Miles Davis: Stella by Starlight

"Stella by Starlight" is from Victor Young's film score for The Uninvited (1944), about a music critic and wannabe composer who takes a cut-rate house in the English countryside only to find that it's haunted. The female poltergeist trails a scent of mimosa, a plant whose leaves fold out when touched—much as Miles Davis let down his guard when touched by the Harmon muse. Here, Miles, Trane and Evans shadow Young's haunting melody the way mimosa trailed the specter, with goose bumps guaranteed as Davis's lead-in dissolves to Coltrane's solo. "Stella" is as spine-tingling as any cinematic ghost story.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments

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Miles Davis: On Green Dolphin Street


    Miles Davis, photo by Herb Snitzer

Originally issued on Jazz Track, an LP that devoted one side to Miles Davis playing his own film music and the flip side to Miles covering 1940s movie themes, this arrangement set the jazz mold for "On Green Dolphin Street." Henceforth, Chambers's dominant-to-tonic ostinato became as much a part of the song as composer Kaper’s melody. Miles’s Harmon-muted trumpet provides an ideal springboard for uninhibited saxophonists Coltrane and Adderley, after which Evans—recognizing the futility of single-note solos in such company—instead pays block-chord homage to George Shearing. This 10-minute track describes late-'50s hip better than a roomful of doctoral dissertations.

October 27, 2007 · 0 comments

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Eddie Harris: Exodus

3400 years after Moses led the Israelites out of bondage, Leon Uris's novel Exodus (1958), about modern Israel's founding, became a runaway bestseller and basis for a Hollywood epic. The movie in turn opened a promised land to the lowliest slaves—namely, musicians. Dual pianists Ferrante & Teicher's overwrought theme cover was 1961's top-selling single, and Ernest Gold's soundtrack tied for bestselling album. Even jazzman Eddie Harris scored a Top 50 single and Top 10 album. Recalling Stan Getz circa 1950 except for a freakish falsetto (clarinet-like upper register), Harris's effete, straggling "Exodus" makes one wish the Red Sea of opportunism had closed sooner.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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David S. Ware: The Way We Were

The sappy pop hit “The Way We Were” may seem like an odd platform for the free jazz saxophonist David S. Ware, but Ware was an odd signing for a mainstream label like Columbia. Ware’s quartet never eases into a song. Instead the group twists and turns and struggles to settle into it the way a fat man squeezes his body into a too-small airplane seat. Matthew Shipp pounds out chords, bassist William Parker and drummer Susie Ibarra brew up a storm, and Ware blows thunderbolts out of his sax; somewhere in the middle of it all you can almost make out the faint outline of the melody. For nearly 15 minutes they circle around it, just about touching it at times, and then they pull away, off on their own excursions again. It’s tough business when Ware’s quartet gets to work on a familiar tune. It’ll also blow your mind.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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Clifford Brown & Max Roach: Delilah

Brown & Roach hitch the Biblical temptress’ slithery theme from Victor Young’s score for C.B. (Cast of Thousands!) DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949) to the indigo mood of Duke Ellington’s "Caravan," featuring Max’s mallets and Clifford’s cup mute. Their salute to the patron saint of barbers then swings
into 4/4, as Max switches to sticks, Clifford opens his horn and tenorman Harold Land takes to the air.
Mr. DeMille, we are ready for the pillars to be pulled down. Delilahtful!

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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