Archive for June, 2010

Final Triumphant Scene of “Shiny Stockings” is Captured

A series of Stills from the final scene of Jazz Legacy Film's "Shiny Stockings"

We recently shot the final scene of the film in a hotel room in Newark NJ when Frank and Cecilia Foster were in town for the Hank Jones Memorial service.

The ”Happy Ending” was captured when Frank signed a termination notice which will set in motion his reclamation of the title song and a few other compositions of the same era. The Community Law Clinic of Rutgers School of Law- Newark has been working on the process that will allow Frank to republish his signature tune under his own publishing company in the near future, resulting in his receiving 100% of his royalties directly.

See NPR’s blog entry on the subject.

On the saddest note possible I was driving away from Newark, headed to a friend’s house when I got a call from Bill Saxton, one of Frank’s protoges.

“Did you hear about Benny?”

Trombonist Benny Powell was in the hospital for back surgery and I had spoken to him the night before. He was in good spirits, his back was feeling better than it had in 2 years. I thought Bill may have just found out he was in the hospital and was worried about him. He knew I was good friends with him because the last time I saw Bill just 2 weeks earlier I cut our conversation short because I had to pick Benny up and take him to his gig at the Lenox Lounge.

“Benny’s cool, I spoke to him last night. He’s in the hospital but he’s recovering and he’ll be out in a few days” I said.

Bill sighed. “Something happened early this morning brother, Benny’s gone”.

I pulled over to the side of the road and cried like a baby.

Frank Foster Takes Back his Shiny Stockings

Press Release June 26th, 2010-Please share!

Frank and Cecilia Foster with Filmmaker Brian Grady

Composer and arranger Frank Foster, who penned one of the Count Basie Band’s most popular tunes, “Shiny Stockings,” has initiated a contract termination process with the help of faculty and students in the Community law Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. The Clinic, under the supervision of intellectual property rights attorney Clinical Professor John Kettle, has sent notice on Foster’s behalf to the current holder of copyright that Mr. Foster will be exercising his rights in accordance with a little known provision of The Copyright Act of 1976.

As a young composer, to have a piece of music you’ve written appear on a recording by a well known bandleader in return for a small share of the residuals is very appealing. Often a young artist will sign a poorly negotiated contract without understanding the long-term ramifications. A song like “Shiny Stockings” becomes part of a catalogue of songs that are “owned” by a publishing company that can be bought and sold as an investment. Eventually, parties that had nothing to do with the creation of a work can collect the lion’s share of royalties and license fees throughout the life of the property. “Shiny Stockings”, considered an “evergreen” property has been recorded hundreds of times over the years and continues to be used in films and television shows. This represents significant potential earnings. The Copyright Act of 1976 provides for the opportunity for authors and composers to terminate prior agreements regarding the use of or transfer of rights of a copyrighted work.

A young Frank Foster at a recording session with Sarah Vaughan circa 1957

Having had a long career of recording and touring and recognized by his peers as one of the greatest Tenor Saxophonists of all time, Mr. Foster suffered a stroke in 2001 that left him partially paralyzed and unable to play his instruments. Mr. Foster’s economic situation grew bleak in the years following his stroke as reported in an interview aired on National Public Radio in 2005. If not for the residual income from his earlier published works and what he earns as an arranger he would be in dire straits.

Mr. Foster’s life is the subject of a documentary film by Director Brian Grady and produced by Mr. Grady’s company Jazz Legacy Films. The song was selected as a hook for the story as it was Mr. Foster’s best known piece of work. As part of his research for the film Grady looked into the history of the song and found it to be one of the most popular tunes of the Basie repertoire. Coincidentally, a friend who is a copyright expert in the music industry had told him of the Copyright Act and its obscure detail.

“My friend Bill Stafford explained that agreements entered into prior to 1978 can be terminated 56 years after initial vesting of copyright, and that there is a 5 year window in which an author or their descendents have to act.  They must serve notice of termination at least 2 years in advance. “Shiny Stockings” was published in March of 1956.  That meant that in order to take full advantage of the composition’s shelf life, this had to be acted upon as soon as possible.”

Professor John Kettle of Rutgers School of Law- Newark, discusses Frank Foster's copyright issues with members of the Community Law Clinic at The Rutgers School of Law.

“Frank taught in the Jazz Studies program at Rutgers–New Brunswick back in the 1970s. Rutgers–Newark is now the home of The Institute of Jazz Studies, the largest Jazz archive in the world. I made contact with Professor Kettle to see if he was interested. He was, and assigned the project to the Community Law Clinic whose students, among other activities, provide legal guidance on copyright, trademark and related IP issues. Under Professor Kettle’s supervision they identified several pieces of music that fit into the timeframe and could potentially generate a significant revenue stream in the future.

The movie “Shiny Stockings” has been awarded a Sponsorship from The New York Foundation for the Arts. Mr. Grady is now seeking grants and corporate sponsorship. He hopes to have the film completed by year’s end and to premiere it as part of Black History Month in February 2011.

A Partnership with PBS Station WHRO

Frank Foster shakes hands with fans.

I seem to waver between being incredibly organized and slipping into complete chaos. Somehow it seems to work out. It ain’t easy being your own admin, PR guy and fundraiser. I’m new to all these things.

So I’m filling out yet another application for a funding opportunity and of course under a tight deadline. I get to the 80% completion mark of the application which needs to be mailed out for an overnight delivery on the west coast.  Of course you’re supposed to read the entire application guideline manual prior to starting but who has time for that? Whoops! The grant is matching funds based on how much in-kind support I have from my PBS partner station. PBS PARTNER STATION?!? uhh, I don’t have one of those.

Not one to give up easily I email the funding organization and explain that a serious family health issue has set me back a week on the application. They graciously agree to an extension. Now I just have to find a partner right?  That would be nice. I came up with the bright idea of looking up a public television station near Cheasapeake VA where Frank resides. I was lucky enough to find WHRO in Norfolk on the PBS website. Using my mad Social Networking skills I look for people that work at WHRO in LinkedIn. I find a Barbara Hamm Lee, Chief Community Outreach Officer. Sounds like a good candidate. Searching her name in the online telephone directory I found her work contact and took a chance at calling her directly at her office. Did I mention this is happening at 5 pm on a Friday afternoon? Barabara wasn’t at her desk but was nice enough to have her cell number on her outgoing voice mail message. I dared calling her on her cell at 5:15 and left a message there. I hang up and decide to throw in the towel. To my astonishment she actually called me back within 15 minutes. I explained to her the project, which I had summarized in the message I had left and as I was telling her about Frank Foster’s contribution to music and his being local to the station she politely interrupted by saying “Oh I know about Frank Foster, I just emceed the Frank Foster Scholarship Fund’s Annual Gala, I LOVE Frank Foster!”

I nearly collapsed. I sent her a link to our demo of the movie and our Facebook moviepage. Barbara quickly worked her internal connections at WHRO and by the end of the following week I was working out a partnership with the station’s Chief Enterprise Officer, John Heimerl.

Did I get the app in on time? No. A partnership requires having the station commit to not only airing the program but as I mentioned, In-Kind donations. A letter of committment is required by the funding organization and that requires some discussion with management that would be rather difficult to get done in a matter of days.  It would be unrealistic to expect to get that all in place and make the deadline. My contact at the funder suggested I apply for another round due in August and if I want I can apply for the partnership matching funds next year. OK I will!

BUT: We now have a commitment with WHRO for In-Kind contributions of up to $50k and to air Shiny Stockings on Frank’s local PBS station. I suspect it will be a little easier to ask for funding now that I know Shiny Stockings will be aired on a PBS station. SO, I continue the hunt for funding and by hook or by crook I will finish this film amd people will see it.

Man I love it when things come together!

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