Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Waltz For Debby

One of my all time favorite jazz piano songs is "Waltz for Debby" by Bill Evans.  It was first recorded on Evans's 1956 album New Jazz Conceptions and, perhaps more famously, on his 1961 live album Waltz For Debby. It has been recorded by many artists, both as an instrumental and as a vocal piece. The song's lyrics were written by Gene Lees. "Debby" in the song title refers to Evans' niece, Debby Evans. This song, and the Evan's trio performance of it has always defined for me the essence of what it means for a piano trio to swing hard - real hard.

But done as a ballad, it is also a beautiful tune.  The duet that Evans and Tony Bennett perform is magical.  It was listening to this duet that I first became familar with the lyrics.   I misunderstood one of the lyrics (purposefully?) for years.  The second stanza starts:  "Lives my favorite girl".  I always thought that Tony was saying "Liv's my favorite girl".  I figured that he was personalizing the song in some way.  Since my daughter's name is Liv,  the lyrics had that extra personal meaning to me.  You know what?  I'm keeping the lyrics the way that my mind heard them!

In her own sweet world
Populated by dolls and clowns
and a prince and a big purple bear.

Liv's my favorite girl,
unaware of the worried frowns
that we weary grown ups all wear.

In the sun she dances to silent music,
songs that are spun of gold
somewhere in her own little head.

One day all too soon
she'll grow up and she'll leave her dolls
and her prince and her silly old bear.

When she goes they will cry
as she whispers "Good-bye."
They will miss her I fear
but then so will I.

Geek Alert

This is quite a difficult song to play and to make good arrangement for as an amateur.  It starts out as a waltz in 3/4 time, but then turns into a 4/4 swing tempo.  During the waltz section, you are playing the "slash" chords and several different voicings.  I am also making use of George Shearing chords, which are bracketed by an octave and have the chord tensions in the middle.  During the 4/4 swing section there are different chords which are centered around the cycle of fifths.  I'm making some substitutions so that I can make the chord shells go down chromatically in most cases.  This way I can keep up at the fast speeds while trying to solo. 

I wanted to put another soloist in here, but after adding an intro, and elongating the ending, there just wasn't enough time where it wouldn't be obnoxious.  Next time....     


  1. Here is a comment from Ed Mascari...

    You truly succeeded in implementing all of the ideas we worked on and refined. The result was that you created an absolutely seamless succession of sections that all work successfully.
    Your playing truly tasteful, the orchestration works perfectly and the tempo is perfect.
    Extremely well done.
    Congratulations on your wonderful accomplishment.

  2. Ken...this piece (as always) is an inspiration and a slice of jazz music education. I appreciate also the tidbits of family life; another shared value. Thanks

    Len Ingram

  3. Thank you so much for the kind comment Len! It makes all of the effort worthwhile.