July 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / July /

Herbie HANCOCK (Musical Director)
Around Midnight  
  Columbia/Legacy 507924 2  


Around Midnight

  1. 'Round Midnight
  2. Body and Soul
  3. Berangers Nightmare
  4. Fair Weather
  5. Una Noche Con Francis
  6. The Peacocks
  7. How Long Has This Been Going On
  8. Rhythm-A-Ning
  9. Still Time
  10. Minuit Aux Champs-Elysees
  11. Chan's Song (Never Said)
  12. 'Round Midnight (Bonus Track)
  1. Dexter Gordon Tenor
  2. Herbie Hancock Piano
  3. Chet Baker - Trumpet & Vocal (track 4)
  4. Ron Carter, Pierre Michelot Bass
  5. Billy Higgins, Tony Williams Drums
  6. Freddie Hubbard trumpet
  7. Bobby Hutcherson Vibes
  8. Bobbie McFerrin - Vocals
  9. Lonette McKee Vocal
  10. Wayne Shorter Tenor and Soprano
  11. Cedar Walton Piano

It was a minor miracle that this film ever got made and a major one that it was successful! Jazz has always been a minority interest and a re-creation of it's past, has to be very well done for the general public to take an interest. In the case of this film it was well done and the acting ability of Dexter Gordon was a big plus.

The story is based around the Paris jazz scene during the time when both Bud Powell and Lester Young were residents there in the early 50's. Dexter Gordon knew both men well and had frequently played with them. The film's producers made a good decision not to try to use music from the past, but bring in the very talented Herbie Hancock as Musical Director. It was he who created the whole musical score, which is so much a part of the story of Dale Turner, an ageing jazz musician, played by Dexter Gordon.

Dexter, who was 63 at the time the film was made, was six foot five and the coolest dude on the jazz scene. Always suited and immaculately dressed he was an impressive figure. He played with immense deliberation and often, in a trademark way, slightly behind the beat. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries in jazz, he came from a good family and had the benefit of a college musical education.

The opening track with its Bobby McFerrin vocal, has a haunting quality, it is the films theme music. The next track Body and Soul is a feature for Dexter and Herbie Hancock on Piano. 'Fair weather' features Chet Baker both playing the trumpet and singing this Kenny Dorham composition. Like Dexter, Chet had experienced problems with narcotics, which affected the careers of both men. 'Una Noche con Francis' has Wayne Shorter as well as Dexter on tenor, this one did not get recorded on one of Dexter's better days. 'The Peacocks' is a difficult tune to play or for that matter understand, but Wayne Shorter plays a good version here on soprano, there is also a good reading of the tune from Herbie Hancock.

'How Long Has This Been Going On?' has a vocal from Lonette McKee with tenor obligato from Dexter. Rhythm-A-Ning has him on home territory playing with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton on keyboards, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on Drums. Strangely there is no chorus from Dexter. 'Still Time' is a Herbie Hancock composition, the sleeve notes say that Dexter plays tenor, but I think it is soprano played by Wayne Shorter! 'Minuit aux Champs Elysees,' a Henri Renault theme, is played as a duet between Hancock and vibes man Bobby Hutcherson. This is a very nice piece of work; the interaction between them is a joy to the ears. Chan's Song brings back Bobby NcFerrin on vocal to create a sub theme.

In truth there is not a lot of playing from Dexter Gordon on this album and the inclusion of the bonus track from a 1977 session at the Village Vanguard, is very welcome. This version of 'Round Midnight gives a much better picture of his real ability. Three years after the film was made Dexter died his lifestyle, like that of a lot of jazz musicians from that era had been affected by drug abuse. It makes his acting performance even more remarkable, considering that in 1987, when the film was made he was already in poor health.

Dexter Gordon's influence on the tenor saxophone in jazz should not be underestimated. He first came to prominence in the 1940's playing in big bands. His tenor battles with Gene Ammons and Wardell Gray sparked many a concert for the Lionel Hampton band. He spent most of the 1950's incarcerated for drug offences, but in the 1960's he played to rapturous audiences at the Village Vanguard in New York.

In 1962 a two-week booking at Ronnie Scott's in London turned into a two-month booking and the word was out throughout Europe that Dexter was back and playing well. He did the European Jazz Festival circuit and became a resident first of Paris then Copenhagen. He went back to the US in the 70's and again was in big demand, by the time he made this film his musical abilities may have been on the wane, but without him there would not have been this outstanding film. It was fitting that the film probably enabled him to spend the rest of his days in more comfortable circumstances than might otherwise have been the case.

I recommend this album to all that love jazz and it's musicians

Don Mather


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