Friday, March 29, 2013

Round Midnight

It begins to tell  
'Round midnight, midnight
I do pretty well, 'till after sundown
Suppertime, I'm feelin' sad;
But it really does get bad,
'Round midnight.

"'Round Midnight" is a 1944 jazz standard by pianist Thelonious Monk with lyrics by Cootie Williams and Bernard Hanighen.  It is the most-recorded jazz standard composed by a jazz musician. In it appears in over 1000 albums. The song is also called "'Round About Midnight".  My version of Round Midnight was inspired by the great Marlena Shaw.

I have always liked Marlena's singing,  but I only ever had one song of hers.  It was her hysterical version of "Go Away Little Boy".   Well,  I was browsing used CDs at Newbury Comics with my son one day,  and I came across Marlena's Elemental Soul for $1.99!  When I looked at the liner notes,  I saw that she was playing with one of my favorite piano players: David Hazeltine.  Things were getting better and better.  For a buck 99 I had to have this CD.

I was not disappointed.  This has turned out to be a real treasure trove of great jazz.  It also turned me on to another exceptional piano player:  Barnaby Finch.  I had never heard of him before, but he was playing on Marlena's take of 'Round Midnight.

This song is an instantly recognizable classic,  and I have always wanted to be able to play it.  But I've stayed away from it like the plague because it is just too damn hard.   There are so many wonderful cuts of this (my historical favorite has always been Carmen McRae) that it makes your head spin.  Each one makes it seem more difficult than the next.  I really never came up with a concept about how I would approach it with my limited skills.

But then I heard Marlena and Barnaby and a light went off.  The smooth jazz kind of groove was something that was speaking to me.   The groove in my arrangement is different than theirs,  but the influence is definitely there. 

If you get a chance to pick up Elemental Soul,  I highly recommend it.

1 Your Mind Is On Vacation
2 Paint Your Pretty Picture
3 How Deep Is The Ocean
4 Where Do You Start?
5 Once Again We've Begun To Love
6 Handy Man
7 Why, Oh Why
8 Brothers
9 'Round Midnight
Lyrics By – Bernard Hanighen*, Cootie Williams
Music By – Thelonious Monk
10 I'm Alone Again
11 My Old Flame
12 Our Love Is Here To Stay

Marlena Shaw

Barnaby Finch

Geek Alert

In order to make the arrangement into a cool smooth jazz number,  I doubled the time to 100 bpm and expanded the song so that each measure is now two measures.   I also added in a guitar comp that can be used with a piano player in these kind of arrangements.  There are soooo many chord changes and altered chords in here, that I fear that it is too clashy.  You be the judge.  

I also had some difficult staying away from the bass notes in my playing.   Had I been playing with a real bass player,  I'm sure I would have been slapped.  But I was conscious of it, and really tried to dial back as much bass as my fingers let me.

You will hear a lot of right hand octaves.  Barnaby Finch did that a few times in his solo for Marlena Shaw, and it sounded so awesome that I had to throw those in.  Overdone of course,  but I was just lovin' it!