Bill Murray, on the Road with a Band
On a recent Thursday, in a suite of dressing rooms at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Bill Murray, the cellist Jan Vogler, the violinist Mira Wang, and the pianist Vanessa Perez were getting ready to perform songs from an album they’ve just released, called “New Worlds.” On the album and at concerts, Murray reads selections from Hemingway, Thurber, Whitman, Twain, and others; the musicians—all renowned international soloists—play everything from Foster to Gershwin to Shostakovich. Last Monday, at Carnegie Hall, Murray sang, danced, read, announced the score of the Yankees game, and chucked roses into the balconies from the stage. At “Late Night,” things were shaggier: the band had been on the road. As the musicians napped, Murray darted around the dressing rooms, trying on outfits. He experimented with a gold velvet-brocade jacket, rhinestone earrings, a plaid vest, and a black cap bearing an insignia of a crossed golf club and fork, which he had finagled from Jack Nicklaus’s Golden Bear Grill. “I had to work really hard to get one of these off the cooks in that place,” Murray said.
Vogler, emerging from his nap, admired the hat. “It has a little bit between priest and fun,” he said. He is German and speaks with an accent.
“It’s a bit of a Greek Orthodox look,” Murray said. “It says, ‘It’s O.K., I’m a priest—you can trust me.’ ” Later, he wore it on the air, as the group performed a medley from “West Side Story.”
A production assistant, Jonah Meyerson, approached Murray tentatively. “We worked together on ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’?” he said. “I was one of the kids?” Meyerson had played Uzi Tenenbaum, one of Ben Stiller’s young tracksuit-wearing sons.
“Was that you? What a great time!” Murray said.
“In the hospital scene, like a suicide scene, you put me on your shoulders on a rolly chair,” Meyerson said. “Wes Anderson started freaking out.”
“That was close to being dangerous,” Murray said, looking pleased. “Real upside-downy-fally stuff.” Then he asked Meyerson for a favor. “Don’t screw us up tonight,” he said. “These classical people, this is their one shot.”
Murray and Vogler met in an airport security line. “It was one of those mornings,” Vogler said. “I was on tour in Germany. Somebody starts talking: ‘Hey, how are you going to fit that cello in the overhead?’ ” It was Murray. They chatted, neither knowing who the other was. On the plane, Murray happened to be seated next to Vogler and his cello. “We became friends,” Vogler said. “For two years, we had no thought of collaborating. It started as a fun project during a dinner at home.” Vogler and Wang are married, and they live in New York with their children. “Bill was whistling and singing. I thought, Boy, he knows so many tunes! Pop music, I didn’t know. I gave him a recording of Bach solo suites.” Vogler put on a pair of spiked Louboutins. “I have always longed for a friend to cross arts,” he said. “What really made me inspired was Bill singing as Baloo the bear,” in a remake of “The Jungle Book.” He’d told Murray, “I think we can do a show and go around the world.”
Vogler says that the rise of the far right influenced the album’s content. “We adored the visionaries who had these early ideas, like Mark Twain, that your heart can tell you the right thing even when your time is brutal to human rights,” he said. “Or Bernstein—the Sondheim texts are incredibly clever. ‘Industry boom in America / twelve in a room in America.’ ” The album traces the influences that European and American artists have had on one another. Vogler said, “And then we talk about how immigration is a new world. In our group, we have a Venezuelan, a Chinese, an East German, and an American of Irish descent. So you make the math.”
He took his 1707 Stradivarius cello out of its case and began playing “Somewhere.” A young woman came in and asked Vogler if he would be willing to do a shot of rum on the air with Murray and Colbert, when he joined them onstage. “Yes!” he said. On a monitor, Murray, in an Uncle Sam hat, was firing a T-shirt cannon into the crowd.
Later, in his dressing room, Murray reminisced about listening to Bernstein’s radio programs for kids: “He sounded so official—he was New York, the guy leading the show. Hearing it now, you realize he was really a man of the people. He didn’t leave anyone out. He knew that his music was going to live longer, and that it had to include everybody.”
On “The Late Show” and at Carnegie Hall, the performance ended with Murray singing “I Feel Pretty,” and then “America.” The group closes the song with a Sondheim lyric that provokes raucous cheering. “Immigrant goes to America, / many hellos in America,” Murray sings. “Nobody knows in America / Puerto Rico’s in America.” ♦
via New Yorker http://bit.ly/2v93nIt
October 23, 2017 at 02:11AM