musicology #358

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #25

(John Coltrane – India)

Penultimate slice of the Hustler ‘alternative’ finds our man having finally reached the peak of his game. No alcohol or bravado..just one man and his craft. Have to give George C Scott a special mention for his contribution on this scene..full of menace and vitriol as he tries one more time to ‘boss’ the kid...

The cut is a second one from mind blowing virtuoso John Coltrane whose command of the language is out of this world. Again let me state that I’m not a big fan of the genre but more than once when the ‘Trane has spoke themusicologist listens. For me it’s like he’s reaching beyond the boundries of tonality to deliver authentic spirit and even though I’m trying, words can’t do the Cat justice.

Recorded for Impulse in 1961 at New York’s Village Vanguard..another live performance that I would ‘give me right arm’ to have been present at and ably supported by Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, Reggie Workman and Ahmed Abdul-Malik. What has it got to do with The Hustler and themusicologist? in a word..synchronicity.

musicology #355

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #22

(Dee Clark – Raindrops)

As yesterday’s slice of musicology pronounced…themusicologist is ‘A Little Busy’ at the moment so i’ll keep it brief. The dialogue today says it all. Eddie’s done his conkers and still hasn’t learnt any ‘character’, Bert still hasn’t learnt any compassion and Sarah, (who comes down to the arena unnoticed), learns that maybe Eddie is not the man of her ‘dreams’. Heart wrenching….

The music is courtesy of the majestic Delectus ‘Dee’ Clark whose voice is how I have always imagined an angels would sound. Yet another BIG mod/ernist dancehall classic, (and eary musicologist memory) from the dawn of a new era, (1961), and yet another on the Vee Jay label which between the years 1960 – 1962 did as much as any label to direct the new sound. Unfortunately that wasn’t backed up by artist renumeration and even though the record sold TWO million copies and hit #2 on the ‘Pop’ charts it signalled the end rather than the beginning for Dee who never scored another hit and ended up absolutely ‘pot-less’ in a Welfare motel in the 1980’s….Tragic.

But his memory lives on and the music he made is as good as it gets…So even though he is no longer with us…Dee this one’s in honour of you..

musicology #348

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #15

(Etta James & Harvey Fuqua – My Heart Cries)

Today’s dialogue is especially poignant in as much as it offers an insight into not only the two characters, (Eddie & Sarah), but also a fundamental difference in the sexes. Don’t forget that this is 1961 and the dawn of a new era in the dialogue between man and woman. Sarah makes it as clear as crystal how she feels about Eddie leaving no ambiguity and he, (in time honoured fashion), tries to sidestep the issue but she reiterates her feelings and lets him know in no uncertain terms what she wants to hear him say.

The music is a beautiful piece of Soul from two great singers both of whom have already featured on themusicologist, Etta James and, (her husband at the time), Harvey Fuqua with yet another slice of the Chess records pie, (as influential as any label in the development of what is now known as ‘Urban’ music). Recorded and released in, yep you guessed it, 1961 and featured on Etta’s fantastic album ‘At Last’. Arranged by musicologist Riley Hampton.

musicology #347

AlternativeSoundtrack #14

(Buddy Guy – First Time I Met The Blues)

After taking an old school battering as well as having his thumbs broken by the roughnecks who didn’t take kindly to his hustle Eddie turns up back at Sarahs apartment looking like he’s been ten rounds with Cassius Clay. She takes pity on the kid and wants to take care of him. Some women are funny that way…or is it just the mothering instinct? ..all the bravado and ‘front’ has gone and we catch a glimpse of the boy behind the man. If youve been there you know how it feels.

The music today is yet another slice of the Chess Blues pie but this time from guitar virtuoso George ‘Buddy’ Guy whose influence has spread far and wide touching almost every guitar player that followed; Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton have all cited Guy as a major inspiration, (especially Hendrix who was known to cancel concerts to go and hear Guy play). His stage antics are legendary which according to the man himself were inspired by, (at the age of 13),  seeing Guitar Slim perform in 1949.

musicology #344

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #11

(John Coltrane – Spiritual)

Today’s dialogue features Eddie and Sarah almost at each other’s throats. As mentioned yesterday the way Eddie spat Charlie out has left it’s mark on Sarah who has hit the bottle again to try and numb the pain. Alcohol is a problem for Eddie too but not in the same way. For him it’s ‘fuel’ but for Sarah it’s ‘medicine’. I don’t get the impression that he thinks of his consumption as a problem, (the film portrays their reliance on alcohol completely differently), but is all too quick to conclude that for her it is. Anyway in this scene Sarah’s drunk, (it was he who got her back on the bottle at the end of the previous scene), Eddie isn’t and words are spoken, culminating in Eddie giving her a hard slap. Sarah comes back with a scathing response, (one of the best lines of dialogue in the film for me), and Fast Eddie leaves.

Todays’ cut is from a Cat, (with a capital C), whose musical prescence and command of the language is as good as it gets. Must admit that ‘Jazz’ from this period is not generally one of my musical passions but on more than one occasion the ‘Trane has blown my mind with his melodic originality and ability to communicate the message…..The piece also features Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones.

Garvin Bushell, Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Jimmy Garrison were on the session which was recorded in 1961, (live), at New York’s famed ‘Vanguard Village’ but I don’t know enough about the players or the instruments to discern whether they were involved on this particular Jam. (Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder for Impulse).

musicology #342

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #9

(The Coasters – Snake and The Bookworm)

Not even half way through the film yet so looks like themusicologist is in for the long haul. I promised myself after the 12AngryMen alternativesoundtrack that I would relax the rule of only throwing down music from the year the film was released but on reflection feel that the harmonies involved are too compelling so as a compromise for The Hustler I’m restricting the music to the year the film was released, (1961), and the year preceeding it…1960.

Today’s piece of dialogue features Eddie and Sarah after having spent the last few days together. Not sure whether our man has been hustling during this time but if he has there’s no mention of it. Maybe they have found what they have both been looking for…someone to share a life with? that’s the way I’m reading it anyway.

The music is a piece of ‘Rock and Roll’ from one of the great vocal groups The Coasters, (this line up features Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Cornell Gunter, Will “Dub” Jones and Albert “Sonny” Forriest), whose star, along with Rock and Roll’s was beginning to fade. Soul was stepping up to take it’s place because Rock and Roll was considered to have corrupted the nation’s youth !! but music is too powerful to control and what seemed at the time to be a more soothing sound was beginning to capture the attention of ‘the new breed’ who would take it on and use it to communicate a more powerful, (and popular), message of freedom and equality.

musicology #340

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #7

(John Lee Hooker – I’ll Know Tonight)

Our man Eddie wakes up from his short sleep at the bus station, sticks his bag in a locker there and heads back into NYC trying to decide what to do next..he hits a local bar and there in a booth, alone in an empty bar is the girl whose magnetism drew him to her at the Station..He buys her a drink and finds out that ‘Sarah’ is a ‘boozer’. Something about this lady intrigues and ‘attracts’ him but he only knows the “fast and loose” hustle so that’s the way he plays it..she clocks his small town play and initially declines his offer but as we are to find out later, birds with broken wings are a perfect match especially if they can help each other to become whole again.

The musicology is a 1960 slice borrowed from the LP ‘Travellin’ on Calvin and Vivian Carter’s Vee Jay label from the Inimitable John Lee Hooker, (featuring Lefty Bates, Sylvester Hickman and Jimmy Turner),with his unique combination of Delta and City blues perfected whilst drifting up from his birthplace near Clarksdale Missisippi through Memphis and eventually settling in Detroit.

musicology #339

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #6

(Sam Cooke – Cupid)

The Kid has been rolled over by Fats who showed him that not only does he who laugh last laughs longest but also that action speaks louder than words. Talent alone can get you ‘there’ but is not enough to keep you there, that takes character which comes only with experience. I doubt Eddie had been chewed up and spat out like that before…collapsing in a heap on the floor that a few hours ago he was parading around on like a king. That’s a long way to fall from “I’m the best there is” to begging Fats to play him for his last ‘bottle’…

One of the many things I like about this film is how it deals with some of the raw sides of human nature. There Isn’t a ‘nice’ character anywhere to be found, they are all Corrupt, Twisted and Crippled in some way, (like we all are), and when I watched it recently it was a touch painful to be honest..as I said at the start of the theme as a youngblood growing up on London’s mean streets themusicologist identified with the Fast Eddie character and although I was only young, still I saw and was involved in enough ‘experiences’ to gain some of the ‘Character’ that the film deals with. I was always in disagreement with the ‘respect your elders just because they are older than you’ ideology and found it hard, (especially with authority), to accept. I was young and foolish, (and happy..doo doo doo do do do do !!), and was brought up to value actions over words. The man to watch is the one who says nothing not the one who is shouting and gesticulating about what is going to be done at some future date. I was taught that by both the males and the environment that influenced my early life and it has often provided insight during some of my less salubrious moments. Anyway I’m rambling a bit so I’ll get back on the track..where was I…

Oh yeah, Eddie has taken a beating from Fats and after a short sleep in a hotel room abandons his partner Charlie and heads for the Bus Station. From across the room he spots a lone female and makes a move…Hustler style? I don’t know..I have always believed that people are like magnets and some we are drawn to while others repel us. Made more sense when a few years back I read a lot about Frequency and how every living entity has one. Naturally harmony would draw us to those who are ‘playing our tune’ so that together we could make sweet music. What draws the bee to the pollen, the horse to water and the man to the woman..frequency, so with that in mind, (as far as I’m concerned at least), ‘our man’ Eddie is drawn to this woman and he ‘makes a play’.

Sarah, played by Piper Laurie, (real name Rosetta Jacobs), sees it coming and makes it plain that she’s not interested in his advances. She answers him but doesn’t leave him any room in which to manoeuvre so he gets his ‘nut’ down, (sleeps), for a while and when he wakes she’s gone.

Todays cut is one of the great songs sung by one of the greatest singers of all time…Sam Cooke and even though we all know the tune inside out it still kicks arse..tough tune that I could never tire of. Make no mistake this piece epitomises Soul, a genre that wouldn’t have been the same without ‘The Lion’ blazing trails. I have been listening ALL day to music from 1960 and 1961 waiting for the right slice and as soon as I reached this one, (six hours later !!), it struck the right note..so here it is. Eddie doesn’t know it yet but ‘The arrow’ has flown straight into his heart.

musicology #338

AlternativeSoundtrack #5

(Barrett Strong – Money)

Not sure how fresh in your memory the film is? but this next scene is the one where Eddie, who has been drinking JTS Brown, (Bourbon), straight out of the bottle for hours is beginning to look tired as the alcohol takes it’s toll. Minnesotta Fats on the other hand steps into the washroom, combs his hair, washes his hands, puts on his suit jacket and looking as fresh as a daisy, (he’s been drinking Whiskey too), delivers a killer line of dialogue and proceeds to ‘wet’ the kid up.

“Fast Eddie……”

The accompanying slice of musicology is a famous 1960 cut on the Tamla, (Motown), label from Barrett Strong the rip roaring cut that catapulted Motown into the spotlight, (where it stayed for more than 20 years). Strong went on to become one of Motown, (and Soul’s), premier songwriters who, in collaboration with partner Norman Whitfield, wrote many a classic for Cats such as Marvin Gaye  ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, Edwin Starr ‘War’ and The Temptations ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.

musicology #337

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #4

(Jimmy Smith Trio – Jimmy’s Blues)

Fats has taken up the challenge from the young pretender and the battle hots up..first Fats on top and then for a while Eddie hits a winning streak which sees him reach his inital target of “Ten grand in one night” but rather than call it a night the kid fancies that “this table is mine” and in his naivite he gives his opponent the opportunity to carry on playing “Until Minnesota Fats says it’s over”.

I say naivite but in my experience ‘etiquette’ can and does play it’s part in ‘the game’ and offering the loser the chance to win his money back is, (or was in the games I played), accepted as an unwritten rule. Unless of course the Hustle is your business and then there are no unwritten rules.

During the contest George C. Scott enters the fray as Minnesota’s backer and we hear him ‘pipe up’ for the first time after watching Eddie and Fats going toe to toe for  hours but as we, (and Eddie) are soon to find out “the Race is not for the swift but for who can endure it”

The music is yet another slice of the 1961 pie but today it’s courtesy of Hammond Organ supremo ‘The Incredible’ Jimmy Smith and Trio freaturing Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums…borrowed from a Blue Note session called ‘Straight Life’, (recorded by Rudy Van Gelder).