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Wednesday, July 20,2011

The Screening Room

Bob Baldori found the keys to a rocking documentary

by James Sanford

That Bob Baldori is a phenomenal pianist
is no secret: He’s been performing sizzling boogie-woogie around the
world for decades. But his documentary “Boogie Stomp” demonstrates he’s
an accomplished filmmaker as well.


The movie has been screened a few times
in the past year as a work-in-progress. It’s in the process of its final
fine-tuning, and it’s well on its way to being a real
attention-grabber.


No one can accuse Baldori of playing it
safe on his first directorial project. “Boogie Stomp” ambitiously weaves
together three plotlines: Baldori’s working relationship and friendship
with his partner, Bob Seeley; Seeley’s background in the Detroit music
scene; and the rise of the boogie-woogie form in American music. Any one
of the stories would probably have made a compelling movie, but Baldori
wants to illuminate how they tie together, forming a more substantial
picture. 


It’s a risky choice that pays off
remarkably well. Through careful scripting and smooth editing, “Stomp”
seems to move effortlessly — even elegantly — from fascinating history
lessons and helpful explanations of musical terms to the material that
charts Seeley’s long career before he teamed up with Baldori (including
more than 30 years of performances at a Charley’s Crab restaurant in the
Detroit suburb of Troy — the man admits he loves seafood).


There’s a palpable sense of the bond
between the two Bobs, even though their personalities are almost
completely dissimilar. Baldori is the take-charge, assertive half of the
team, setting up prestigious bookings and negotiating with agents.
Seeley is more reserved — not exactly reticent, but generally laid back
and less goal-oriented. One of the film’s biggest laughs comes when
Seeley finally speaks his mind about a subject that really irritates
him: the mysteries of Canadian breakfast foods.  


The partnership is not always harmonious,
as we see when Baldori tries to capitalize on a successful gig in
Moscow by arranging another trip to Russia — only to find Seeley would
rather spend the winter in Florida.   


To those who don’t know them, the men
seem to be a mismatched team. Once they get behind their pianos,
however, the combination is genuinely combustible. Alternately dueling
playfully and supporting each other’s melody lines, Seeley and Baldori
regularly raise the roof and bring audiences to their feet at concert
dates. The musical segments in “Stomp” practically dare you not to dance
in your seat: Number after number rocks, rolls and roars.


I watched the movie on a computer
monitor; I can’t wait to experience it in a theater with a great sound
system. “Stomp” tells us that boogie-woogie rhythms were drawn from the
rumble of the railroads, and the one-two punch of Baldori and Seeley
certainly does feel like being hit by an express train from Funkytown.


‘Boogie Stomp’
For more information and updates on screenings, visit www.boogiestomp.com

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