Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Standard-ising 'Stardust'

Our tastes with regard to the 'standards' (tunes commonly known and performed by jazz musicians) are powerfully influenced by our earliest exposure to these tunes. In my case, the first recording of Hoagy Carmichael's 'Stardust' I heard was, incredibly, this obscure track by the composer and 'His Pals' in 1927. Not just my first 'Stardust', but also THE first recorded version.

Since I was 14, the song 'Stardust' has primarily meant the treatment found here. The melody carries a wistful combination of innocence and regret, heavy with emotion yet introverted, lacking the vulgar emoting jazz musicians have inflicted on it so often.

As I discovered other versions of the song (Louis Armstrong valiantly reaching, Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman relaxed, searching), these different treatments moved into my musical consciousness, alongside the original. But I find myself coming back to this one to enjoy the melodic variations from the cornet, alto sax, piano and clarinet. These musicians are not jazz greats, but somehow their efforts - awkward yet full of hopes and dreams - provide a narrative that matches the song so well.

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