Spirits of the Songs
Angel Eyes mp3 sample clip
The jazz standard Angel Eyes has been performed by dozens of talented musicians. The two versions I regard as the most breathtaking are by Sonny Stitt and Yusef Lateef. Stitt included the song on one of his last recording dates. Lateef used the flute on his take. Both in my eyes are required listening for anyone interested in jazz. Note that in 2001 Jennifer Lopez starred in a movie of the same name.
What made Yusef Lateef so special was that he was a true scholar of the music. He had played Cannonball Adderely, a man who also was an academic. Yet Lateef used classical and non-Western techniques in his actual music. He was a man who knew of hundreds of different scales to play over certain chord progressions. The legend has is when John Coltrane was in Lateef’s neck of the woods, he would get together with him and discuss the thousands of scales and modes they studied.
What makes Angel Eyes so great is the basic blues foundation it has. The musician has enough freedom to make a statement based in the blues while at the same time staying close to the original melodic theme. The way Lateef plays the composition with his flute is so soothing. The trombonist on his track (on the documentary The Last of the Savoy Sessions) stays close to the Lateef melody so there is a really nice blend of instruments there.
Sonny Stitt recorded Angel Eyes in his own Last Sessions Album Volume 1. Stitt was regarded as a key bebop figure second only to Charlie Parker. The two men knew each other quite well yet there was no rivalry between them. Actually, each were present during the others formulative years. It can be said that each were aware of the others thematic improvisatory methods but they were making completely original, independent statements on their instruments.
Back to Lateef’s version and pop culture reference of Jennifer Lopez. When you listen to Lateef play Angel Eyes on his flute and look at the cover box of the J-Lo movie, you just have to think what audio-visual match it is. It would have been a perfect track for the motion picture soundtrack. Actual I think it would be a great audio selection to place on the ending credits for any movie.