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The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)

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In a rare recording by Ronnie Scott and Sonny Stitt the saxophonists jam for over 18 minutes on “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.”

- Sandra Burlingame

Rank 273
Music Jerry Brainin
Lyrics Buddy Bernier

“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” is the title cut of a 1948 film noir based on the novel by Cornell Woolrich. Jerry (Jerome) Brainin wrote the music and Buddy Bernier wrote the lyric. The movie starred Edward G. Robinson as a nightclub fortune teller whose con game becomes all too real when he begins to actually foresee the future. Co-stars Gail Russell and John Lund appeared on the cover of the sheet music.

Bernier, who also composed film soundtracks, has a few other hits to his credit, namely “Poinciana” written with Nat Simon and “Our Love,” an adaptation of a Tchaikovsky theme on which he collaborated with Larry Clinton and Bob Emmerich. Brainin was a pianist/arranger who wrote for Broadway and created title songs for films such as Teacher’s Pet.

While the lyric has overtones of romance the choice of words speaks to the mysterious nature of the occult:

Don’t whisper things you don’t mean
For words deep down inside can be seen by the night
The night has a thousand eyes
And it knows a truthful heart from one that lies

This song is not to be confused with “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” a pop song popularized by Bobby Vee and also performed by the Carpenters.

Since “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” was written after the popularity of big bands had waned, most recordings have been by small groups, although Bing Crosby made an early recording with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, and in 1996 both trumpeter Claudio Roditi and vocalist Nancy King recorded it with the Metropole Orchestra. Most renditions are instrumental since the soaring melody can present a challenge to vocalists.

Some late ‘50s and early ‘60s recordings are by John Coltrane, the Paul Desmond Quartet with Jim Hall, the Horace Silver Quintet, and pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi’s trio. Others who have recorded it are saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist Ahmad Jamal, drummer Shelly Manne, guitarist Herb Ellis, and vibraphonist Gary Burton. Most recently, it has appeared on CD’s by pianists McCoy Tyner and Eddie Higgins, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and vocalists Kate McGarry and Kitty Margolis.

- Sandra Burlingame

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Jazz History Notes
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Jazz History Notes

Pianist Horace Silver’s 1956 recording of this tune is essentially the first jazz recording of it, and it’s a sublime version. Enlivened by excellent trumpet by Donald Byrd and fine tenor sax by Hank Mobley, Silver digs into a marvelous medium groove aided by bassist Doug Watkins and under-rated drummer Art Taylor.

Tenor sax giant John Coltrane recorded several unissued versions of “The Night...” for Atlantic prior to his October 1960 session, which yielded a critically-acclaimed rendition and opened his fine recording, Coltrane’s Sound. Following this recording, sidemen McCoy Tyner (piano) and Elvin Jones (drums) would become Coltrane associates for the remainder of his career.

In 1962 another masterful tenor saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, waxed an intriguing Latin version of the tune. Taken at a slower, more relaxed pace than Coltrane’s intense version, Rollins’ performance is a startling contrast to the direction Coltrane was taking. Guitarist Jim Hall contributes some fine moments, too.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Horace Silver
Silver's Blue
Sony 77635

John Coltrane
Coltrane's Sound
Atlantic / Wea 1419
Original recording 1960
Sonny Rollins
The Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years
RCA 71778

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Buddy Bernier and Jerry Brainin

Year Rank Title
1948 273 The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

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