Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan: The Way You Look Tonight

Their light tones and upbeat lyricism an ideal match, Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond’s Two of a Mind was destined to be a classic even before one note was recorded. Not only does the individual brilliance of the two soloists make this album a resounding success, but their shared contrapuntal conception and empathetic duetting are the elements that truly create the beauty within. On "The Way You Look Tonight," Mulligan weaves a delightful counterpoint around Desmond’s melody, both tirelessly manipulating the altoist’s five note motive that opens the track. Desmond takes the first solo, floating airily and unfurling long, relaxed phrases filled with surprising twists and turns. Kay’s brushes churn behind the altoist before he unassumingly opens up with sticks to nudge Mulligan along through his two typically bright and fleet choruses. Desmond overdubs a third contrapuntal line for the transcendent final out-choruses, a breathtaking conclusion to a simply marvelous, must-have recording.

May 04, 2009 · 0 comments


Arnett Cobb: The Way You Look Tonight

Arnett Cobb, the "Wild Man of the Tenor Sax," replaced Illinois Jacquet in Lionel Hampton's band in 1942 and helped give Hamp his second big hit on the remake of the vibraphonist's theme song, "Flying Home." Cobb stylistically bridged the gap between swing and rhythm and blues, with the extroverted approach of such "Texas Tenors" as Jacquet, Buddy Tate, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Gene Ammons. By the time of the 1960 session that included this track, Cobb had suffered serious physical setbacks – spinal surgery in 1948, and crushed legs caused by a car accident in 1956 – yet his showy, demonstrative musical personality remained largely intact.

Here he essays Jerome Kern's theme with a gruff tone, alternating elongated, breathy notes with punched-out flurries. The piece is arranged as an exchange of short statements between Cobb and pianist Red Garland, except for one lengthier excursion by each. Cobb's full solo raises the dynamic level as he testifies with assertive riff-like phrases and bluesy exhortations, under relaxed control in comparison to his somewhat exaggerated "Wild Man" moniker. As for Garland, his lightly frolicking runs eventually give way to his more somber trademark block chords. Cobb returns to sweet-talk the melody before a gradual fadeout. Kudos as always to audio engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

August 22, 2008 · 0 comments


Johnny Griffin: The Way You Look Tonight

During the 1950s, Johnny Griffin built a reputation as "fastest horn in the West," and his rendition of this standard on his first album as a leader exemplifies that aspect of his playing. On the theme, the "Little Giant" sets a pace that's not much faster than average for this tune, but when it comes to improvising he dashes through the chord changes with supernatural speed. And this doesn't hinder the utter relevance with which his imagination produces bop and blues patterns one after another. Of course the Kern & Fields love song doesn't retain much of its original meaning during this vigorous treatment. But if one accepts the idea, one can only be impressed by the tenor stampede that charges through Kern's chordal corral with such youthful exuberance.

June 24, 2008 · 0 comments


Stan Getz: The Way You Look Tonight

This version of the standard is close to ideal, from its contrapuntal opening by Getz and Raney to the melodic and rhythmic fluidity of the up-tempo sax solo, incisively punctuated by Jordan's piano. Getz is obviously the main focus, but his improvisation is totally devoted to enhancing the song's natural beauty. So much so that his highly inventive embroideries on the chord pattern sound like natural extensions of the original melody. "The Sound," indeed, but the ideas, too.

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Mel Tormé: The Way You Look Tonight

Tempo? Faaast! Vocal phrasing? Impressive—and each word sounds crystal clear! Arrangement? Both refined and punchy! Solos? Herb Geller's and Bob Enevoldsen's names say it all! Will that be enough to convince you that you'd better fasten your seat belt during these <2½ minutes, and that you will sport a broad smile all along that ride and long after it's over, too? Tormé and Paich were really a gas during these '56 sessions, and this track is among the highlights of the repertoire they recorded then. Any more questions?

February 03, 2008 · 0 comments


Wallace Roney: The Way You Look Tonight

There is always a risk in taking an originally slow song at top speed without even playing the melody. Why use a good tune as a mere bunch of chords to ride them frantically? Wallace Roney avoids this danger by playing the melody alone with the bass as an introduction, with a beautiful sound and a phrasing that shows a tender soul. Then the group joins in for an impressive tour de force powered by Cindy Blackman's dynamic drumming. But the atmosphere of the intro somehow lingers on and keeps the whole thing within the boundaries of its original feeling.

January 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Frank Sinatra: The Way You Look Tonight

This update of a Fred Astaire number from the 1936 film Swing Time doesn’t glide across the ballroom floor—it struts. Riddle opens the tune with jaunty reeds and sizzling muted trumpets echoing each other’s lines. Sinatra comes in tough and is cocky throughout, but there’s also a subtle tenderness between the lines. After the first run-through, the song’s pace picks up, with trombones punctuating Sinatra’s staccato lyrics— “And that laugh, wrink-le-s your nose/Touch-es my fool-ish hearttt.” The chart’s crescendo occurs on the bridge and features a hip trumpet dragging the final note. Cool touch. Sinatra returns to provide a warm wind-down and finishes remarkably in ballad tempo.

January 15, 2008 · 0 comments


Mel Tormé: The Way You Look Tonight

For a certain kind of jazz at a certain point in history, this may be a pinnacle. "West Coast Jazz" with its occasional clichéd slickness (among other positives or negatives, depending what side of the fight you fall on) doesn’t sound much better than this. Tormé, the child prodigy, drummer, pianist, songwriter (“The Christmas Song”!), arranger and one of the great jazz singers, never sounded so in his element as he does here. From the opening fugal setting of the melody, the brisk tempo and great solos from alto sax and valve trombone, this track has a frantic exuberance that just won’t quit. It’s a peerless arrangement with the French horn doubling the vocal line on the last verse for the final icing on the cake.

November 07, 2007 · 0 comments


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