Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You, Personally, Are Playing There Will Never Be Another You Wrong

In my analysis of Dexter Gordon’s solo on There Will Never Be Another You (from Body & Soul, recorded in 1967), I make a semi-biggish deal of Dexter’s using a major ii-V7 in bars 3 and 4: in other words, Dexter played Dm9 to G9 (concert key) in that spot, instead of the “God-ordained” (as I put it back then) changes Dm7b5 to G7(b9).

Related PostJazz musicians over the years have settled on those latter changes, which form a minor ii-V7 progression with a half-dimished ii chord (a minor chord with a flatted fifth) and a V7 chord with a flatted ninth. The minor progression makes sense from a music theory standpoint, since the changes resolve in bar 5 to a C minor chord. And it sounds good: those minor ii-V7s, with their flat fifths and flat ninths, give improvisers some meaty, “darker” harmonies to dig into...

Now, this might seem to be a nerdy “inside baseball” kind of observation (and that’s only because, let’s face it, it is!) — however, the difference between the minor vs. major ii-V7s is big: even non-musician normal-type human beings can hear it...

When I first came across this recording of Dexter and his major ii-V7s, chockfull of natural fifths and ninths, I didn’t recognize what he was up to: I thought he was blowing some sort of especially fresh and interesting substitution. It was a facepalm moment once I actually started transcribing the solo: nothing fancy or exotic to see here, folks — just one of my heroes messing with my expectations!

Dexter was the first guy I’ve heard consistently and relentlessly play major ii-V7s at that spot on TWNBAY (don’t be afraid, just an acronym...), but there was at least one other person who heard the tune that way even before Dexter did — and that individual is Harry Warren, the guy who composed it!

Not long after I’d posted my Dexter TWNBAY transcription, I heard from Terry Lukiwski, a fine trombonist based in Toronto. He’d spotted my commentary on Dexter’s novel (to me!) interpretation of the tune, and told me that Gordon was merely playing what Harry Warren had originally intended. Later, Terry was kind enough to send me a copy of the original published arrangement. (He sent this to me almost exactly three years ago; it’s apparently taken me till now to build up the emotional strength to deal with this shattering development!)

Here’s the relevant section, the first bars of the refrain, from the published arrangement:

And here’s what that sounds like:

(https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5627085/blogfiles/therewill.mp3)

Here’s the exact same arrangement, but with bars 3 and 4 “minorized” —  the A’s and E’s in those bars flatted, so that we have D half-diminished 7 [or Dm7(b5)] to G7(b9), the common performance practice of the tune today:

(https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5627085/blogfiles/therewillminor.mp3)

The first is sweet; the second bittersweet — at least, that’s a succinct way of describing how I hear them.

So: which is “correct”?

Well, it’s worth noting that jazz musicians are hardly known for their fealty to a composer’s intentions — in this genre all about improvisation, the tune is often no more than the half-pipe (by the way, the Winter Olympics are on TV right now...) which the improvisor freestyles over: nobody really cares about the infrastructure — folks just tune in to see the cool moves.

However, jazz musicians, especially old-timers, have also been known to solemnly advise youngsters and up-and-comers that they need to know the lyrics of a song in order to properly interpret it.

The lyrics (written not by Warren, but by Mack Gordon) at that moment are: “There will be many other nights like this” — a sweet, positive sentiment, right? And take a look at the performance instruction there, buried under those guitar tabs: sweetly, it says! Major ii-V7 all the way, dangit!

But the entire tune is definitely bittersweet: “this is our last dance together,” and while I’ll meet other people and get on with my life, no one will ever get to me the way you have. “Yes, I may dream a million dreams, But how can they come true, If there will never ever be another you?”

Sob! Bittersweet! Minor ii-V7, fer sure!

Whichever: All I know is that Dexter played it sweet and happy that lovely July night in Copenhagen, in 1967....

(Meanwhile, even if you don’t know Harry Warren, you likely know some of his music: in addition to TWNBAY, he wrote Lullaby of Broadway, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Jeepers Creepers, The More I See You, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, You’re My Everything, Forty-Second Street, September in the Rain, You’ll Never Know, I Only Have Eyes for You, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Lulu’s Back in Town, and lots more [Shuffle Off to Buffalo]!

However, even if you were already familiar with Harry Warren and his music, I’ll bet you didn’t know that his birth name was Salvatore Antonio Guaragna!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seamus Blake
Go transcription

From the Fresh Sound recording Sun Sol (Seamus Blake/Marc Miralta Trio), recorded August 1999, in New York City. PDF
Seamus Blake
Go
transcription

While we Americans focus our concerns on the southern border, clamoring to build fences against folks we fear might threaten our way of life, we’re missing a more pressing Menace To The North: a horde of killer Canadian-raised tenor players, ready to wreak havoc with the self-esteem and general well-being of Red White & Blue saxophonists here in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.♫ MP3 ♫
Seamus Blake’s solo on
Go

If you’re an American tenor saxophonist and you haven’t heard Canadians Mike Murley or Phil Dwyer yet, your feelings haven’t been sufficiently hurt and your ego is more intact than it should be; meanwhile, if Seamus Blake is a name you’re not familiar with, you just plain ain’t doing your homework and should step out of the nunnery from time to time.

Since Washington refuses to impose strict protectionist policies and heavy tariffs to keep guys like Blake from usurping our lucrative jazz gigs, American tenor players will be forced to resort to grit, determination, and long tones to keep the Northern Menace at bay.

Unfortunately, it won’t be enough.

Blake, winner of the Thelonious Monk sax competition in 2002, has too much going for him: a gorgeous sound, great time feel, nimble chops, and improbable range: he’s as comfortable playing lines in the extreme off-the-fingering-chart upper reaches of the tenor as he is in the wholesome, more-than-sufficient and ordained by God & Rubank normal range of the horn.

Go, from the album Sun Sol recorded in 1999, is a complex, skittering little number that resolves into an altered blues for the blowing. In four succinct choruses, Blake shows off that tone, that relaxed and flexible behind-the-beat time feel, and his crazy range, a full octave above the notes you were told about in school.

Regarding the transcription: there was a fair bit of “listening between the lines” to determine the changes in this chordless trio performance — sometimes, as is often the case in a gloriously flexible form like the blues, there is occasional ambiguity and divergence in the harmonic paths taken by Blake and bassist Avishai Cohen along the way, especially in the turnarounds at the end of each chorus. The changes I’ve put down are what I think is a reasonable interpretation and summing up of the goings-on here...

So: dig Blake’s wonderful performance here, then write your congressman and demand a wall or moat or something be constructed along the International Boundary to keep this sort of thing from happening again.


My favorite recordings are tenor trio outings like Sun Sol — and this particular recording features the loveliest version of Pure Imagination I’ve ever heard! The Amazon link takes you to an MP3 release of Sun Sol — you can also purchase individual tracks from the record there.

And, of course, your purchase from Amazon supports the artists and helps to support this blog!