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Interview with LOUIS (2010) musician Marcus Printup

August 30, 2010
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“Louis” a film about the young Louis Armstrong, was shown at the Apollo with live music by Wynton Marsalis, center, flanked by Vincent Gardner, left, and Marcus Printup.
Last week, in my review of “Louis”, I mentioned that jazz trumpeter Marcus Printup was able to get me into the world premiere of a special screening that is part of an exclusive five-city tour. This was only the third time we met, and our friendships has already become one of those where we mutually feel like we’ve known each other for some time. Ironically, I had come to know him through his wife, Riza (herself an accomplished harpist), since we had attended the same high school together. Which shows that you never know what can come from old friendships.
 
We met for lunch and I told him how I was looking forward to reviewing the film and that I wish we had time for an interview. Printup was generous enough to commit to doing an interview with me before the tour was over. Last night, we finally connected online for an interview. Marcus had just finished walking his dogs, and was ready for my questions. The goal was to cover the process of playing along with a silent film before a live audience. We touched upon that as well as how performing in this setting is like acting and we even somehow manage to mention bodily functions….twice! Late night talk between guys, what do you expect?
 
So, enjoy the first interview here on Keeping It Reel.
I hope it’s the first of many….
Spring 2009 pic of my daughter and I 
meeting Riza and Marcus in Chicago
David: Marcus, I want to thank you again for getting me in to see the world premiere of LOUIS here in Chicago! It was a great experience for me, what about you?
Marcus: I am thrilled that we BOTH shared the same opening night electricity to be expected for such an awesome event. We’ve rehearsed the music for the last few months sparsely and to perform it in front of an eager and hip audience exceeded our expectations.
David: That’s great! Tell me how you felt when you first heard about the film and how you came to be involved?
Marcus: I just got the call to perform on the LOUIS project in March. I knew nothing about the film prior to that. The same production company who is doing another feature film about another great trumpet legend from new Orleans, Buddy Bolden, is doing LOUIS as well. I performed on the BOLDEN! soundtrack a few years back and I think it is scheduled to premier next year. We got together for the first rehearsals in May for 4 days. The next time we rehearsed was for a few days in July. The final rehearsals were two days before our tour last week. This group of musicians have worked together so frequently over the past 10-17 years that we gel together naturally. Much of the music has been previously recorded and composed by Wynton Marsalis, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. OK…..I will stop there and let u ask more questions!
David: Sorry, had to go to the bathroom! LOL!
Marcus: Alright….TMI!!!
David: Heh heh, the beauty of online interviews (and friends).
Marcus: ….Okay….ha.
David: That’s right! It looks like BOLDEN! should get released next year. I know he wrote it but did Pritzker direct that one too?
Marcus: Hmmm. Don’t quote me on that one. I just know that there were BOLDEN t-shirts backstage in Chicago. I am sending a text to one of the crew guys now to verify. (As he did this, confirmation was made that Pritzker did indeed direct “Bolden!” as well) Ah…I’m not sure if Dan was a part of Bolden but am sure the same California-based company produced it.
David: Haha, cool….BOLDEN! T-shirts – good way to build the buzz. I think it’s great that another silent film will be made, especially about Bolden, someone not many people know about (compared to Armstrong). Will there be another exclusive tour for that film like the one you are on now for LOUIS?
Marcus: I really hope there will be more tours to come for LOUIS. The demand response has been overwhelmingly positive. They had to turn people away in all three cities to this point (Chicago, Detroit and Bethesda). Ticket sales are amazing. The audiences have been some of the best ever. LOUIS attracts not only Jazz fans, but also Classical music fans and of course film buffs like yourself. In addition to Wynton’s crew of guys, we have the amazing Filipino pianist Cecile Licad. She adds so much integrity from the classical world to the film.
David: Well, I am not surprised to see the enthusiastic demand for these performances. I think there’s a certain curiosity factor amid fans of music (both classical and jazz) as well as film. ‘The combination of the two, especially a new silent film, is rare. I’m curious of the process….tell me what the differences are, if any, in performing for a film before a live audience compared any other time you perform live?
Marcus: The audiences have been different in each of the three cities. Most of the people who came in Chicago were season holders and are used to seeing the Chicago Symphony perform. Classical audiences don’t clap in between movements. They wait until the very end to unleash their sincere and thunderous applause. The Detroit audience was a bit more liberal! They laughed a bit more and interjected after intense musical sections. Bethesda was in between! The difference of a normal live performance and LOUIS is that the added component of the big screen is in effect. I really wish I could just sit in the audience and watch AND listen! But I’m the hired help!!! Proud of it.
David: It’s interesting to hear all the different audience reaction. I was wondering if there was a noticeable difference. It would be great if one of the performances would be recorded live for DVD release. When are you guys recording the score for the LOUIS DVD release?
Marcus: GREAT QUESTION!!! We perform tomorrow at the world-famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the final show is Tuesday in Philly. The following two days we go in the studio to record the music for DVD release. We are recording it live in a concert hall in Tarrytown, New York. No audience. Just a great concert hall with a screen and wonderful acoustics.
David: That’ll be great! You’ve performed at The Apollo before?
Marcus: Many times. We do a Jazz for Young People series at Lincoln Center and invite inner-city kids for educational shows there. Great place to play. All the legends from Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the late [ ;-( ] Michael Jackson and a host of others have graced that stage.Cant forget Ella Fitzgerald!!
David: Yes! Countless iconic performances. What a thrill to play there. So, for the recording in Tarrytown, the same crew will be there, even Cecile Licad? Conductor Andy Farber?
Marcus: Yes. The same crew. We’ve become a big family. Much chemistry. My wife just cooked asparagus!
David: Haha….nothing like late night asparagus!
Marcus: Makes your pee smell funny.
David: Don’t I know it!
Marcus: LOL! You can publish that….nothing to hide here!!!
David: Don’t worry about it, I will! So, we saw some of the actors from LOUIS last Wednesday in Chicago at the reception. Did that continue? Are they following along on tour with you and have you heard what their response has been to the performances?
Marcus: Yes. Chanti (Amazing Grace) is riding on the tour bus and is extremely cool. Young LOUIS is following the tour by plane with his mother and grandmother. I have yet to hear any response on their acting but Dan absolutely RAVES about how professional they are.

David: No surprise there. Have they actually sat with an audience and watch you guys play along with the film?
Marcus: Every night! They are in the audience. They come to the reception and greet all their fans afterwards as well.
David: That’s got to be a cool feeling for an actor. Many of the same actors from LOUIS are in BOLDEN! Has there been any indication that this format (silent film and then a live tour) will continue?
Marcus: I haven’t heard of anything else, but I hope they call me again if it does happen!! I would like to ask you a question. From an audience perspective, was the balance between the music and the film accurate? We cut a lot of music and tried to find the right themes to play that matched or enhanced the film.
David: I think the best part about the performance was the way you guys played before the film even started. It was both an introduction as well as an invitation. We were exposed to the kind of music that would be  played, who was playing it and then the immersion into the time period of early 1900’s New Orleans. It was all seamless. Which is exactly how the balance between what we were seeing and hearing eventually felt like: seamless.
Marcus: Mission accomplished. We just added the Overture last week! I think it gave the viewer a nice transition to the actual film as well. Gives us a chance to show off too!! LOL
David: Overture. Good name for it. At lunch last week, you mentioned to me how performing for a silent film is similar to acting? Tell me again about that?
Marcus: Riza gave me the name Overture. Her credit. We have musical cues as well as sound effects. For instance, when the mayor comes in and attempts to pillow smother the baby, there is a note in my part to “scream” and that represents the shaking of the pillow.

When Grace is in the cemetery, the band all blows wind (ha) in our horns to represent the breeze. So it is not just all about music! Also, there is a scene where young Louis is imagining raising Grace up from the ground so he can kiss her. Her shadow slowly emerges from ground level. I have a big solo where I am holding a long note. There are no instructions for me to do anything but play the part (which happens to be Louis Armstrong’s famous solo to “West End Blues”). But I started my note out VERY softly and gradually made a crescendo as Grace was rising. Dan loved it, so I guess I did good!
Ok….we have to eat soon! I would invite you over if you were closer. We can continue tomorrow if you have many more questions…..I wanna give you what you need
David: Alright. Well, that was some great insight! I wish you guys all the best at the rest of the gigs. Thank for your time!
Marcus: Cool! Let me know if you need something else….don’t be a stranger! Peace!!!!
David: Of course not! Anytime you’re in Chicago, just lemme know! Say hullo to Riza. Good night!
Marcus: Good night!!! Will do.
Well, there ya have it. Marcus performed with Wynton Marsalis, Cecile Licad and the outstanding jazz ensemble again tonight at The Apollo (as mentioned) and will close out this tour in Philadelphia at the Keswick Theatre. Catch if you can and look for “Louis” when it hits DVD!
 
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