“ ‘Green Book,’ to be released on Nov. 21, tells the unlikely but basically true story of the friendship between [pianist Donald] Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a working-class Italian-American from the Bronx who was hired to chauffeur the New York musician on a 1962 tour of the Jim Crow South,” writes Giovanni Russonello in Friday’s (11/2) New York Times. “ ‘Green Book’ is not a biopic but throughout the film, Tony wrestles with the question of who exactly Shirley is…. Shirley [was] an artist of extravagant gifts … a prodigy…. But some doors remained closed to an African-American performer…. This musician … debuted on the concert stage at 18, playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat with the Boston Pops…. Shirley did manage to perform as a soloist with symphonies in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and elsewhere.… He embarked on a career that stayed largely stuck in the lukewarm waters separating jazz, cabaret, spirituals and chamber music…. He braided bits of classical études into Tin Pan Alley songs, orchestrating it all for … piano, cello and bass…. Pianist Kris Bowers composed the score to ‘Green Book’ and rerecorded Shirley’s arrangements for the soundtrack.”

Posted November 8, 2018