Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pure Imagination

When I was in high school people (read: girls) used to tell me that I looked like Gene Wilder.  I was not too fond of that comparison as you could imagine.  Even at the height of his career, he was not exactly considered to be a good looking guy.  He was on an incredible run of classic movies when I was a teenager.  In 1971, he made Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  He made both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein in 1974 when I was 16.  When presented with this comparison, I always made my best case that I did not look like Willie Wonka!  Or Dr. Frankensteeen!  I just don't see it.  How about you?

Anyway, one of the great songs to come out of Willie Wonka was 
Pure Imagination, by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly.

I really love this melody, and have heard several excellent jazz renditions. One of my favorites is a solo piano version by Bill Charlap. As I'm exploring how to play in a number of different jazz styles, I thought that I would give "Smooth Jazz" a try. Yes, this is smooth jazz as in CD 101. Smooth jazz is heavily influenced by R&B,funk, rock, and pop music. Kenny G has given it a really bad name, but I have to admit it is fun to play in this style.  

I always thought of Pure Imagination as a song that would sound good as a smooth jazz number, so I gave it a try. Smooth jazz piano playing has a much different feel to it than other jazz styles. I'm not sure that I'm actually doing it, or just playing what I usually play over the smooth jazz rhythm. You be the judge.

This version is done with acoustic piano, electric bass and drums. There is a trumpet solo by Ron King and a tenor sax solo by Eric Marienthal. Vernon Barbary is on the electric bass. Originally, I really wanted to do this on a Fender Rhodes. The Fender is more of a smooth jazz keyboard than a regular piano I think. The Fender Rhodes sound-alike mode on the electric piano that I have (Yamaha P-200) was just not up to the task. I guess it is reallyhard to get that fat Fender sound without the real thing.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If You Don't Know Me By Now

I've been working on my next song for a while now.  I just can't seem to find the time to get it recorded and fixed up.  In the meantime,  I'm going to throw this one out there so you don't think I've given up altogether.

Last night we were watching American Idol, and one of the contestants performed "If You Don't Know Me By Now."  The performer was Stefano Langone, and he did a great job!  He attributed the song to Simply Red.  I have be honest that I have no idea who that is.  I know this song as being done by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1972.  This is one of my all time favorite 70's Soul songs.  I've had it on my ipod for years, but whenever it comes up on a mix, I have to stop and listen to it.

There is not much to the song.  I sat down at the piano and figured it out last night.  Before my lesson tonight, I put an arrangement together, did one quick take, and mixed it.  It is a really fun song to play.  It is hard to stop yourself once you get into it.     

If You Don't Know Me By Now by Keith Gamble and Leon Huff.  PJ Perry is joining me on tenor sax.

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes  1972