Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dexter Gordon • “There Will Never Be Another You” transcription

From the Black Lion recording Body & Soul, recorded July 20, 1967.

Dexter Gordon
There Will Never Be Another You transcription
There’s no law requiring bars 3 and 4 of There Will Never Be Another You to be a minor ii-V (Em7b5 to A7b9 in tenor key) leading into the minor 7 chord in bar 5. If there were, Dexter would be risking jail time and a fine in this performance, as he frequently (but not always!) plays these changes as Em7 to A7 (or Em9 to A9).

♫ MP3 ♫
Gordon’s solo on
There Will Never Be Another You
It’s not a trivial difference! To ears accustomed to the traditional, way-it’s-always-done, God-ordained “normal” progression for this tune, the onslaught of F#s and B naturals sounding in these two bars comes off as some sort of ear-cleansing, hip and “out there” substitution. But nope, it ain’t: it’s just a wholesome ol’ plain-as-pie ii-V, but without the “traditional” half-diminished and flat-nine spicing.

Related PostsThis recording is from a live date at the Montmartre Jazz Club in Copenhagen in the late Sixties, with an illustrious rhythm section of ex-pats Kenny Drew and Tootie Heath, along with Danish ringer (let’s make that über-ringer/monster) Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass. These sessions, from the London-based independent jazz label Black Lion, aren’t as well-known as Dexter’s releases on Blue Note or Prestige — and that’s unfortunate, because these discs feature top-notch, fleet-footed Dexter at his swaggering behind-the-beat best. (“Fleet-footed” AND “behind the beat”? MUST be Dexter!)

Here we have 8+ choruses of how-it’s-done-boys-and-girls bebop improvisation over one of the most common tunes called on a jazz gig. What more is there to say? Horn in your hand? On your mark, get set...

Wait! Actually, there is a bit more to say about some of what Dexter’s up to here:

  • First off, regarding the aforementioned bars 3 and 4 (and 19 and 20) of every chorus: okay, I’m overstating the earth-shatteringitudiness of Dex’s major ii-Vs here, but that’s because the first time I heard it years ago it totally threw me for a loop — especially that spot at measure 115 where he anticipates the Em7 by repeating a bunch of F#s over the FMaj7 chord: that was the moment my head exploded (I'm an active listener...). So, when playing this tune, I will sometimes use this gambit, and it always makes the piano player raise his head with a start, as if someone spilled a drink in his lap. “Made you look!”
  • Dexter has this little “embellishment thingy” (I'm appropriating this term from the Harvard Dictionary of Music, if memory serves...) he does very regularly to add some propulsion and excitement to the start of his lines (and sometimes within the line), and I’m sure there’s got to be an actual moniker for it, but ... I have no idea what that might be. It’s sort of like an unprepared escape tone — which is more or less a self-negating nonsense coinage, so if you know a better “official” term, you MUST provide it in a comment.

    It’s easier to just show the goldarn thingy than to describe it: note the beginning of his lines at the end of measure 10 leading into 11, 193 into 194, 253 into 254, 258 into 259; and at measures 25, 200, 233, 261, and 298. He hits a note and instantly jumps down from it and continues his line. The hell’s that called? Whatever, he does it so much here it becomes almost a sort of tic — once you start listening for it, you’ll spot it all over the place.
  • Dexter was known for his verbal witticisms (“In nuclear war all men are cremated equal”) and for his musical witticisms, inserting clever, unexpected musical quotes into his phrases as a sort of “aural wink” at the listener. Jazz educator Jerry Coker has lamented that this is a dying art: we’re losing the lingua franca of musical “stuff” — snippets of standards or bugle calls or cartoon themes or other bits of musical doggerel — that provided material for quotemeisters like Dexter and Sonny Rollins, so that this or that amusing quote goes right over the heads of younger players.

    And: he’s right!

    But, at the same time, I suspect younger players will go about finding their own relevant material: I’ll never forget hearing a 16-year-old James Carter (it was 1985) blowing over a now-forgotten standard (“Rainy Day,” maybe...), suddenly interjecting the sax riff from a hit of the moment, Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On”! It was utterly unexpected, it was glorious, and ... it had exactly the effect Dexter’s ingenious quotes must have had at their moment of expression. Kids’ll figure out their own stuff to do...

    This particular Dexter solo actually strikes me as restrained quote-wise, compared to some of his other performances. A few are unambiguous: “I’ll Never Be The Same” at 4:42 (thanks to an anonymous email correspondent for making that great catch!); the old Dixieland warhorse “Dinah” sounds at 9:45 (a tip of the hat to John Greiner — a very fine saxophonist from my hometown! — for putting the name on that one...); the sort-of-calypso tune “Marianne” (“All day, all night, Marianne”) pops up from nowhere at 10:23; and: what else? That’s “Laura” at 3:28, right? Might 4:20 be a bit of Ellington’s “Rockin’ In Rhythm”? Is 11:01 sort of “Satin Doll”? Folks from the Sax On The Web discussion group, where I tossed out an All-Call to see what else could be spotted here, detected the possible traces of a number of other tunes. Were they conscious quotes on Dexter’s part, or just evocative melodic fragments, faces in the clouds? Don’t know, and unfortunately Dexter isn’t around to tell us.

But: we do have this wonderful performance! Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how a Master would play There Will Never Be Another You.

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