Benny Carter: Angel Eyes

Back in 1954, Benny Carter was on the same label as another altoist you might have heard of: Charlie Parker. If Carter himself had ever heard Mr. Parker, he does a good job of disguising the fact on his recordings from the period. On this evocative rendition of "Angel Eyes," Carter's warm, big alto tone presents a stark contrast with Bird's biting sound, and his solo conception is not linked to any progressive ideology. In fact, the strong point of this track is Carter's interpretation of Matt Dennis's original melody. He extracts every last bit of loneliness and melancholy from this oft-played song, and after he has finished stating it no extended improvisation is really necessary. And, yes, Oscar Peterson is hidden away in the dark recesses of this track, but he plays so few notes you might think Norman Granz had imposed a quota.

September 17, 2009 · 0 comments


Mark Murphy: Angel Eyes (2007)

Mark Murphy has to compete with his earlier recording of this song—never an easy thing for the veteran performer—but he shows that some things do get better with age. Indeed, I am deeply impressed by how well Murphy sings as a septuagenarian. Not many vocalists in the long history of jazz have done so well so late in their career, but don't take my word for it . . . check out the music. Murphy's 2005 CD Once to Every Heart was one of the finest of his career, and we find the same ensemble in place here, with comparable results. If the younger Mark Murphy excelled at jaunty hipster tunes, these late vintages find him crafting exquisite versions of classic ballads. He definitely does not play it safe on "Angel Eyes," taking almost every liberty you can imagine with his phrases. He elongates, he abbreviates, he growls, he eeeeeeks up in the stratosphere, he puts in casual asides, he emphasizes stray words, he rearranges the melody in novel new patterns . . . . In short, Murphy puts a lifetime of experience singing these songs into this music. For fans of this vocalist, this is another must-have recording, and this admirer hopes more of this sort are in the works.

February 01, 2009 · 0 comments


Jan Lundgren: Angel Eyes

The fact that one of today's finest straight-ahead jazz pianists should be Swedish is nothing to wonder about. Europe, and specifically Scandinavia, has seen a lot of U.S. musicians come and preach the good word during the last decades (think of Dexter, Getz, Marsh, Red Mitchell, et al.), and their disciples have flowered. Lundgren's refined piano touch is a source of constant wonder on this ballad. He swings and improvises with the help of his excellent American partners in a delicate but never introverted manner, and his trio gives a truly timeless version of this beautiful standard.

February 27, 2008 · 0 comments


Mark Murphy: Angel Eyes

Introduced by an ominously repeated pattern from the brass and guitar that would suit the soundtrack of a film noir, Murphy's version of this tune allows him to display both his vocal talent and taste for drama. His rendition goes deep into the meaning of the words, and Ernie Wilkins's arrangement enhances this choice by weaving blues undertones in a thick instrumental fabric under Murphy's dark and expressive phrasing. Jazz singing has rarely been so visual and evocative with such an economy of means.

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Karrin Allyson: Angel Eyes

With her attractive, sultry voice, Karrin Allyson can deliver a song with intelligence and expressiveness while avoiding showy artifice. And she is adept at scat-singing as well. Here, Allyson and her all-star accompanists mine the angst of Matt Dennis’s “Angel Eyes,” one of the most poignant items in the American popular songbook.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments


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