With music by Matt Dennis and words by Earl Brent ‘Angel Eyes’ will soon clock up 70 years in performance. As a jazz standard it’s a song that since the 1950s has never really gone out of fashion. A missing-someone, very late night last orders kind of song, the key line perhaps the dark and suitably equivocal Excuse me while I disappear. The way the melody can be manipulated in a number of phrases curling around such nuggets as uncommonly clear keeps its appeal fresh. But it is the little ironies, its happy people, succinctness, and that gently invasive minor key melody that make it perfect for jazz.
JUNE CHRISTY: With pared back piano accompaniment so elegant from Kenton, the legato slightly luxuriant quality of the vocal stately and assured, the mood dark, even slightly sinister... and of course very sad.
FRANK SINATRA: Much less stark, and much louder, the lush orchestral accompaniment adding warmth and scale, Sinatra musingly mournful but becoming more introspective and more despondent the longer the song runs.
JULIE LONDON: Exotic start from the orchestra. When London comes in her buttery so soft seductive sound envelops everything.
JACK JONES: swinging and crooning, keeping a strict tempo, not at all moody. Uncomfortably near or far from the mark?
NNENNA FREELON: the most recently recorded of these five versions, a nuanced story-telling version from the consistently excellent Ms Freelon, the spirit of Betty Carter more than alive and well.