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Rather than the obligatory 30’s jazz standard, Nathan Davis opted for a contemporary Hollywood movie score.”The Shadow of Your Smile“, also known as “Love Theme from The Sandpiper“, written by Johnny Mandel with the lyrics by Paul Webster.
The song was featured in the extra-marital affair film The Sandpiper (Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, 1965) with a trumpet solo by Jack Sheldon, a West Coast scene jazz trumpeter often with Art Pepper and Curtis Counce, and a niche in playing film soundtracks. No sandpipers were harmed in the making of this recording..
“Celebrated for his swinging, coolly sophisticated jazz style, Johnny Mandel built upon his early years as a big-band trumpeter and trombonist, emerging as a major film composer and arranger in Hollywood from the late ’50s onward. Like his contemporaries Michel Legrand, Lalo Schifrin, Burt Bacharach, and Henry Mancini, Mandel helped define the sound of Hollywood film soundtracks in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, weaving together orchestral jazz, traditional pop, mood music, adult contemporary, and small group jazz improvisation into his own distinctive and lyrical sound.
He earned a Grammy nomination for his first film score for 1958’s I Want to Live! and took home both an Oscar and Grammy award for his song “The Shadow of Your Smile” from the 1965 film The Sandpiper. He also enjoyed widespread acclaim for composing the song “Suicide Is Painless,” the theme from director Robert Altman’s 1970 film M*A*S*H”.
In 1984, saxophonist Zoot Sims paid tribute to the composer with Quietly: Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel (LJC says: great album on dark-horse label Pablo!, look out for it)
The words behind the Shadow of Your Smile tune are worth a glance, to tie in with Davis’s melodic lines.
One day we walked along the sand
One day in early spring
You held a piper in your hand
To mend its broken wing
Now I’ll remember many a day
And many a lonely mile
The echo of a piper’s song
The shadow of a smile
The shadow of your smile
When you are gone
Will color all my dreams
And light the dawn
Look into my eyes
My love and see
All the lovely things
You are to me
Our wistful little star
Was far too high
A teardrop kissed your lips
And so did I
Now when I remember spring
All the joy that love can bring
I will be remembering
The shadow of your smile
Most vocal covers leave off the first stanza, the story of a bird with a broken wing, which when nursed and healed, flies away, a metaphor for love lost. Profound for Hollywood. Davis plays it in slow, half tempo, wrought with emotion, a truly great track which transcends the romantic-light cover versions, fairly breaks me up listening to it. Any track that can do that joins the growing LJC Killer Track club
A1. 6th Sense In The 11th House 5:55
A2. Tribute To Malcom 9:43
A3. Yo Thang 3:30
B1. This For Richard 6:20
B2. C’Est Pour Moi 4:17
B3. The Shadow Of Your Smile 9:32
For the track Shadow Of Your Smile Davis takes to bass clarinet, influenced perhaps by his work in ’60s Paris with Eric Dolphy, the godfather of the bass clarinet. Davis recorded with Dolphy on his last sessions, for the French radio station ORTF. Dolphy died just a few weeks later.
The tone and timbre of the bass clarinet is used to emotional effect in the opening melody. Is it a covert tribute to Dolphy, how Eric would have played it? After a long unwinding of the vocal refrain, the melody slips sideways into a cool bossa beat. Davis stays inside the melody but with long Dolphy-like trails of fire.
Richard Davis stretches out in a big-toned acoustic bass, beautifully recorded, while Roland Hanna’s articulate counterpoint accents and fills add vitality. A tribute to the writing of Johnny Mandel, the tune keeps echoing in your head for days, the shadow of your smile…da da da dadidaaa..didaa.
On the track Tribute to Malcolm (I assume X) Davis shows the Coltranesque side of his tenor, in other tracks he switches to soprano and flute, no doubt left of his versatility.
Nathan Davis remains something of a cult figure for those who seem to prefer their musical heroes to be obscure and under-appreciated. Davis was a participant in the golden age, he should be considered a part of the jazz mainstream, and stand on his own merits, which are abundant.
Vinyl: Segué SEG 1002
According to the Discogs entry, this title was pressed by RCA Records Pressing Plant, Rockaway, NJ. No Rockway “R” stamp in evidence, so possibly not.
One failing of Segué is the pressing. With vinyl weight falling from its peak 220gm in the mid ’50s, to 140gm in the mid 60s, seems some plants in the ’70s figured they could get away with less still. This Segue’s 109 gram vinyl is wobble-board thin, too thin, the shallow cut of the grooves picks up hairlines and any surface light scuffing, and has a few single pops due to tiny but sticky white spots of unknown origin that resist cleaning, though the music stays well on top.
Nathan’s drummer, Alan Dawson, Sydney Australia 1972, with Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan.
Not rare, not hugely expensive, but certainly not cheap. I have rarely seen so many promos in the auction history of one record. Why weren’t the promos out there … promoting? I suspect the story is the closing of the WRS studios, when a lot of inventory will have been snapped up by scavangers – dealers and collectors in an asset fire sale.
Avg Rating: 4.62 / 5
This baby is no give-away.
Cult status or not, Nathan Davis albums are well worth pursuing.
Johnny Mandel left us last year, in June 2020, at the age of 94.