Kenny Dorham and Mel Davis on But Beautiful
We’ve been shedding the Van Heusen and Burke ballad ‘But Beautiful’ in impro class with Mike Nock the past few weeks; i’ve come to really enjoy playing this tune but have at times found it tough to sustain momentum blowing over the changes. Good ol’ Kenny Dorham does a great version on his 57′ cut Jazz Contrast- that until last week I was unaware featured the heaviest of jazz personnels, including: Sonny Rollins, Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Max Roach as well harpist Betty Glamann on two tunes, one being the ballad. In this modest rendition KD plays through the melody and then takes a sneaky eight bar blow over a well established double time feel that leads into the last eight of the tune. I appreciate how KD utilised short phrases and didn’t just hit us with an extended stream of quavers. I also particularly enjoy the last phrase that leads into the last half-chorus.
In class, Mike Nock suggested listening to vocalist’s renditions of the tune as well as learning the lyrics to really do the melody justice. It’s a great point; I noticed after learning the lyrics that I realised that I was giving the words ‘but beautiful’ five syllables instead of four.
I remembered Billy sang But Beautiful on Lady in Satin and when I gave it a listen again I was impressed by the interlude solo and learnt it. The trumpeter is little known studio cat and multi-instrumentalist Mel Davis. Davis’ solo is effectively well-embellished guide-tone line but that’s what makes it so impressive and ear-catching.