Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan's power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas everyone!  This arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is done with a modern jazz trio and some guest soloists on tenor and trumpet.

The excellent players on this take are Terry Clarke on Drums, Neil Swainson on Bass, PJ Perry on Tenor and 
Brad Turner on Trumpet.  

Geek Alert

The more modern sound of melody line is done using 4ths and a pedal bass.  (Thanks Ed!  Great idea)

You may notice that I'm using a minor line cliche as the entry, exit and turnaround vamp.  For some reason, that seemed to beg for a quote of My Funny Valentine in the solo of the song. 
Modern jazz seems harder to synchronize with mixing software because there is not always an identifiable downbeat for a reference point.  But I love the way this winds up sounding!      

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

It is now 2:00 AM on January 1 2012.  Hamburg, Germany.  GMT+1 hour.  There are still some people left in this bar.   Lets play Auld Lang Syne for the last song.  Goodbye pitiful 2011.  Hello hopeless 2012.  I'll make the chord voicings as dark as possible for the first verse (2011) and last verse (2012) and see if anyone notices.  Nobody is listening anyway.

Could there be a year more devoid of hope for humanity than 2012 with the inevitable crash of the Euro, and the end of the American Experiment?  I don't know, it is probably just the gift of middle age pharmaceuticals talking, ...all... of which cause thoughts of suicide if you believe the TV commercials.

Ha.  If anyone were listening, they would probably be wondering why I'm playing "Nehmt Abschied BrĂ¼der", which is what Auld Lang Syne is called in Germany.  It is a farewell song for the scouts, not really a New Years song.        

Ah, it's over.  Blessed ambivalence.  Go home now.

(Just kidding -  Have a happy New Year everyone!)

Geek Alert
The beginning and end of the song is re-harmonized with a lot of minor 6th and minor/major chords for the dark feeling.  Thanks Ed!  I've been trying songs mostly with accompaniment lately, but this one seemed to call for a solo piano effort.  

Yes - this background ambiance is actually from a bar in Hamburg in case you were wondering....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Love You Porgy

"I Love You, Porgy" is a duet from the opera Porgy and Bess with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It has one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies ever written, while at the same time confronting the listener with the dual horrors of slavery and rape. It is hard to know what to do with a song like this. Can it only be played as a melancholy ballad to be respectful of the theme, or can it be played up-tempo just because you like the sound of it?

I first fell in love with this song when I heard it played by Bill Evans. Honestly, it was just a great sounding jazz tune to me; one that has been on my learn-it list for a long time. I've never seen Porgy and Bess. It was only when I started listening to vocalists like Nina Simone that I got the rude awakening what this song is about.

I've now got additional versions by Keith Jarrett, Alyson Green and Oscar Peterson. But the one that is truly unforgettable to me is a practice version from the Forever CD with Corea,Clarke, and White - and featuring Chaka Khan. I've tried to arrange the song so that it begins and ends with the respectfully melancholy ballad, but steals some of the up-temp ideas and turnarounds from this really special rendition.

(1935) Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
And drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
And I'll be glad

Yes I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
With his hot hands
If you can keep me
I wants to stay here
with you forever
I've got my man

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
And drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
I've got my man

Someday I know he's
coming to call me
He's going to handle me and hold me
So, it' going to be
like dying, Porgy
When he calls me
But when he comes I know
I'll have to go

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Honey, don't let him handle me
and drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
I've got my man

The Forever CD Corea, Clarke, and White with Chaka Khan

Nina Simone

Bill Evans

Keith Jarrett

Alyson Green

Geek Alert

The form that I'm using starts with a solo piano introduction that goes into a trio ballad verse.  At the end of that verse, the tempo picks up (more than double) and goes into a turnaround that is characterized by a pedal bass and a cool chord pattern stolen from Corea with some elements of what Chaka Khan was singing.

It then breaks into a piano solo verse and then the turnaround again.  The next verse features the melody played by vibes, guitar and piano while the piano fills in similar to what Chaka Khan does against the horn melody in her version. I'm playing all of these parts. (BTW- I've got Neil Swainson pitching in on bass again.)  

Then we're back to the ballad piano for a final half verse.  It ends with cymbals rolls on some solo piano arpeggios.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What The World Needs Now

What The World Needs Now..... is Love sweet Love.  Boy, it really seems like we need to resurrect this sentiment from 1965!  It was pathetically easy to find images of hate all over the internet.  I stayed out of politics for this blog, but was really dismayed to see the level of pure hatred that spews from the left and right in this country.  Sigh.  It is going to be an ugly election year......

"What the World Needs Now Is Love" is a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon.

In June of 1968, following the shooting of Robert Kennedy but before he died (approximately 26 hours), the Jackie DeShannon version of this song was played over and over on Los Angeles radio stations as an audio vigil. This also continued for a few days following his death

London Riots 2011

This is just plain wrong regardless of your political persuasion..... 

And so is this....

I've been inspired by a jazz piano version of this song by David Hazeltine.  This guy is a great player and he really put a unique stamp on his rendition of the song.   I've had this in my "got to figure out what he's doing" folder.   I think between Ed and I we figured out some of the key musical ideas.  I have copied what I could - shamelessly.   Joe Gannon is accompanying me on electric guitar.  

Geek Alert

This song is recorded in 12/8 which is a strange time signature.  I'm not really sure what David Hazeltine used,  but Ed had the suggestion that it might be 12/8 which sounds close.

I'm trying a couple of new things in here.  One of them is to try to use some hand-over-hand arpeggios.  I've never really tried doing this the right way, so I've taken a few opportunities to give it a shot in this song.

I went to a concert-in-the-park with Cliff recently.  One of my old guitar teachers, Dale Freeman was playing with a jazz trio.  Dale was on jazz guitar, and he had an awesome keyboard player - Steven Higgs. Steven has this natural flow of right hand octave playing that really fills out a song.  I'm trying out a little more right hand octave playing on this song, and hope to be fluid with it some day.   

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face

I'm back from a hiatus imposed by work, travel, vacation, etc!  Today's song is I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face. This  is a song from the 1956 musical My Fair Lady, with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. It was originally performed by Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins.  

Somebody once told me that working musicians call this song "I Threw a Custard At Her Face", and I've never been able to get that image out of my mind.  Through the magic of the web, I will now pollute your mind with this play on words and related images - poof!

Ellis Marsalis does a great version of this song that I've listened to many times.  I also dowloaded versions by Joe Chindano, Scott Hamilton (sax), Oscar Peterson, and something called Hot 'n' Spicy.

On Ed's suggestion, I playing this with a bossa nova feel. The accompanying musicians are Neil Swainson on bass, Oliver Gannon on guitar, and PJ Perry on alto sax.

Geek Alert

I'm trying to make much less use of the pedal on this song.  The pedal apparently can be a crutch, somewhat like saying "ummm" to fill the empty spaces when you are talking.  So during most of the song  I'm trying to break the habit of reflexively using the pedal, and instead either using more notes, or just letting there be more space.  For the solo,  I am trying to play something interesting without a lot of chords.  I have some other versions of the solo with more chords, but I like the way this one sounds.

(Thanks Cliff for all of the background vocals :-))