Monday, February 20, 2012

Someone To Watch Over Me

Someone To Watch Over Me is a very daunting ballad to take on.  There have been so many great, expressive, chops-ful (new word) recordings of this song by piano players, that any new attempts are bound to be a disappointment.  But - this is the beauty of being a rank amateur playing for one's own enjoyment of the music.  I absolutely love the melody of this song, and wanted to try it as a kind of "melody-at-night" thing, with lots of octaves and atmosphere.

Usually I'll listen to some favorite recorded versions and try to get inspiration.  Keith Jarrett was inspiring for what I was hoping to do. I made the mistake, though, of listening to Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum too.  These guys are so absurdly talented and inventive that I wanted to give up.  Comparing oneself to guys like this is why most of us will never pick up an instrument, no matter how much enjoyment we get out of it.  So screw it,  I'm just going to enjoy playing this great song!  

Someone To Watch Over Me was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the Broadway show "Oh, Kay!".    
It was sung initially by someone named  Gertrude Lawrence.  You can hear her on Spotify.  It was kind of a jaunty up-tempo tune - not the romantic number that we think of it as today.

Here is something interesting: Publicist and lyricist Howard Dietz helped write the lyrics to Someone To Watch Over Me during Ira’s six-week hospitalization for an appendectomy. In his autobiography, Dancing in the Dark, Dietz comments that George gave him credit for an undistinguished song, “Oh, Kay!” written by Ira and no credit for “Someone to Watch over Me,” for which Dietz claims credit for naming the tune and assisting with the lyrics. Dietz said, “George paid me next to nothing. It was decided I was to get one cent for every copy of sheet music sold. When Ira sent me my first paycheck it was for 96 cents.”

I guess this stuff happened a lot. In an online jazz group recently, a jazz music reporter told us that he once had a conversation with Bill Evans where Bill told him explicitly that he had written both Blue in Green and Flamenco Sketches.   When asked how he felt about not getting the credit, just shrugged his shoulders.

Keith Jarrett

Art Tatum

Oscar Peterson

There's a saying old says that love is blind
Still we're often told "seek and ye shall find"
So I'm going to seek a certain girl/lad I've had in mind
Looking everywhere, haven't found her yet
She's the big affair I cannot forget
Only girl/man I ever think of will regret

I'd like to add her/him initials to my monogram
Tell me where's the shepherd for this lost lamb

There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that she/he turns out to be
Someone to watch over me

I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me

Although I/he may not be the man some girls think of
As handsome to my heart
She/he carries the key

Won't you tell her/him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me
Someone to watch over me 

Geek Alert

There is a long intro to this song that is used by singers.   You can see it in the lyrics.  I am not using it at all.  I guess some people use and some don't.   I'm not a big fan.

One of the reasons that I picked out this song was to continue work on those right hand octaves.  I am able use those throughout the melody, and through some of the solo lines as well.

This song was especially tough for me because there is abundant usage of diminished chords that are harmonically important to the song, and can't easily be substituted away.  It definitely made soloing more of a challenge than I was up for.

Another thing that I did differently this time was to use different chords in the double-time section than in the slow sections.  Here is where I did do some substitutions to simplify what the band was playing.  you probably can't hear it, but I had to record the band as though it were two separate songs.

Additional instrumentation courtesy of PG Music.


  1. Congratulations Ken on a job very well done!
    You managed to combine, rubato, ballad tempo, double time and lots of color in a terrific rendition of this great song.
    Your mixing of piano with sound sampled instruments works beautifully.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Well done, Ken. I love this song. Nice write up, to boot. The stories from this time are always an interesting backdrop to the music.

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful comments guys. I really appreciate it!

  4. Here's a thoughtful comment from your wife. I hear your playing all the time, but it's nice to get to the final version. Very nice! I liked your write-up. You're too hard on yourself though.
    So...when you're "working" in the office, exactly how much time is spent with online jazz groups? Hmmmmmm......

  5. HAHA. Well, this jazz group is on LinkedIn (the business social media site) and you get an email if somebody posts to it. No surfing involved. That's my story and I'm sticking to it :-)