Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ruby, My Dear

When someone decides that they want to learn how to play an instrument, there is often one song that is the catalyst.  There is that one song that if you could play it, would make all of the practicing worthwhile.  When I was in the third grade,  I convinced my parents that I wanted to play the guitar.  We didn't have much money, so for them to spring for that, it was a big deal.  Luckily for them, my interest only lasted a few weeks.  I didn't pick up a guitar again until I was in college.

But the song that inspired me to want to learn guitar in the third grade was "Last Train to Clarksville"  by the Monkees.  I just -had- to learn how to play it.  It didn't work out, but I still remember that inspiration.

 When I decided that I wanted to try to learn jazz piano, the song that was my inspiration was Ruby, My Dear by Thelonious Monk.  This is a beautiful and strange ballad.  Although it has a standard AABA form,  it goes through several key changes with unexpected chords and melody lines.  It is considered Monk's most romantic ballad.  I would have to agree.  This is my second go-round at learning this song.  I insisted on Ruby, My Dear being the tune that I played for my first adult piano recital.  My teacher, Ed was like, "really?" but went along and got me to play some semblance of it.  Luckily, no recording of that attempt exists.  Hopefully, this one is an improvement. 

I have great versions of this son by Kenny Drew, the Kenny Drew Trio, and the Jimmy Cobb Quartet.  

Geek alert:

The song is done at a slow 55 bpm, so the way that I arranged it is to play an intro and then the first 2 A sections at a regular slow tempo.  Then when the B section comes, it moves to a double-time feel.  I complete the first chorus in double time, and then continue to play the next 2 A sections of the second chorus.  The guitar soloist comes in for essentially half of a chorus - the B section and the last A section.  Then for the last chorus we are back to the normal slow tempo, but I only do the first 2 A sections and then go to the ending.  Whew!

The bass player with me once again is Neil Swainson, and the drummer is Craig Scott. The guitarist is not me!  His name is Oliver Gannon. The son of Irish Jazz pianist Joe Gannon, Oliver took up Jazz guitar at the age of twenty, receiving a bachelor's degree from the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Back in Canada he settled in Vancouver, B.C., where he soon established himself as a first-call studio guitarist. He was a founding member of the all-star group Pacific Salt in 1970 and in 1975 began a relationship with tenor saxophonist Fraser MacPherson that resulted in a series of highly-regarded recordings, CBC broadcasts, and tours - including three to the Soviet Union and one to Europe. The talented pair shared a Juno for Best Jazz Album in 1982 for their album of duets on the Sackville label, "I Didn't Know About You", and in 2002 Oliver Gannon received the National Jazz Award (Canada) for Guitarist of the Year.

Although known for his orchestral style of accompaniment with MacPherson, Gannon employs a hard, linear, bop-based style on his own, showing the admitted influence of Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery.
A regular performer in Vancouver Jazz clubs and on the international Jazz festival circuit with The Oliver Gannon Quartet, The Oliver Gannon/Patty Hervey Quartet, The Ian McDougall Sextet, and the Oliver Gannon and Bill Coon Quartet, Gannon toured nationally with the trio RIO (with trombonist Ian McDougall and pianist Ron Johnston). Once again, in 2008 he toured Scandinavia with McDougall and Johnston as a member of the Ian McDougall Sextet. 

In addition to his acclaimed recordings with Fraser MacPherson, Oliver's discography includes live and studio albums with his own stellar quartet and releases with Ed Bickert, Don Clark, Bill Coon, Gary Guthman, Bob Hales, June Katz, Ian McDougall, Charles Mountford, RIO, George Robert, Campbell Ryga, Ross Taggart, the West Coast Jazz Orchestra and frequent appearances on the CBC network. 

1 comment:

  1. Ken,

    It's hard to believe that playing the piano and writing blog posts is your avocation.
    You continue to do a fabulous job.
    Keep up the great work!!!!