Saturday, June 20, 2015

On A Clear Day

Recital season 2015.  Recital time is always problematic for me, because it means that I have to come up with a solo piano arrangement - and then be able to play it -  even though I'm generally not practicing a solo piano style throughout the year.

To get some inspiration this year I started listening to some of the tracks from Bill Evan's Alone album.    There are some truly incredible tracks on this record,  but I really became enamored with  the way he played On A Clear Day.

On A Clear Day is from the 1965 Broadway play, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.    The music is by Burton Lane and the lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.   Thanks to pop music renderings of this song by Robert Goulet and Barbara Streisand,   this is probably considered one of the schmaltziest songs in the vast history of American music.   But Bill Evans does a great job making the song into an excellent solo jazz vehicle.   The song has a nice melody line and plenty of interesting harmonic changes  that are modified and embellished to the nth degree by Mr. Evans.    He makes it into a song where you are very eager to know what he is doing to make it sound soooo good!    

I decided that I would try to create a solo arrangement of On A Clear Day that I could actually play. In order to get started,  I wanted to get an idea what the voicings and substitutions were that Evans was using.   Especially the extremely cool surprise modulation that he was doing at the end of the song.

As luck would have it,   I found not only a full transcription of his performance on the  Alone CD,  but a description  of what he was doing theory-wise at each point.   Just what I needed!

Unfortunately,   there were only a few things that I would actually be able to play and incorporate into my arrangement.    Most of it would be crazy to even attempt.  By I found that if I even took a left hand voicing and not what he was doing with his right hand,  or vice versa,  it was very helpful.  Some of the little voice movements he uses in between chords to make the song move along were also very helpful.     I included some of the snippets below that I tried to find somewhere to use ...

This transcription was most useful, however,  for the arrangement of the rubato introduction and the ending.   You see in that very last snippet how he modulates a few times starting with  Gbmaj7.  I did a very similar thing in mine.     He spends a considerable amount of time switching keys and playing in Eb.  I only do this for 2 bars or so at a time,  but he can make any of that stuff seem to work seamlessly.

This is a rehearsal take that I recorded  just before leaving for the recital. 

Our recital group with our wonderful teacher  Ed Mascari

Snippets from Bill Evan's Alone album performance of On A Clear Day

The very cool ending

1 comment:

  1. Ken,

    What a nice surprise to see that you did a post of your solo arrangement.
    Thanks for including having Celia take the recital photo, and then positing it too:)
    Nice stuff here. You have continued to refine your solo playing, especially on this arrangement of "On a Clear Day". Keep up the terrific work.