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Critically acclaimed trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas, and his newest ensemble Keystone, will present Douglas’ new multi-media project: original music set to films of early 20th century silent film legend, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of America’s earliest and most-ingenious movie stars.
On Keystone, Douglas’ twenty-third album, the fertile-minded, perpetually adventurous trumpeter/ composer, and his newest ensemble, immediately capture the outrageous, absurd, wild, but innocent, passionate sense of humor that Arbuckle so naturally embodied. From the opening notes of “A Noise From The Deep” (named after one of Arbuckle’s early shorts for Mack Sennet’s Keystone Films in which Arbuckle became the first film comedian to get hit in the face with a pie) Douglas’ composition describes a scene from “Fatty and Mabel Adrift” and reflects the virtuosity of Arbuckle’s comedic genius that made him one of highest paid and respected comedians during the first two decades of the 20th century. On “Just Another Murder” (title of an early Arbuckle film) Douglas’ funky, electronic-infused theme hints at the deft physical moves Arbuckle made with ease. As Douglas said, “they are always wringing each other by the throat, throwing each other around, falling down stairs. And no one seems to get hurt.”
Dave Douglas elaborates further on the music on Keystone and Fatty and Mable Adrift: “There is a levity and a fast pace to Arbuckle’s work that made me feel it would work with modern music. Fatty and Mabel Adrift, shot in 1915, was on the cutting edge of narrative filmmaking. The technology was exciting and new. It must have been a thrill to come to work each day and dream up new scenarios and new ways of capturing them. In a way, working with electronic music I feel in the same situation. These scores are meant to evoke the atmospheres and feelings in Roscoe's early work. Innocence, caring, devotion, and a wicked, winking sense of humor and the absurd. On the DVD, my music is timed up to the films. On the CD side the pieces are represented in their entirety.”
Roscoe Arbuckle’s career came to a screeching halt when on September 17, 1921 he was charged with the murder of film starlet Virginia Rappe. The hasty decisiveness of the American press and public to proclaim Arbuckle guilty shattered his reputation. He was later proven innocent and was issued a formal apology during his short third trial. This proved to be too little, too late, as Arbuckle’s career was ruined. Roscoe Arbuckle was an innovator, and a master at physical comedy. Besides starring in and directing many popular films, which remain cult classics to this day, Roscoe was an inspiration to Charlie Chaplin and a mentor and friend to Buster Keaton. Unfortunately Arbuckle is only recognized as a minor figure today, owing to the powerful vendetta directed at him in 1921. Sharing a birthday (March 24) with Arbuckle “certainly piqued my interest,” says Douglas.” “But what really got me into the guy was realizing why his name was tarnished. It hit on my sense of social consciousness and made me want to be a part of setting something right for Roscoe Arbuckle.”
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