Blues Bytes

Flashback

June 2019

Various Artists
 The Hot Spot soundtrack
Antilles Records

The Hot Spot

A few months ago, I watched a movie from the early í90s called The Hot Spot, or as I like to call it, Two Hours of My Life That I Will Never Get Back. It was a truly bad movie, sort of a modern-day attempt at film noir that was directed by Dennis Hopper. I donít guess I was paying much attention during the movie, but at the end of the movie, during the credits, there was this amazing song being played --- a muted trumpet playing over a funky boogie blues rhythm --- that I just couldnít get enough of.

Off to DuckDuckGo I went to find out in search of just who was making this wonderful music, and it turned out to be Miles Davis playing trumpet with a band that included John Lee Hooker, Roy Rogers, and Taj Mahal on guitars, Tim Drummond on bass, and the great Earl Palmer on drums. Further investigation found that there was an original soundtrack released in 1990 for The Hot Spot on the Island Records subsidiary Antilles, so I snatched it up from Amazon first chance I got.

Iíve been a fan of Miles Davis since college and the prospect of him teaming up with John Lee Hooker never entered my mind. I wasnít sure how I missed this the first time around, other than these were the pre-internet days and if it didnít show up in my local record store (or in the catalogs I used to purchase blues music back then), I probably didnít know about it. I didnít remember the movie even playing in my neck of the woods (with good reason, after viewing it), so there you go.

The soundtrack consists of 13 mostly instrumental pieces, most of the vocals are moans or asides, and the band is, of course, marvelous. Roy Rogers is one of the finest slide guitarists currently practicing and he doesnít disappoint, nor does Taj Mahal, who plays electric and acoustic guitars, along with dobro. Palmer and Drummond are excellent throughout, as are the compositions, which were written by Jack Nitzsche.

Itís the interplay of Hooker and Davis that lifts this music to the next level. Nobody worked a groove like John Lee Hooker and to have Davis playing over these grooves is fantastic. It doesnít hurt one bit that Drummond and Palmer are the rhythm section --- two of the best to play their respective instruments --- but they, along with Taj Mahal and Rogers (and keyboardist Bradford Ellis) just sit back and let the two legends have the spotlight basically unimpeded.

Listening to The Hot Spot will make one wonder why Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker didnít get together before. Davisí vision of jazz always had deep roots in the blues, whatever musical direction he was veering into, but he really makes the best of his opportunity to play with a definitive blues band on this album. Hooker, too, is in a zone of his own with this excellent band in support. Sadly, Davis passed away in 1990, so there was never another opportunity for them to collaborate, but this is definitely some of his best late-period music.

In summary, the soundtrack to The Hot Spot is an album that will be enjoyed by blues and jazz fans. Buy the soundtrack, skip the movie.

--- Graham Clarke

 

 

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