Sunday, November 6, 2016

Autumn Leaves III


It's November, so it seems like the perfect time to take another crack at Autumn Leaves. This is now my third time around on this tune, and another completely different arrangement.

My first arrangement was quite a few years ago. That one was ballad style and had a lot of background accompaniment to fill in for my lack of full voicing ability with both hands. I really enjoyed putting together the overall sounds and the story about my family.

The second arrangement was done last year, and was much more complicated. This was was done in an uptempo waltz style, but was both re-harmonized and re-melodicized. I thought that the arrangement was really nice, but some of the solo sections with the band were a bit iffy. I loved that idea of a re-melodicized tune that is so identifiable that you can still easily tell what song it is.

This time, I m still working on solo studies. The arrangement starts with a full run-through at legato tempo with full Shearing chords. It then goes to them up-tempo section with alternating embellished moldy and staccato chords. I think that I got this from Wynton Kelley, but I haven't been able to find the exact performance where he does this.

The song then goes into a walking bass motif to finish out the verse. The Bb vamp then gets much faster and goes into a another waking bass verse. This time the walking bass is done is a call and response mode. One of the great suggestions from my piano teacher, Ed, was that call and response is a good way to work your way into greater comfort with more constantly flowing walking bass. I also break it up with some synchronous double octave lines.

With this very fast tempo in play, I then go into a section of very full chords with m11 voicings. This sounds nice as a switch from the bass lines. But we comes back to bass at the bridge.

Coming toward the end, we slow down get back to legato Shearing chords. But rather then end legato, I come back to walking bass at the bridge. The ending repeats 3 times , mixing up the tempos a bit.

Wynton Kelly Autumn Leaves



Cavatina II

Well, I've been on a long hiatus from posting to this blog.  Seven months!   There seems like there has been way too much to do in real life lately to spend time on blog.  Then when I did want to get back and do a few posts,  the blog was in a state of dis-array.   Once again,  the embedded music player that I was using is no longer supported.   Ugh.   I did find another one,   but it does seems as though it has numerous limitations.    I am using the SCM music player now.   It appears to not work on some mobile devices and does not support https.    So you would have to access the blog with http: in order to see the music player.  Lovely.   I somebody knows of another free music player for blogs,  I'd love to know about it.  Thanks

Now for the song.  Cavatina (From the Deer Hunter)   I have already done a treatment of Cavatina once in a prior blog post.   This is one of my favorite songs because it is so rich harmonically, and has a simple yet beautiful melody.   It has elements of a classical music feel also.   The first time that I tried an arrangement for it,  I played it as a waltz with a (virtual) trio.

I have been in a solid mode of trying to work on my solo piano studies with my teacher, Ed.  Maybe it was losing my ipod to my son Cliff,  or having my Band-in-Box software go four years out of date,  but I've felt that I really wanted to work more and more on the solo aspects of jazz piano.  Some days I might be getting to a point where I could actually pull some of it off.

This time I am playing Cavatina in 4/4  with the distinctive rhythmic vamp  that Kent Wehman came up with.  He, of course,  plays this with a full trio and it sounds great.   But between legato sections, and his rhythmic vamp with solos,  there seems to be enough  material to work as a solo number as well.

Monty Alexander's brilliant solo version of Cavatina was also a big influence on me as I was trying to come up with an arrangement.

I recorded this quite a while ago,  so I don't exactly remember everything that happening at the time. I do remember that I wanted to put in a solo passage that was "out",  and it sounds like I got that in there in a decent place.   It sounds like quite of number of different chords substitutions throughout as well.  Overall,  it is kind of a rhythmically challenged, muddy mess,  but that is part of the process I guess :-)



Kent Wehman




Monty Alexander Solo


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Wild Irish Rose



Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!   In honor of St. Patrick's Day,  my selection for this blog post is

My Wild Irish Rose.    "My Wild Irish Rose" is an Irish-American tune written by Chauncey Olcott.   Olcott also write the more famous "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".    The song was inspired by a visit to to Ireland that Olcott and his wife took in 1898.  During the visit, a young boy gave his wife a flower. When she asked him what it was called he replied "...a wild Irish Rose." She put the flower in an album, and later when her Olcott asked her for suggestions for a song title she opened the album, pointed to it and said: "There's the title for your new song."

I've have always been inspired by the beautiful, simple-sounding solo treatment of the song performed by Keith Jarrett on his "The Melody At Night"  CD.   Of course,  what he is playing is anything but simple!   He has different,  unexpected chord voicings in every possible place, modulations, and a wonderful lyrical texture,  woven across a lilting rhythm that is locked in solidly.

With my arrangement,  I try to take a little bit of that influence and create a sound that is in keeping with the spirit,  but is playable at my low level of ability.

The beginning of the song actually start the same as the Jarrett version from a transcription:  



This hopefully sets the simple pattern and lilting quality that is played throughout.  I quickly break from the transcription and into my own arrangement for mercy's sake:-)

Jarrett does a beautiful modulation from Eb into Ab,  and I also work a modulation to Ab into mine.  I do this both in the melody and in the improv section.

The form of the arrangement is:

- Melody once through AB
- modulate to Ab,  play melody A section
- modulate back to Eb play melody B section
- Improv AB
- modulate to Ab, Improv A section
- modulate back to Eb play melody B section
- tag ending
- gospel ending
- free ending

I added Celtic drums in the mix to add an extra air of Irish-ness to the song.  I also thought that I may have done this at a little bit too slow of a tempo,  and the drums help liven it up a bit.

My wild Irish Rose
The sweetest flower that grows
You may search everywhere
But none can compare with my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The dearest flower that grows
And some day for my sake
She may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The sweetest flower that grows
You may search everywhere
But none can compare with my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose
The dearest flower that grows
And some day for my sake
She may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose


The Melody at Night, with You is a solo album by American pianist Keith Jarrett recorded at his home studio in 1998 and released on the ECM label in 1999.It was recorded during his bout with chronic fatigue syndrome and was dedicated to Jarrett's second and then-wife, Rose Anne: "For Rose Anne, who heard the music, then gave it back to me".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ruby, My Dear III


Every once in a while,  I have to go back to the drawing board to re-try old favorites to see if I can notice any difference in what I'm able to bring to the song.  

The song that made me want to take up the piano in the first place is Ruby, My Dear by Thelonious Monk.   You can read all about it in my blog post from 2011: Ruby, My Dear from 2011.

That 2011 attempt to play Ruby was already my second try.  I shudder to think what the first attempt sounded like,  since I must have been only playing a few weeks when I insisted on playing it for my first recital.  You can tell from the 2011 attempt that I'm not really even trying to play those harder Monk voicings,  and letting the "band" carry most of the weight.  

This song is one of my inspirations for innovation.   I keep a framed copy of the lead sheet in my office at work,  and one at home.  I was looking at it the other day and the inspiration hit me that it might be time to see what I can do with this song now.

Ruby at Work




This latest run at Ruby, My Dear is a solo effort.  The piano hasn't been tuned in a looonnnggg time, but who's compositions are better to play on a questionably tuned piano than Monk's?   I'm making much more of an effort to use those rich Monk-ish sounding voicings at tempo and to use that enigmatic intro and ending.   When I listen to the two takes, 5 years apart,  I can notice some maturity in the approach to the song.  You may like the earlier one better because of the band,  but this latest one definitely has a lot more piano content in it.

One thing is for sure though,  I can't wait until I'm ready for for Ruby, My Dear IV !