What story can bring together Coleman Hawkins (who many consider to be the trunk of the Tenor Saxophone tree), the actor Burt Lancaster, contemporary jazz greats Charlie Haden and Cassandra Wilson, David Raskin (the “Grandfather of Film Music”), and Johnny Mercer, one of the greatest lyricists of all time? Well, it’s the story of THIS track. It starts with the 1954 movie, based on a 1936 novel and starring Lancaster, which ended up grossing over $10 million. Raskin had done the music for the film, and wrote the song, originally titled “My Love and I.” Next comes the September 1962 Impulse! Records date at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Bob Thiele, producer and head of Impulse, brought sheet music to the session, including the song, which had not to that point been performed outside the movie score. Hawk, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley, and Eddie Locke casually looked over the music, tried out a few chords, and then proceeded to lay down one of the most hauntingly beautiful tracks. Ever.
Charlie Haden, a twentysomething bass player from Iowa, picked up the album and was mesmerized. He decided to include the track on his 1993 Quartet West CD Always Say Goodbye. But that wasn’t enough. He wanted to do the track with a singer, so asked his friend Rick Starr from Hollywood Sheet Music to find some lyrics to the song. None turned up. Haden was about to call David Raskin’s estate to see if he could get the rights to commission a lyricist, when his friend Rick found the lyrics in a forgotten vault (the movie version was instrumental). And who had written said unused lyrics? Yup, Johnny Mercer, one of the greatest lyricists in filmmaking history! Haden enlisted Cassandra Wilson to sing the song on Quartet West’s 2010 CD Sophisticated Ladies. So…. check out this track. If it doesn’t bring tears, I don’t know what will.
Want a track every day? Follow #JazzForCOVID on Twitter.
Listen to the full album Today and Now: