Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dick Oatts
• “Like Someone In Love” transcription

From the SteepleChase recording Standard Issue, recorded live in 1997.

Dick Oatts
Like Someone In Love transcription
Bill Evans and Toots Thielemans, on their recording of “The Days Of Wine & Roses” (from the album Affinity), don’t play the tune the way composer Henry Mancini wrote it: they take the second half up a minor third. The modulation gives this oft-played standard an unexpected and beautiful lift on the restatement of the melody’s ascending major 6th at the start of the second A section — when I first heard it, I imagined Mancini palm-slapping his head: “Damn! Why hadn’t I thought of that?”

This photo of Dick Oatts is by James Jordan, and is used with his kind permission. Check out Jordan’s beautiful work at his blog
Points Of Light.
You can use this modulation trick on any tune that has an ABAB or ABAC form: changing the key at the second A can give a well-worn tune a brand new vibe, like giving an old room fresh paint and better lighting. Wally Jedermann, a Buffalo pianist, does this on “Green Dolphin Street,” taking the first half in C, and the second half in Eb (and thus splitting the difference in the age-old bandstand conflict of whether to play the tune in the Real Book key [meh...] or in Miles's key [yay!]).

Dick Oatts does the same thing in this stunning performance of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone In Love”: the first half is in C, and the second half Eb (alto keys of A and C). This is from his live recording Standard Issue, a collection of (mainly) standards, and a “desert island” disc for me — if I’m to be banished, these amazing and inspiring performances are coming with me.

As is often the case with Mr. Oatts, the best parts of his performance ARE NOT TO BE FOUND in the transcription! He plays the tune as a duet with bassist Dave Santoro, and what defies the art and/or craft of transcription here is his marvelously elastic time feel and his vast array of articulations. There’s no such thing as a “staccato” note or a merely “accented” note with Dick Oatts — instead, there are thirty different ways of attacking a note, or of ghosting a note, or implying a note, or stopping a note.

So: imagine a large, lovely butterfly flitting around in your backyard (spring is almost here, after all!). Admire it cheerfully darting about your plants, floating on a breeze, soaring into the air, disappearing, reappearing.

Now imagine that exact same butterfly pinned to a board in a butterfly collection. You can stare at it to your heart’s content, but you’re not really seeing what makes it so great and so uplifting and so cool. This transcription is Dick Oatts’ beautiful performance on “Like Someone In Love,” pinned to a board. There’s much very worthy study fodder here, but if you don’t have the recording, you ain’t really getting “it”! So, get the recording if you don’t have it, and you’re in for a treat: the artistry of Dick Oatts!

Don't have this amazing recording? You can get it from Amazon in the following formats:

Instant MP3 Download of the track Like Someone In Love
Instant MP3 Download of the album Standard Issue
CD of the album Standard Issue

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