THE GENE KRUPA STORY: A BROADWAY MUSICAL!
There is virtually nothing that the Berlin-based Arthor Von Blomberg has not done in the entertainment industry. His experience includes stints as record producer, recording engineer, recording artist, author, jazz drummer, actor and band leader. I received a telephone call some weeks back from Arthor, who wanted to enlist some of my services in line with an upcoming project about Gene Krupa. The project? “The Gene Krupa Story,” a Broadway musical based on the life and music of that ace drummer man. At first, I was skeptical about the concept, but upon hearing further details about it and looking into Arthor’s extensive resume’, I concluded that this was, indeed, “the real thing.” Though still in the early stages, Arthor and his colleagues (and I proud to be one) are moving forward with plans for a national promotional tour with a big band that will include some pretty big-name players (like the great altoist Richie Cole), casting, discussions about merchandising, various presentations to potential backers, etc. Arthor Von Blomberg’s passion and knowledge of Gene and jazz is extraordinary, and if anyone can do something like this and do it well, it is Arthor. Gene Krupa led a life filled with superb, innovative music and a good deal of singular drama. Could there be any better material than this for a Broadway show? Anyone interested in being a part of “The Gene Krupa Story” should contact me directly at DrumAlive@aol.com. We will keep all of our JazzLegends visitors updated on the progress of the show and the tour.
As if everyone did not already know, the Krupa model drumstick from Bopworks are here and are currently available at www.Bopworks.net. We’ve received nice write-ups in several percussion publications and will be amply represented at various international drum shows, including the upcoming Vintage Drum Show in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Bopworks, by the way, also makes Mel Lewis and Shelly Manne models that are exact duplicates of the fondly-remembered originals.
In the merchandising area, we are still in discussions with a cymbal company–sadly, not the one known as “the only serious choice–about a Krupa model cymbal or cymbals. Right now, we are zeroing in on a few possibilities, mainly a 24-inch heavy ride that Gene used through the 1950s and early 1960s, and his unbelievable swish cymbal. Gene’s cymbal sounds and cymbal models were as individual as his drumming.
I used to love PBS, the Public Broadcasting System. Upon release of my first video in 1993, “Gene Krupa Jazz Legend,” I was anxious to hook up with the Philadelphia PBS affiliate, in hopes that they would air the program. Talks with them did not go well, and as I recall, the only deal they offered was structured so I would be paying them instead of vice versa. Several years later, during the production of “Buddy Rich Jazz Legend,” I tried obtaining a screener of Buddy on a program called “The Mark of Jazz,” aired by the same, PBS Philadelphia affiliate. I’ve had easier times running marathons. And I don’t even run marathons. I did have permission to screen and use the footage from the actual producer, Sid Mark, but PBS demanded that I provide proof that Mark was the producer. The only way I could provide that proof was to get a screener of the footage which would clearly show on the credits that the program was “Produced by Sid Mark.” They said that they couldn’t give me a screener without proof that Sid Mark was the producer. Get it? We did get the footage in the end, but the whole situation was simply not pleasant. We tried getting clearance to use Buddy’s famed appearance with the Boston Pops Orchestra from the Boston PBS affiliate, WGBH. Their terms? We could use only two minutes of film, maximum, and that would cost $60,000. I told them that no one would pay that price and that we were the only people likely to ever produce anything like what we were producing on Buddy Rich. No go. I asked them, “If no one ever buys this film at this price, does that mean the video will eventually disintegrate and turn to dust?” Their answer? “Yes.” Several months ago, I received a phone call from WNET, the New York city PBS outlet. They were producing a documentary about New York city during World War II and were interested in obtaining footage of Gene, Glenn Miller, Count, Duke and Tommy Dorsey. I quoted them a fee and they turned it down. I cut the fee in half and they turned it down. Finally, feeling that maybe I should do something good for the PBS “cause,” I took several, full work days and assembled more than enough great footage for them. I sent it to the producers and told them that if they wanted to use any of it, they could pay me whatever they thought it was worth or whatever they could afford. Ultimately, I was told that they did use some of the clips, and that they would send me a dub of the program and what I judged as a reasonable fee or “honorarium.” This was over a month ago and I have yet to receive the fee or the dub. The last thing I heard–after bombarding the producer with emails and phone calls– was that the powers that be did not realize that I had to file a W-9 tax form. This was ten days ago, and still nothing. Based on my experience with PBS, little has changed with them in 25 years. They remain arrogant and haughty and continue to have the attitude of “being entitled.” The difference in 2007 is that there really is no need for PBS, their attitude and their beg-a-thons. Everything PBS does and a lot more, with the possible exception of the initial showings of Kenny Burns’ documentaries, is available on cable. Unless PBS changes their tune and offers innovative programming that cannot be seen elsewhere, they will go the way of the Dumont Television Network.
Robbie Cavolina and his talented colleagues have finished production on the documentary DVD, “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.” The project is absolutely marvelous in every way, and in my opinion, it is destined to be an award winner and thought of as a classic, alongside “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” and “Great Day in Harlem.” In addition to very rare performance and interview footage of Anita, including film from the TImex television special we don’t have, there are on camera talks with BIll Holman, Billy Taylor, Gerald Wilson, Maynard Sloate and many others. It is a gem. I am doing whatever I can to assist in getting this the proper, international home video distribution that it deserves. Hopefully, by that point, we will be able to offer it here as well.
Call this one–a DVD on the life and music of legendary cornetist, Wild Bill Davison–a discovery. This 100-minute project was actually a privately but very professionally produced video that was released, also privately, in 1991. When it sold out its run that year, it disappeared. It’s a wonderful document, based on extensive interviews with Bill, performance footage from the Sacramento Jazz Festival, rare film of Bill with Eddie Condon and more. This, too, deserves proper home video distribution, and we’re working on that as well. There have been rumors circulating for years about film taken during the famed “Jazz at the New School” concert with Gene, Wild Bill and Condon. If such film does exist, this would be the perfect place for it.
A good friend and a great supporter of music through the years (remember, we have to have listeners, too) has started an innovative, new business called “The Balloon Store on Wheels.” Serving the Greater Delaware Valley (areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) the Balloon Store comes to your location and offers wonderful balloon arrangements for birthdays and just about every kind of private party or corporate event. Additionally, they design and offer one-of-a-kind gift baskets for all occasions, their special “Party in a Box” (containing everything from plates and utensils to invitations and table covers), as well as personally designed, take home “goodie bags.” We know that JazzLegends visitors are party people, so if you are having one and live in the Greater Delaware Valley, log onto www.BallonStoreOnWheels.com and start partying as soon as possible. Until next time, keep swingin’.
Bruce Klauber, October, 2007