Sunday, November 6, 2016

Autumn Leaves III

It's November, so it seems like the perfect time to take another crack at Autumn Leaves. This is now my third time around on this tune, and another completely different arrangement.

My first arrangement was quite a few years ago. That one was ballad style and had a lot of background accompaniment to fill in for my lack of full voicing ability with both hands. I really enjoyed putting together the overall sounds and the story about my family.

The second arrangement was done last year, and was much more complicated. This was was done in an uptempo waltz style, but was both re-harmonized and re-melodicized. I thought that the arrangement was really nice, but some of the solo sections with the band were a bit iffy. I loved that idea of a re-melodicized tune that is so identifiable that you can still easily tell what song it is.

This time, I m still working on solo studies. The arrangement starts with a full run-through at legato tempo with full Shearing chords. It then goes to them up-tempo section with alternating embellished moldy and staccato chords. I think that I got this from Wynton Kelley, but I haven't been able to find the exact performance where he does this.

The song then goes into a walking bass motif to finish out the verse. The Bb vamp then gets much faster and goes into a another waking bass verse. This time the walking bass is done is a call and response mode. One of the great suggestions from my piano teacher, Ed, was that call and response is a good way to work your way into greater comfort with more constantly flowing walking bass. I also break it up with some synchronous double octave lines.

With this very fast tempo in play, I then go into a section of very full chords with m11 voicings. This sounds nice as a switch from the bass lines. But we comes back to bass at the bridge.

Coming toward the end, we slow down get back to legato Shearing chords. But rather then end legato, I come back to walking bass at the bridge. The ending repeats 3 times , mixing up the tempos a bit.

Wynton Kelly Autumn Leaves

Cavatina II

Well, I've been on a long hiatus from posting to this blog.  Seven months!   There seems like there has been way too much to do in real life lately to spend time on blog.  Then when I did want to get back and do a few posts,  the blog was in a state of dis-array.   Once again,  the embedded music player that I was using is no longer supported.   Ugh.   I did find another one,   but it does seems as though it has numerous limitations.    I am using the SCM music player now.   It appears to not work on some mobile devices and does not support https.    So you would have to access the blog with http: in order to see the music player.  Lovely.   I somebody knows of another free music player for blogs,  I'd love to know about it.  Thanks

Now for the song.  Cavatina (From the Deer Hunter)   I have already done a treatment of Cavatina once in a prior blog post.   This is one of my favorite songs because it is so rich harmonically, and has a simple yet beautiful melody.   It has elements of a classical music feel also.   The first time that I tried an arrangement for it,  I played it as a waltz with a (virtual) trio.

I have been in a solid mode of trying to work on my solo piano studies with my teacher, Ed.  Maybe it was losing my ipod to my son Cliff,  or having my Band-in-Box software go four years out of date,  but I've felt that I really wanted to work more and more on the solo aspects of jazz piano.  Some days I might be getting to a point where I could actually pull some of it off.

This time I am playing Cavatina in 4/4  with the distinctive rhythmic vamp  that Kent Wehman came up with.  He, of course,  plays this with a full trio and it sounds great.   But between legato sections, and his rhythmic vamp with solos,  there seems to be enough  material to work as a solo number as well.

Monty Alexander's brilliant solo version of Cavatina was also a big influence on me as I was trying to come up with an arrangement.

I recorded this quite a while ago,  so I don't exactly remember everything that happening at the time. I do remember that I wanted to put in a solo passage that was "out",  and it sounds like I got that in there in a decent place.   It sounds like quite of number of different chords substitutions throughout as well.  Overall,  it is kind of a rhythmically challenged, muddy mess,  but that is part of the process I guess :-)

Kent Wehman

Monty Alexander Solo

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Wild Irish Rose

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!   In honor of St. Patrick's Day,  my selection for this blog post is

My Wild Irish Rose.    "My Wild Irish Rose" is an Irish-American tune written by Chauncey Olcott.   Olcott also write the more famous "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".    The song was inspired by a visit to to Ireland that Olcott and his wife took in 1898.  During the visit, a young boy gave his wife a flower. When she asked him what it was called he replied "...a wild Irish Rose." She put the flower in an album, and later when her Olcott asked her for suggestions for a song title she opened the album, pointed to it and said: "There's the title for your new song."

I've have always been inspired by the beautiful, simple-sounding solo treatment of the song performed by Keith Jarrett on his "The Melody At Night"  CD.   Of course,  what he is playing is anything but simple!   He has different,  unexpected chord voicings in every possible place, modulations, and a wonderful lyrical texture,  woven across a lilting rhythm that is locked in solidly.

With my arrangement,  I try to take a little bit of that influence and create a sound that is in keeping with the spirit,  but is playable at my low level of ability.

The beginning of the song actually start the same as the Jarrett version from a transcription:  

This hopefully sets the simple pattern and lilting quality that is played throughout.  I quickly break from the transcription and into my own arrangement for mercy's sake:-)

Jarrett does a beautiful modulation from Eb into Ab,  and I also work a modulation to Ab into mine.  I do this both in the melody and in the improv section.

The form of the arrangement is:

- Melody once through AB
- modulate to Ab,  play melody A section
- modulate back to Eb play melody B section
- Improv AB
- modulate to Ab, Improv A section
- modulate back to Eb play melody B section
- tag ending
- gospel ending
- free ending

I added Celtic drums in the mix to add an extra air of Irish-ness to the song.  I also thought that I may have done this at a little bit too slow of a tempo,  and the drums help liven it up a bit.

My wild Irish Rose
The sweetest flower that grows
You may search everywhere
But none can compare with my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The dearest flower that grows
And some day for my sake
She may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The sweetest flower that grows
You may search everywhere
But none can compare with my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The dearest flower that grows
And some day for my sake
She may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose

The Melody at Night, with You is a solo album by American pianist Keith Jarrett recorded at his home studio in 1998 and released on the ECM label in 1999.It was recorded during his bout with chronic fatigue syndrome and was dedicated to Jarrett's second and then-wife, Rose Anne: "For Rose Anne, who heard the music, then gave it back to me".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ruby, My Dear III

Every once in a while,  I have to go back to the drawing board to re-try old favorites to see if I can notice any difference in what I'm able to bring to the song.  

The song that made me want to take up the piano in the first place is Ruby, My Dear by Thelonious Monk.   You can read all about it in my blog post from 2011: Ruby, My Dear from 2011.

That 2011 attempt to play Ruby was already my second try.  I shudder to think what the first attempt sounded like,  since I must have been only playing a few weeks when I insisted on playing it for my first recital.  You can tell from the 2011 attempt that I'm not really even trying to play those harder Monk voicings,  and letting the "band" carry most of the weight.  

This song is one of my inspirations for innovation.   I keep a framed copy of the lead sheet in my office at work,  and one at home.  I was looking at it the other day and the inspiration hit me that it might be time to see what I can do with this song now.

Ruby at Work

This latest run at Ruby, My Dear is a solo effort.  The piano hasn't been tuned in a looonnnggg time, but who's compositions are better to play on a questionably tuned piano than Monk's?   I'm making much more of an effort to use those rich Monk-ish sounding voicings at tempo and to use that enigmatic intro and ending.   When I listen to the two takes, 5 years apart,  I can notice some maturity in the approach to the song.  You may like the earlier one better because of the band,  but this latest one definitely has a lot more piano content in it.

One thing is for sure though,  I can't wait until I'm ready for for Ruby, My Dear IV !

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Child Is This

The Charlie Brown Christmas songs performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio are my absolute favorite.  They evoke so many memories of childhood.   I'm sure that I'm not alone in that assessment.  Many piano players from George Winston to David Benoit have credited first hearing Vince with their desire to become pianists.

From Wikipedia:

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 studio album by American composer/conductor Vince Guaraldi (later credited to the jazz group the Vince Guaraldi Trio). The album was released in December 1965 in the United States by Fantasy Records. It is the soundtrack to the CBS Christmas television special of the same name. Guaraldi was contacted by television producer Lee Mendelson several years prior to compose music for a documentary on the comic strip Peanuts and its creator, Charles M. Schulz. Although the special went unaired, these selections were released in 1964 as Jazz Impressions of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown". Coca-Cola commissioned a Christmas special based on Peanuts in 1965 and Guaraldi returned to score the special.

A Charlie Brown Christmas features several originals ("Christmas Time Is Here", "Linus and Lucy") as well as covers of well-known Christmas songs ("The Christmas Song", "O Tannenbaum"). The score for the special was largely cut at recording sessions at Glendale, California's Whitney Studio. Much of this material was later re-recorded by Guaraldi at three sessions later in the year at Fantasy Recording Studios in San Francisco, alongside a choir of children culled from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in nearby San Rafael. The sessions ran late into the night, with the children rewarded with ice cream afterwards. Bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli have been credited as performing on the album, although a host of musicians claim to have recorded the album.

One of my favorites from Charlie Brown Christmas is What Child Is This.   It doesn't seem to be as famous as some of the other numbers that were recorded for the show,   perhaps because it is a cover of a well-known song or maybe because it is a very short number in the show.   I like it because it strikes me as just a beautiful and unique arrangement.   It is one that I've always wished that I could play.

This year I wanted to see if I could determine what he did with the arrangement and come up with one of my own.   I bought a book of Guaraldi transcriptions for the Kindle called "The Vince Guaraldi Collection".   I found out some interesting things right away.  The first thing was that aside from the Peanuts songs,  he was a rather respected Latin jazz pianist.   He has some very interesting Sambas and other songs in this collection that I'm going to have to delve into after the new year.

Here is the list of non-Peanuts songs:

Cast Your Fate To The Wind
Manha De Carnaval
Outra Vez
Samba De Orfeau

As for What Child Is This,  it is performed in the rich piano key of Ab.  He also has an interlude of Fm7-Db-Bb-C  that he puts in between each section of the song to add color.   The basic form is AAB with interludes.   Transcriptions are good to use even if you don't intend to play the whole song note-for-note.   You can find out the form, basic harmonies,  and some voicing ideas,  like I've done here - without playing every note as written.

The form that I chose to use is:

B - solo piano rubato
Interlude with trio
A Improv
A Improve
Interlude  -  second part of interlude doubles the length of the bars
B - solo piano rubato
End on sustained Fm9 chord.  


Here is one random page of the Vince Guaraldi transcription.   Don't want to get in trouble :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

When I Fall In Love

Composer Victor Young and lyricist Edward Heyman wrote “When I Fall in Love” for the 1952 film One Minute to Zero, where it was performed as an instrumental by Richard Heyman and His Orchestra. Doris Day took the song to number seven on the charts for 14 weeks in 1952. Nat King Cole’s version from 1956 was featured in the 1957 film Istanbul, and Julie London recorded it in 1959. The Lettermen made a hit of the song in 1962. Natalie Cole created another duet with her deceased father on “When I Fall in Love” for the album Stardust.

Many jazz instrumentalists have covered this song over the years. One of my favorite versions is by the Bill Evans Trio. There are so many brilliant, memorable phrases in his ballad treatment of this number. When I decided to make a run at When I Fall In Love, the Bill Evans Trio model was what I had in mind.  He also has a wonderful solo take on this number,  but it is the trio piece that has really captivated me over the years.

The number has a fairly simple form.  I used the real book chart as the base for this tune.   This chart already has a number of interesting chord substitutions in it,  so I did not need to make a lot of additional ones.  During the solo section I did add a couple of subs,  but nothing too dramatic.

The song starts out with a four bar intro, then goes through an entire  32-bar ABAC verse at 54 BPM.  It then goes into a double-time solo during the next ABA section. The last two measures of the final A section are doubled for dramatic effect.  This then leads into the final C section which is back at the 54 BPM ballad tempo.  I finish up with a piano-only grouping of mostly major 7th arpeggios.

There were a few Bill Evans licks from his trio recording that I wanted to include in some fashion.   I was not going to be able to work them in exactly,  but I wanted at least some simplified or "bastardized" elements of these great licks in the second A section of the first verse.   It is almost a trivia exercise to figure out where these are included,  since resemblance to the original is minimal at best :-)

Richard Heyman's Lyrics:

When I fall in love, it will be forever
Or I'll never fall in love
In a restless world like this is
Love is ended before it's begun
And too many moonlight kisses
Seem to cool in the warmth of the sun

When I give my heart, it will be completely
Or I'll never give my heart
And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you

And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you

Bill Evans Trio - When I Fall In Love

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My One And Only Love

My One and Only Love was written by Guy Wood in 1947.    Robert Mellin wrote new lyrics for the song and it was introduced by Frank Sinatra in 1952.   It is one of those songs that seems to be a perfect blend of music and lyric,  even though both were not done at the same time.

Recently,  I participated in an online recital for the Piano World "Adult Beginner's" group.  The theme was Great American Songbook songs.  Some of the folks  who participated would certainly not fit most people's description of a beginner.  There was even  a gentleman who participates in the prestigious Van Cliburn piano competitions who was nice enough to add some entries.  One of his submitted GAS songs was an absolutely beautiful arrangement of My One And Only Love  by a composer named Liz Story.  Liz's "Story" is that  she's better known as a "New Age" artist, but she acquired extensive jazz experience while a student at Julliard in the early 1960s. She fell in love with Bill Evans's music then, and got to know Evans personally. He, in turn, recommended a teacher in NYC who taught her the ropes in jazz harmonization and style. 

This person turned in an inspiring performance of Liz Story's arrangement.   At the same time,  I had been listening to Jaime Cullum's excellent vocal/piano arrangement of My One And Only Love  quite a lot.   It became clear  that some version of this song needed to be my next tune!

This arrangement is a solo piano effort.  I had a trio backing track worked up for it,  but it did not fit all of the the different styles that I wanted to get into the short Cullum-esque arrangement.   So solo it was.

The intro and ending have a little vamp that is similar to what Jamie has in his arrangement.   The form of the song is AABA.   The first A section is ballad legato tempo,  I then go into another A section with Shearing chords at ballad legato tempo.  The  B section is ballad as well,  but when I come back to the last A section,  this is played as a bass-in-2 rhythm.   After the whole first verse completes,  I come back right away to the B section with a slightly faster bluesy improv part,  then end up the final A section and ending back at legato tempo.

That is a lot of stuff to cram into a short song!    Many thanks to  my piano teacher Ed,  for help on ideas for this one. 

(Please excuse some of the ambient TV noise in the background.   There is never a quiet time to record something in this place :-))  

The very thought of you makes
My heart sing,
Like an April breeze
On the wings of spring
And you come to me all your splendor,
My one and only love

You fill my eager heart with such desire
Every kiss you give sets my soul on fire
I give myself in sweet surrender
My one and only love

The touch of your hand is like heaven
A heaven that I've never known
The blush on your cheek whenever I speak
Tells me that you are my own

Jamie Cullum