Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Eerie (True) Encounter

Editor's Note: The following item should have been published on Monday, August 29th, but the presence of Hurricane Irene over the weekend provided a distraction not to be ignored.


************************

In the August 22nd issue of SloaneView, I listed Casablanca as my favorite film, and indeed it is. I did NOT mention that I am currently reading a fascinating account of the making of the film. It is called "Round Up The Usual Suspects" , available at Amazon, recommended without reservation. Written by Aljean Harmetz, it is thoroughly researched and utterly mesmerizing. Now, here's my own true Casablanca story (well, really my Ingrid Bergman story):

On August 28, 1982, I was in a Tokyo studio, recording what was to become an album titled "As Time Goes By", the song featured on the cd. It's available today at Amazon and other online venues. The musicians were a marvelous trio: Tim Horner, one of my favorite drummers, the gifted Japanese bass player Yukinori Narishige*, and the marvelous, legendary American jazz pianist Don Abney who was living in Japan at the time. Abney's reputation as accompanist to some of the leading jazz singers of the day was impressive, and so I looked forward to collaborating with him. The studio date was set for August 28th.

Feeling rested and relaxed after an afternoon nap, a shower and comfortable satisfaction about the song list, I began work on my make-up. While standing in front of the bathroom vanity, I felt a sudden jolt of heat fill the small space. I really thought the infra-red heating fixture in the ceiling had somehow surged itself into the "on" position since I certainly hadn't engaged the switch myself.

As the warmth lingered, the strong presence of Ingrid Bergman was undeniable. My first reaction was astonished delight, followed by the more sensible assumption that since I was to record "As Time Goes By" in a few hours' time, my vivid imagination had stimulated an image of the beautiful Ilsa Lund.

The few moments of intensity began to dissipate, then gently vanished altogether. I felt elation, gratitude and humility, in that order. Finally, it was time to meet my colleagues in the lobby of the hotel to make the journey to the studio.

When I returned to the hotel after recording the entire album in one session, and following a jolly drinks/dinner party, I watched as CNN flashed the news that Ingrid Bergman had died that day in London. There is an eight-hour time difference between London and Tokyo, so the fact that I was recording on the 28th in Tokyo makes the date August 29 in London. I was startled and sad but absolutely convinced she had graciously paused on her journey just long enough to wish me well. To this day, I treasure the memory of all that.

Official Ingrid Bergman Web Site

Note this interesting fact: according to her official web site, she was born on August 29, 1915, and died on August 29, 1982 in London.

* At our first meeting, I had some difficulty pronouncing Mr. Narishige's name, but henceforward he was "Cookie", a nick-name he embraced with kind affection. We became very good friends.