Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Something Old, Something New...

Do I have a treat for you today, or what?

It's no secret that my all-time favorite magician is Gary Kurtz. He no longer performs straight magic, preferring the opportunities offered by working exclusively as a (WARNING: magic-community speak ahead!) stage 'mentalist'.

Of course, to almost all magicians mentalism is just another branch and style of magic, whereas to some mentalists it's a completely separate art form! Indeed one which some of the particularly deluded have convinced themselves shares no common lineage with magic at all, being descended instead from the psychic and (cold) reading performers of the late nineteenth century. Hmmmm...

Anyway, discussion of that lunacy can wait for another day, since this post is about Kurtz and one of his wonderful effects, Full Frontal Assault. Some days I think it is the best magic trick ever devised. Other days, I think it is just the best coin magic trick ever devised. Either way, it is pretty special. In fact, if magic-hating kidnappers took my family and demanded to be fooled by a magic trick to ensure my family's safe return, I'd be straight on the phone to Kurtz to come and perform this (no pressure then!)

My guess is that 99% of the people reading this blog have never heard of Full Frontal Assault, which in my eyes is a crime against magic, so here it is:




Cool, eh? When I first saw it I watched it 10 times in a row and had no idea where the coins were going! It wasn't till quite a while later that I was finally able to get hold of Kurtz's FFA manuscript and learn what he was doing. Sadly, that manuscript is long out of print, although it does very occasionally turn up on eBay for an exorbitant price.

OK, I'll put you out of your misery: he's sleeving the coins. Trust me, even now you know what he's doing, you'll still find it almost impossible to follow the when and the how. The reason I've told you though is to illustrate just one aspect of Kurtz's genius. In FFA he uses sleeving at least as well, if not better, than any other magician I've ever seen. And yet this is the only trick he ever uses sleeving in! Most magicians, when they have perfected a specific technique to this level of mastery use it in almost every trick they ever do. Think about Carl Cloutier and sleeving, Michael Ammar and toppiting or Slydini and lapping. Not Kurtz! He learns sleeving so beautifully that you can't see what he's doing even after you know exactly what he's doing and then he only uses it in one trick. Ever.

Actually, something else bears mentioning too. I referred to Carl Cloutier a moment ago. Now Carl is a fantastic magician and a very charming performer, and his smooth style combined with his sleeving and topit expertise allowed him to win FISM and just about every other magic competition of note in the world. What you might not know about him is that he was Gary Kurtz's student. Think about that: Kurtz's sleeving skills were so outstanding that when he taught them to his student he won FISM! And yet Kurtz himself uses the technique in just one effect.

Similarly, he was world-class at lapping. Yet, again, he only used it in one routine, Relentless. But what a routine! It's a tour-de-force of coin magic and still light years ahead of what most so-called coin magicians are doing twenty years on. Again, it's only available in a rare manuscipt and even if you were to buy it you would still be missing out on the feeling of sheer wonder and the laughter of surprise and amazement that you would experience if you were to see him perform it. Which sadly is unlikely now, although who knows what the future may hold? Either way, all interested students of the art should track down as much of Kurtz's material as they can and learn from a master.

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And so on the 'Something New' promised in the title of this blog post. Jamie Daws (about whom I know about as much as you do) has devised a truly awesome version of Roy Walton's Card Warp. There have been lots (too many?) of attempts to bring this effect into the 21st Century but I have to say that Daws' new Phantasm is far and away the best I have seen for a long time and goes straight into my top 5 Card Warp handlings. What's that? What are the others? OK, here's the list:

1. Phantasm - Jamie Daws. Great thinking, super visual and with a killer climax.
2. Siamese Twins - Bill Goodwin. I'm still as impressed with this as I was 15 years ago when he first showed it to me. Easily the best of the one-card handlings and one of those things that looks much better in person than it does on DVD.
3. The Contortionist - Michael Giles. Still a well kept secret ;)
4. Warp Factor 2000 - Angelo Carbone. Long unavailable but typical Carbone brilliance.
5. Card Warp - Roy Walton. It's a classic for a reason. Still an absolute nailer for laymen.

Here is Phantasm:



I spoke to Peter Nardi about it yesterday and he says that it will be out "by the end of the summer". So about six weeks then. I predict that this is going to be a very big seller.

Incidentally, when I spoke to Nardi he was in the middle of filming two new DVD projects, one with Thom Peterson and one with John Archer. They will both be out later in the year, Peterson's first and then Archer's in time for Christmas. I've seen the running orders for both DVDs and they contain some excellent new material that their fans will love.