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!)