uncovering is what he sees as the campaign by Wall Street leaders who Spitzer attacked as attorney general to discredit him, and bring about his downfall.
Nobody comes out looking good. What is remarkable is the willingness of all sides to talk about what happened, and their own part in the drama. We meet investment banker Ken Langone, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, and New York state Senator Joe Bruno who all who openly delight in Spitzer's downfall. And there is self-styled political hit-man Roger Stone, the man with Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, whose alleged chance meeting with a call-girl in a Miami swingers club led to the public revelations of Spitzer's indiscretions.
These are real characters who some fiction writers might set aside as too outrageous.
Gibney's movie is fast-paced, but very dense. A second viewing is as revealing as the first, as brief references early in the film become more telling given subsequent revelations.
He also dances along the challenging re-enactment line. One of his most intriguing characters talked at length to Gibney, but refused to have her face or even voice used in the film. The director finds away around this hurdle, but it's going to leave some viewers feeling uncomfortable, particularly as this is already a story about duplicity.
Eliot Spitzer says in "Client 9" that his is an old story, with themes little changed from ancient Greek tragedy, of hubris and how the mighty can fall. Gibney shows this is true, but how in the 21st century the process can be much faster. It's also clear, with Spitzer now embarked on a new TV career, that the story is far from over.
Lowell Pickett's praise for Mina Agossi is simple, and powerful.
"An amazing voice, and absolutely fearless," he says. "She is so natural in her whole approach, her whole demeanor. She just exudes a sense of wondrous joy and comfort. I have never met anyone quite like her before."
Pickett works hard to bring the best of the jazz world to the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, and so there was no question in his mind when Agossi asked about appearing on December 2nd as she brings her new album "Just like a Lady."
He heard about Agossi's talent from pianist Ahmad Jamal who Pickett says is a shrewd talent spotter.
Agossi was originally a theater student, but then discovered she loved singing jazz.
"And in some respects her singing is theatrical," Pickett says, "But it is theatrical in a natural improvisational way. There doesn't seem to be any guile with her at all," Pickett says. "She is having fun, absolute fun."
And fearless? Pickett points to how Agossi delights in using a very small band.
Just drums and bass and voice, no chord instrument. Some singers will do that for a song or two, or do a duet with a bass-player for a song or two. But to do an entire night like that and make it work, make it captivating and riveting, is a pretty uncommon talent."
Pickett says Agossi is not bound by musical genres either. When she sings it is jazz, but he says she draws from many sources.
"She will do 'I won't dance,' Fred Astaire, associated with Fred Astaire, or some other Cole Porter song, Nina Simone, Fats Waller, and Jimi Hendrix, all in the same set. And it all makes sense."
The Dakota gig is the first stop on Agossi's tour. she agreed to answer some email questions from her home in France.
1) After producing many records featuring you and just a couple of musicians, you have added a lot more instrumentation for your new recording "Just Like a Lady." Why did you decide to move in this direction?
During 12 years, I 've been exploring the relations one can have between bass, drums and vocals, without "boring" the audience!
You imagine... ! It's was a challenge, because there are no harmonical instruments in that case. Everybody was wondering, where was the piano or the guitar... I had to convince people we could make it. So... little by little it became my trade mark, even if I was more then happy to play with the Spirit of life Ensemble with Ted Curson, or Archie Shepp, my concern was to develop this trio as far as possible.
It seems now I have done this, and it became obvious for me to invite another musician, Phil Reptil. This artist is one of my favorite in France, he was one of the first to create the French underground electro music world in the 90. So that's how everything started up.
2) You make a point of always including a Hendrix tune on each of your albums. What is your attraction to his music from a jazz perspective, and how do you choose which one to do?
"Improvisation", is my word, and I guess it was Jimi Hendrix favorite thing to do: "improvise". This is Jazz, that's why I love to sing his songs, first of all because he was a wonderful improviser, he made the world discover his skills on an electric guitar, as well as on the acoustic ones, his songs are extremely difficult to sing and extremely well written, he was a fantastic singer, and he had the blues inside of him, he could explore the rock, pop, classical, Asian, African and blues worlds, so easily, that's all I love.
I never know what song I'll sing on the next album, I just know, I have to sing one.
3) What are the challenges facing a jazz singer today? What are the joys?
Very, very hard ! It's an everyday struggle, nothing is printed on paper, especially nowadays, when the first cuts under "crisis" is culture, when culture should be the first thing to be saved for people because they to change their mind and go out and have fun even more now, that is my point of view. but I'm lucky enough I'm 39 and have 19 years of music life behind me, I'm worried for the young singers who start now, I hope they are going to shake the tree and not try to "please," I hope they develop new technologies to defend their rights and change things.
I'm too lazy now to try to do it... ah! ah!
My "Joys" are on the stage.
4) You are returning to the Dakota. After touring so many jazz clubs around the world, how does it compare?
Dakota is like a home for me !
I love the audience , I love the food there, I love Minneapolis, such an avant garde city, such a wild city, and such beautiful souls who know a lot about the blues and about the cold, and they need to continue to shine, and make their city attractive, that's what the Dakota does.
You can get a sample of what Agossi does with Hendrix below as she sings "Voodoo Chile."(1 Comments)
Posted at 8:12 AM on November 26, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: News and reviews
Something to help you over the post-binge torpor
Spitzer documentary is compelling but misses some angles - Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
Early in "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," the former governor of New York tells an interviewer that his downfall "goes back to the days of Greek mythology." So we know two things: Spitzer cooperated with the filmmakers and he is kinda full of himself.
British comic thriller 'Wild Target' hits its mark - Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
If "Wild Target" had been released a few decades ago, it would have been one of dozens of sarcastic comedies in theaters at the time. But, in 2010, it feels fresh, unusual and fun.
'Budrus' is an eye-opening and inspiring story - Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
You can fight city hall. The people of "Budrus" proved it.
Brothers in Arms - Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Even before he moved to England, Nick Schaser was bound to front an Anglophile rock band like Arms Akimbo.
The Big Gigs - Star Tribune staff
Atmosphere, Superchunk, Tribute to the Replacements
This cornerback can sing - Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
For teenage stage phenom Jackson Hurst, both the stage and the gridiron beckon.
New Bach pieces focus of Lyra concert - Tom Weber, Post Bulletin
A concert featuring newly discovered concertos by two of the sons of Johann Sebastian Bach will be presented Dec. 3 by the Lyra Baroque Orchestra at Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester.
Easy as Oil and Water - David Ancelet, Minneapolis Examiner
Dealing with the dangers of red rot in tubas.
"A Christmas Story" comes warmly to life at Children's Theatre Company - Jay Gabler TC Daily Planet
The adaptation of A Christmas Story now being presented by the Children's Theatre Company, written by Philip Grecian and directed by Peter Brosius, clearly manifests its creators' knowledge that people are not attending this show in search of something new and pathbreaking: they want to see their favorite scenes come alive on stage, and that is indeed what they get.
For love of a river - Mary Abbe, Star Tribune
A Minnesota writer and a Wisconsin painter celebrate the St. Croix in a new book and CD.
Art spotlight - Mary Abbe, Star Tribune
Justin Newhall: Northern Studies