Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life

My first exposure to this gorgeous ballad came by way of  a funny story.  What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life was my sister-in-law Cathleen (aka Cathy, aka Kat) and her husband Carl's wedding song many years ago.  It was a great wedding. They had a really nice jazz combo for their wedding band.  The band leader was a friend of the family.  He was a young guy who was a doctor by trade and played jazz piano as a sideline.  He was an excellent player and the band was hot. 

When it came time for the wedding song, however, he realized that he did not know how to play this standard!  (It was either that or the couple of fatties the band lit up during the break :-))  

So who jumped in to save the day -  my mother-in-law - mother of the bride - the great pianist Celia Pierro Meloni!  (listen to my blog post of  "No One But You" to hear one of her original compositions).  So as the married couple were taking their first dance,  Mom was playing with the young guys in a jazz combo while the piano player looked on sheepishly.  Of course she did a great job.  I don't even know if she had music, or just played it from memory,  but this is when it first struck me what a great song this is. 

Over the years, I've accumulated some excellent versions of the tune.  This is still one of my favorites to play on the guitar.  I played it once with my brother-in-law John as a guitar/flute duo after several rounds of Irish whiskey.  I thought it sounded great, but I seriously doubt that it did. The quintessential guitar cut is by Pat Martino on his Footprints album.  I love the vocal version by the singing dentist, Linda Woodson.   And of course, who can argue with the genius of Bill Evans.

Linda Woodson

Bill Evans playing What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life

Pat Martino

My version is done as a piano trio with Neil Swainson on acoustic bass and Craig Scott drums.  I hope you like it.

Geek Alert

I got some wonderful ideas from Ed for the intro and ending.   I'm happy with how the ending came out, although it was tough to do.  I needed to play a few technical tricks to have it come out the way Ed and I talked about it. 

Hey - Cliff is in there again.  See if you can find him.  Its like Where's Waldo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Theme from M*A*S*H

One of the great things about music is the memories that it can invoke.  We've all heard that song from high school and have been transported back to those days of long hair and  questionable behavior.  One of the great things about jazz is that you can play a song differently from the original and still have the memories flow.  I found that to be true when I was playing Nature Boy (originally by Nat King Cole) and bringing back strong memories of my Dad.  The Theme from M*A*S*H is another song that brings back so many memories.  The simple melody in this song is strongly identifiable to so many Americans -  and probably many around the world.

To me, this song is indelibly associated with my Father-in-law, Tony Meloni.  For many years,  M*A*S*H was Tony's favorite TV show.  Decades really.  All of us who grew up in that house (I met my Celia when I was 21, so I consider myself to have grown up in that house too!) have heard this theme song more than Happy Birthday, Jingle Bells, and the Beatles catalog combined.  For a while there it seemed like the episodes were on continuous loop. We can each probably tell you the plot to almost any episode!  The only thing that comes close is the familiarity that the Taylor clan has with Full House episodes :-)  

Although for some reason I don't call him "Dad" like sons-in-law often do, he has always been like a father to me - the only one that I've known in my adult life.  Here are some great pictures of Dad with Cliff and Max, and showing the Yankee colors like a true fan.  This one is for you!

Dad and  Cliff

Tony Meloni, the consummate Yankees fan

Showing serious moves with Max

The great players with me on this arrangement are Eric Marienthal on tenor sax, Neil Swainson on bass, and Franklin Richardson on drums.

Geek Alert

I wanted to create a version of Theme from M*A*S*H where you could make the claim that this "really swings hard".  I think that I got the comping section over the sax solo to swing pretty hard, but my solos - not so much.  This is where not doing scale drills or working on any speed technique really hurts.  I should probably re-examine this philosophy.  Some versions of this song (probably the original) are written with a 2/4 bar in the middle of the verse.  I went with an elongated 4/4 bar that I've heard on other jazz versions.

Also, the weirdest thing on this song - the more I played it, the worse it got!  I'm not sure what accounts for this.  Real players can probably tell me why this happens sometimes, or if it is just me :-)