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
--- Graham Clarke