Chang Cheh=Excellence

17 04 2008

Ever since we started Kung Fu night at the Burton abode, we have watched almost exclusively films directed by Shaw Bros. alum Chang Cheh. Why have we done this? Well not only did he direct such a high percentage of films (over 100), but also because many of his later films featured the Venoms mob (a group that we always seem to gravitate towards). In using films as a basis to create new songs/improvising material, Chang Cheh is a really interesting subject and especially his work with the Venoms, because basically most of these films are simple stories built to showcase the Venoms martial arts/acrobatic skills. The stories hardly ever make much sense, and it’s really just padding to get to the fights. That said, Cheh definitely did not start out making films this way, but as his workload increased, this was the direction his filmmaking took. In my opinion, this worked ONLY because of the Venoms and without them, the method would get old real quick (and it even still gets a little old with the mighty Venoms).

The same can definitely be applied to jazz, and in particular the coveted 60’s Blue Note Records boom of one million different albums being recorded each week by 10 different musicians. Many albums followed the same format, and the structure of the tunes were very similar, but the end result still ended up being amazing music. Just looking at Wayne Shorter’s 60’s output reveals a string of very similarly structured, yet musically amazing albums in a relatively short period of time. In 1964 alone, he released 3 of his greatest albums in Night Dreamer, JuJu and Speak No Evil. It’s relates because just like Shorter relied on the individual musicians to take his tune’s to another level, so to Cheh relied on his Venoms to take cut and copy stories, and elevate them by using their amazing choreography.

So the new song is using one of Cheh’s earlier films as an inspiration…One Armed Swordsman. This 1967 film was Cheh’s first big hit, and really paved the way for him and redefined the modern action film. This movie has WAY more story, and is a lot more inspired than Cheh’s Venoms films. Definitely good times.

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