Two For The Price Of One

Two For The Price Of One

Double_Take_(album)Two of my absolute favorite jazz trumpet players of all time are Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw.  I can listen to them for hours on end and never get tired of their playing.  In 1985, they teamed up for an album on the Blue Note label entitled Double Take. If I had a nickel for every time I have listened to that album, I would have a lot of nickels for sure.  Freddie plays trumpet and flugelhorn, while Woody plays trumpet on the entire album.  Detroit native Kenny Garrett plays alto saxophone and flute, and the rhythm section on the record is the great Mulgrew Miller on piano, Carl Allen on drums and Cecil McBee on bass.  

In 1985 the technology of the recording industry was in a state of flux.  New albums were being released both on vinyl records and cassette tapes, and the manufacturing of compact discs was in its infancy.  Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, and there was no such thing as Google.  Vinyl records were beginning their exit from the commercial market, and some great music could be purchased at a bargain price on vinyl.  That is how I got my first copy of Double Take.  

Hubbard and ShawThe album is remarkable because the two great musicians don’t compete with each other, but work collaboratively and in the most satisfying musical way.  So many times when you get a couple of trumpet players together, things become a competition of flashy licks and high note spectacles where the musicality suffers.  Freddie and Woody never stop playing ideas, great, interesting musical ideas, and the result is a great record.  They pay respect to some of the great trumpet players that have come before them, playing tunes on the album composed by Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham and Lee Morgan.  I think I wore out a needle on my turntable just playing the Clifford Brown tune “Sandu” over and over.

“Sandu”, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, Double Take

The_Eternal_TriangleTwo years later, in 1987, Blue Note saw fit to record the two trumpeters again, and this time the resulting album was named The Eternal Triangle.  It featured the same lineup of players, with Ray Drummond substituting on bass.  This time the name of the album came from a tune written by Sonny Stitt, which Freddie and Woody play on the record. Again, I purchased the album on vinyl record, and listened to it repeatedly.  I made bootleg copies of each album onto cassette tape and listened to them in the car.  I listened to them on a Sony Walkman, played them on my tower speakers attached to the hi-fi, and never got tired of the bluesy, straight-ahead, swinging jazz sound.  

“The Eternal Triangle”, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, The Eternal Triangle

Sadly, I missed getting the albums on compact disc when they were released together as The Complete Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw Sessions in 1995.  For a long time, the albums were just out of print and unavailable.  When my music collection moved to a computer hard drive of digital files, these two albums were left behind for a time.  I have to say it left a big hole in my collection of jazz albums, but eventually fortune smiled and saw fit to release them on iTunes and on Amazon Music.  I was very happy to welcome them to my digital collection.  The albums are also available on Spotify, and still, I have found I never get tired of listening to them.  Now if anyone wants a used copy of the original Star Wars Trilogy on VHS tape or DVD, please contact me.  I skipped the Blu-Ray versions, but fear I will soon be sucked into owning digital movie copies.  How many more times do I have to buy these things?

Double Take on Spotify
The Eternal Triangle on Spotify

What Has The Force Awakened?

What Has The Force Awakened?

In May of 1977, my mother took me to see the original Star Wars movie in the theater.  In fact, that summer we went to the movie theater several times to see Luke Skywalker, Obi wan Kenobi and Han Solo fly through a galaxy far, far away.  Those days when you could only see a movie in the cinema seem like a long, long time ago.  The second movie in the series was eagerly awaited, and in May of 1980 The Empire Strikes Back fulfilled all our expectations, and more.  

Star_WarsThis past week, my five year old grandson went to see his first Star Wars film in the theater.  He has long been indoctrinated into the Star Wars universe, and went around this past Halloween as Anakin Skywalker.  He was mortified when I handed him the wrong color light saber toy to go with his costume.  The green one belongs to Luke, and only the blue one could go with his Anakin costume.  His father took off work to take the young Jedi to the matinee showing of The Force Awakens, recreating memories from his own childhood (as well as mine).  When we visited the family on December 24th, I asked my oldest grandson how he liked the movie.  He immediately crossed his arms and pursed his lips and looked at me with a serious look in his eye.  He said in a low voice  “I’m not telling you about it”.  I was puzzled.  “Did you like it?” I asked.  Again he repeated, “I’m not going to tell you about it”.  His father came over to explain that he made the boy promise not to tell grandpa all about the movie, since grandpa hadn’t seen it yet.  It apparently is against the Jedi code to provide spoilers from a new Star Wars movie.  

John Williams, The Empire Strikes Back, Imperial March

John-Williams-One of the most powerful things about this series of space operas, and one of the most timeless, is the music.  A powerful consistency is generated through all of the movies by having orchestral scores composed by John Williams.  Mr. William has composed some of the most iconic film music ever written,  including Jaws, all seven Star Wars films, Superman, the Indiana Jones series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and three Harry Potter films.  I remember being a young boy and having the soundtrack to the original movie (now subtitled A New Hope) on vinyl record, and playing it on a small record player.  Sometimes I got to play it on the big record player in the living room, which had two cabinet speakers that often played Neil Diamond records.  

I am certain that the opening theme of Star Wars is a big reason I took up the trumpet as an instrument to play. John Williams was also the conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra, which appeared on television frequently during his tenure.  I always thought that every concert should include a trumpet concerto.  I remember being truly annoyed that he didn’t play the Haydn concerto for trumpet at every broadcast.  

John Williams, Star Wars, Opening Theme


I don’t know if the music to the new Star Wars movie, also composed by John Williams, will inspire my grandson to become interested in orchestra music the way I did.  I do know I will have to see the new movie soon just to know what the young boy is talking about.   

Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer

The Rest of the (Musical) Story

Music and the movies go together like butter and popcorn.  I have to admit I was first inspired to learn the trumpet after hearing the soundtrack in the movie Star Wars.  

I have a grandson who is currently obsessed with the Indiana Jones movie series.  Well, at least two minutes at a time of the movie.  He is 3 years old and only sits still for about two minutes.  Not long enough to get to any of the scary parts, but long enough to have learned the theme to the Indiana Jones movies.

Here is a picture of the young lad in his Indiana Jones fedora hat, belt, and a Spiderman shirt.


Notice his Indiana Jones “whip” tucked in his belt that one of his grandmothers made him from a lint roller and strip of fabric.  He runs around the house asking me to sing the “Indy” song.

Many movies use pieces of existing music for part of their soundtrack.  Sometimes those parts in the movies become more famous than the original whole.  Let me share a couple of examples.  The 1986 movie Platoon used a famous piece by Samuel Barber, his Adagio for Strings.  The Adagio was originally the slow movement to Barber’s String Quartet, Opus 11.  Sam had sent a string orchestra arrangement of the slow movement to Arturo Toscanini, the famous conductor.  That orchestra version has been one of Barber’s most played pieces, and it is this version that is included in Oliver Stone’s Platoon.  Here is a string quartet performance of the whole work.

One of the most famous bits of movie music is in the opening to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This theme is two minutes from the opening of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, a 30 minute long orchestral tone poem.  The work was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel, and is in nine sections.  It is the first section entitled Einletung, oder Sonnenafgang (Introduction, or Sunrise) that is used in the movie.  Here is the whole work in a performance by the Gustav Mahler youth orchestra.

A great recent movie for string quartet  and classical music fans is A Late Quartet from 2012.

It stars Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, Catherine Keener, Imogen Poots and the recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman in the story of members of a string quartet in preparation for a final concert together.  The movie has plenty of drama, lust, betrayal and personal tensions between a group of people that have played together in a chamber group for 25 years.  The music centers around one of Beethoven’s String Quartets, the number 14 in C sharp minor opus 131.  This is one of the all time greatest pieces of chamber music, and sadly at 40 minutes in length is not played in its entirety in the movie.  It is a wonderful quartet in seven parts played without pause.  Here is the whole quartet played by the American String Quartet.

Now you have some of the rest of the (musical) story!