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Two giants: Someday My Prince Will Come

Posted by keithosaunders on April 20, 2010

Jon Wertheim, over at Rehearsing the Blues there is a post up about the Disney song, Someday My Prince Will Come.  The song, which is from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,  has been recorded by a bevy of jazz musicians, most notably Miles Davis.  While the post at Rehearsing the Blues focuses on a version by Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch, it has inspired some thoughts of my own about Mile’s version.

One of the things I love most about Someday My Prince (other than every note and chord Wynton Kelly plays) is the contrasting tenor solos.  Hank Mobley’s solo is characteristically sparse and filled with melody and humor.  He cuts through these unconventional changes like butter and his tone is sweet and silky.

After Mobley’s solo Miles has the band break down to the rhythm section playing an F pedal interlude.  It serves as a sorbet between solos and it has the effect of building tension.  All of a sudden, *bang,* there’s Coltrane at the peak of his sheets of sound phase.  His solo is remarkable, not just for its sheer virtuosity, but how it stands in stark contrast to Mobley’s melodic gem.  Trane’s solo  is shorn of all romanticism, yet embedded in its barrage of notes is lyricism and wit.  As always his intensity and focus are in evidence, but they are tempered somewhat by the the gloss and the sheen of Miles’ arrangement.  This is the same Coltrane who later that year [1961] will record a 15 minute sax solo on the blues — Chasin’ the Trane —  without running out of ideas.  With Miles, however, he was able to distill this energy into a two-minute solo.

Mobley, to his credit, does not try to match Trane note for note.  His ideas are so personal and so confident that he  is very much at home on this track.  It amazes me that he could deliver this sublime solo while standing next to one of the greatest saxophonists of his, or any era.  In this sense he was like a basketball player calmly burying free throws in the final minute of a playoff game.   

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6 Responses to “Two giants: Someday My Prince Will Come”

  1. Mr. Saunders,

    This is a good post. I love Wynton’s playing here as well – if you haven’t done so already, you should check out the alternate take from this album, as well as the performance from “In Person Saturday Night At The Blackhawk” (with the same band, minus Trane). The changes Kelly makes in his playing are astounding.

    If I might make a few suggestions, from a reader’s perspective:

    Try to make more specific references to the tune. Think of the recording as a book – you would never say, “Charles Dickens writes like this, this and this,” without providing a page number. Your post is about the two tenor solos – yet you skim over them both. Delve into them! Guide us, your readers, through them.

    And, just as a side note, the plural of “Miles” is either “Miles’ ” or “Miles’s”, but never “Mile’s”.

    Great post. Thanks for the shout-out.

    J

  2. Jon, thank you for that comment. I’m not sure if I agree with your point about being more descriptive in regards to the solos. I reread the post and I feel that I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to illustrate an interesting dichotomy between the two tenor players in the context of Miles’ arrangement.

    One thing I could have done, and still may do, is to be more specific about when these solos take place. I’m sure that Mobley’s was first, but to be honest I don’t recall if there was a piano solo in between. (I don’t think there was — just the interlude.)

    Then there is the age old problem of describing music. I could have harmonically dissected what they were playing [Mobley executes a diminished run at 4:58, etc…] but it’s not germaine to the post. I was going for the feeling that these two players have long evoked for me on this date. I hadn’t thought about it in a few years but thanks to your post it was top of mind.

    Great response!

  3. Fair enough, man. Glad I could get you thinking about it.

    And yes, there is a pretty lengthy Kelly solo in between Hank and Trane’s solos, as well as a restatement of the melody from Miles. In effect, Kelly ends the song, then the closing melody comes in, the F pedal comes back as an ending tag, and then Trane comes in unexpectedly with a whole other half of the song.

    J

  4. Yes! You think the song is over and all of a sudden Trane is there taking it to a different place. By then Trane was so accomplished that all he had to do was put the horn in his mouth and it was like turning a key in the ignition. He plays such an amazing solo yet it feels effortless.

    Well, there you have it — I’m just going to have to buy this record again. (and the Blackhawk dates which I haven’t owned in decades) There are some great ballads there too. Check out Old Folks where you can hear a chair creaking in the middle of Miles’ solo.

  5. Marquez said

    Aw man, definite favorite here. You speak truth when you mention Mobley not trying to match Trane note for note; they were just two different edges of the same sword; Mobley different got some amazing sounds out of those lower registers–I just wished Miles recorded more than one studio session with Mobley! From Quiet Nights on, you knew it was end of a beautiful era..

    • Marquez said

      opps.. *definitely* instead of different in there.. haha

      and just listened to Old Folks on iTunes, the chair creak @ 1:14!

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