Jun 7, 2012

"Poor Butterfly" and "What Makes a Good Chart?" - Part 2

This is Part 2. If you'd like to read Part 1 first, click here.

Before continuing, a word about melody. Most of the printed charts cited here show the same basic melody that was presented in the original sheet music. It's understood that performers will supply their own interpretations. No one will play it as written. In trying to come up with a good chart, we are really talking about the chords. Also, we are not concerned with the introductory "verse."

So, to resume, here are some more print and recorded sources that I checked out.

Ralph Patt’s “Vanilla Changes” (ralphpatt.com)

This site has interesting “vanilla” versions of the changes to many standards. This chart is simple enough, but has a few unique spots. It differs from my own "Poor Butterfly Basic" chart (shown in Part 1) as follows:
m 5 and m 21: | Db7 |
mm 9-10: | Bb7 Eb7 | Eb7 |
mm 11-12: | C7 Fm | Fm |
m 25: | Db | (not great, I think)
mm 27-28 | Ab F7 | F7 |
Note how the chords change on beat 3 in mm 9-19, 11-12, and 27-28. Interesting, but not in keeping with most other versions of this tune. I think this chart, though simple, goes in the direction of an “arrangement,” rather than a truly “vanilla” version.

Dick Hyman, “Dick Hyman's Professional Chord Changes and Substitutions for 100 Tunes Every Musician Should Know” (1986)

Dick Hyman is a legendary pianist, and his opinions come with some authority. This chart seems quite piano-oriented, and moves further into “arrangement” territory. It’s pretty thick with chords. A few notable features:
mm 0 and 16: pickups harmonized on each note: Eb7 E7 F7, or alternatively, Db9 C7 B7#11
mm 1-2:  |  Bbm F+   |  Bbm7   Eb7b9   |
mm 5-6:  |  C7#5 Db7  | C7#5 | , or alternatively,  |  G7(b9,#5)  G7b9  |  C7(b9,#5)  C7#5  |
mm 7-8:  |  Cm7  |  F7  |
mm 11-12:  | Edim  Fm  |  Fm   |
mm 26-27:  | Bb  F+   |  Bbm7  Bbm7/Eb  Eb7b9 |
There are some good ideas here, but it’s definitely not a “vanilla” chart. Here's a link to the book.

I would differentiate between a chart for general use and an “arrangement.” A chart for general use, as I see it, should be easy to memorize, and should be compatible with as many other (possibly more detailed) charts as possible. It should be open enough to give improvisers some latitude. An “arrangement,” on the other hand, is fine-tuned in a personal direction, with more detail.

I prefer fakebooks with more general, “vanilla” charts. But the more detailed ones often have some useful ideas.

Following are some of the recorded performances that I checked out:

Cannonball Adderley, from the album “Cannonball Takes Charge” (1959)

This recording seems to use the changes shown below:

There are three transcriptions of Cannonball’s solo available, from Brian Pendelton ("15 Alto Solos," 1991), Hunt Butler ("Cannonball Adderley: 20 Solos", 1990) and “Doc” Stewart (see his website). They are all very good, with a few minor judgment-call discrepancies on rhythms and chords. This chart shows what I hear in the recording, taking into account the piano and the sax solo line (Wynton Kelly is on piano). Some observations:
mm 1-2 and 17-18: Sometimes treated as | Bbm Bbm#7 | Bbm7 Eb7 | (e.g., sax solo 2nd chorus, mm 1-2, and piano on out head), usually as just          | Bbm7 | Eb7 |. 
mm 3 and 19: Abdim/G is a nice touch. 
m 11: Sometimes | Abmaj7 C7 | 
m 5-6 and 21-22: This is treated as a generic dominant, with the players using whatever extensions seem right at the moment. The transcriptions differ on this.

Jim Hall/Paul Desmond, from “Glad to be Unhappy” (1964)

This chart qualifies as an "arrangement." Here's the tune on Youtube. A great transcription of a great Jim Hall solo is on Steve Kahn’s website. Compared to PBB (see Part 1, my previous post), some features are:
mm 3-4:   | Abmaj7 Db7 | Cm7 F7 |
mm 5-6:   | Abm7 Db7 | Gm7 C7 |
mm 9-10:   | Bb7 | Bbm7 Eb7 |
mm 31-32:   | Abmaj7 Db7 | Cm7 F7 |

Benny Goodman (1940)

A model basic version, almost exactly following the PBB chart. Bar 11 is | Abma7 C7 |. Here is the cut.

Oscar Peterson/Count Basie, from “Yessir, that’s My Baby” (1976)

Again, pretty basic. You can listen to it here. This version is in the key of F rather than the usual Ab. Differences from PBB:
mm 3 and 19:  Fdim, as in the Cannonball version, but only on the head.
m 9:  Gm7 for the solos
m 11:  Em7b5 A7, but just in one solo chorus. 
(These chords function in F. Go up a m3 to compare to the other versions.)

Sonny Rollins, “Vol. 2” (1957)

Here's the cut. Once again, a basic interpretation. Horace Silver is the pianist. Some features:
mm 1-2 and 16-17: | Bbm Bbm#7 | Bbm7 Eb7 | - This is a normal enough way to play a II V. See the Cannonball version. Silver uses it through most, but not all, of the tune.

mm 3-4 and 18-19: | Abmaj7 Bbm7 | Cm7 Bbm7 | - A normal way to play 2 measures of Abmaj7. Silver varies the rhythm.

mm 22-23:  | Cm Cm#7 | Cm7 F7 | - One way to play Cm7 F7 (see above).

After all this...

If I were putting together a fakebook, I would stick with the “PBB” lead sheet, with m 11 changed to | Abmaj7 C7 | and m 32 changed to | Cm7 F7 |. For an “arrangement” I might add in the diminished chord in bar 3 - not much more. This tune needs to keep some of its old-fashioned charm.

If you are looking more a bit more cleverness, you might try some ideas from the Dick Hyman chart and/or the Paul Desmond/Jim Hall version.

Tom’s Comments

Finally, here are some thoughts about lead sheets from my friend Tom Simpson:
I think the pedagogic goal should be to get a good basic chart/roadmap of the tune that will serve players well for the moment, but also for the future. In some ways, the chart should be a kind of norm for how most jazz players think of the tune. The danger of this is, of course, that one might end up with a very bland arrangement. This is where decisions can be made "on the spot" to juice up the arrangement for performance purposes. This may be done either by "penciling it in", or it may be done on-the-fly by experienced players.

The established approach to the tune may be quite different from the original sheet music (or not). Different fakebooks and recordings of the tune may also reveal different harmonizations. This is where some analysis and judgement is required to extract the "best changes" for the tune. Usually, differences can be seen as more or less equivalent solutions to the same harmonic problem. Occasionally, differences may be so great that they cannot be seen as the same harmony. In this case, you simply have to choose, and yet be aware that there is another way to do it.

"Vanilla" charts should reflect established jazz practice, but should not attempt to specify chord alteration in too much detail; i.e., in most cases leave off alteration beyond 6th or 7th degree of the chord. The notation should leave room for creative use of established jazz practice. After all, the "vanilla" chart should be a model of the tune, not an arrangement per se.

Jun 5, 2012

“Poor Butterfly” and "What Makes a Good Chart?" - Part 1

In this post, and the one to follow, I’ll toss around a few ideas on what qualities we should look for in a lead sheet, and how one might approach creating a good lead sheet, using the standard tune “Poor Butterfly” as an example. I’ve tried to do my homework on this tune, and have some opinions about what a chart should look like.

My friend Tom Simpson did some research on this song, and I did some more of my own (thanks, Tom!). I can’t say that we did an absolutely complete research job, but I think these posts will provide a fairly good model of how to do “due diligence.”

“Poor Butterfly” was written for a 1916 production at the New York Hippodrome called “The Big Show.” The composers were Raymond Hubbell (music) and John L. Golden (lyrics). The song was composed in an elephant pen in the basement of the Hippodrome (see this article on JazzStandards.com).

The song became popular almost immediately; several recordings were hits in 1917. It has remained a standard since then, with many recordings by jazz and popular artists over the decades. To name just a few: Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Arnett Cobb, Ahmad Jamal, Sarah Vaughn, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson, Jim Hall and Paul Desmond (see this Wikipedia article for a more complete list of recordings).

If you don’t know the tune, first listen to Cannonball Adderley’s version, then to Sarah Vaughn’s very-close-to-the-original version (including the introductory "verse"), then to any of the others mentioned in these posts. I first became acquainted with “Poor Butterfly” when I was playing with a local big band in the ‘70s and ‘80s; we had a transcription of a great Les Elgart arrangement with a nice tenor spot.

So how would one come up with a good chart for this song? Just looking at print versions, we can find a number of different takes on the harmony. Listening to recordings by jazz artists, we find still more variations.

Following are the first print versions I consulted, with comments (more in the next post):

Original sheet music (1916)
Sheet music from musicnotes.com (2010) 

You can download the original sheet music here. It’s in the public domain, as it was copyrighted in 1916. It has a piano accompaniment, but no chord symbols. The sheet music from musicnotes.com is an almost exact re-engraving of the original, but with chord symbols added; these chord symbols reflect almost exactly the notes in the original piano accompaniment. Below is basically what these "original" charts show:

This chart would be OK if you were playing ukelele or guitar, reading the sheet music, accompanying a pianist and singer - as might have been the norm in, say, 1925. It may be the original, but this chart is not useful for jazz players. The harmony is too simple, and the chords move in ways that back up the melody, but are not improv-friendly (however, it’s interesting to note that the 1916 harmony does use dominant ninth and major ninth chords). Also, the chart needlessly shows a chord change whenever the melody moves from 9 to 1 or from #5 to 5 (e.g. mm 3-4, 5-6, 7-8). 

Hal Leonard Real Book vol. 3 (2006)
Jamey Aebersold vol. 80 (1997)

These more recent charts are aimed at jazz players, and they are fairly “vanilla” - that is, they keep the changes simple. Below is a common-denominator chart for this approach (I’m not reproducing the Hal Leonard or Aebersold charts in respect of copyright). I’ve called this “PB Basic” (PBB).

Comparing it to the “original,” note the insertion of Bbm7 chords to create II V progressions in bars 1, 15, 17, and 29; also note that the harmonic rhythm has generally been squared off so that the changes come either on beat 1, or on beats 1 and 3. Bar 26 uses the IVm chord for the full measure. If a ninth or other extension is in the melody, it is not notated into the chord; it’s expected that players will voice chords their own way, with or without 9ths, 11ths, or 13ths.

The Hal Leonard chart (from this book) differs from “PBB” in a few ways:
mm 11-12: | Fm7 C7#5 | Fm7 | (possible)
m 15: Bbm7b5 (not to my taste)
m 26: | Dbm7 Gb7 | (possible)
mm 27-28: | Abmaj7 Db7#11 | Cm7 F7 | (OK, but not my choice) 
The chart in the Jamey Aebersold playalong vol. 80 (Mark Levine on piano) differs from PBB as follows: 
m11: | Gm7b5 C7#9 | (possible)
m26: Eb7 (not good, we lose the IVm sound)
however, the separate "solo changes" show mm26-29 as in the Hal Leonard chart:
| Dbm7 Gb7 | Abmaj7 Db7 | Cm7 F7 |

Old Real Book vol. 3 (bootleg, 1980s?)
Jamey Aebersold vol. 39 (1987)

Below is the chart from “Old RB3,” a bootleg from (I think) the 1980s. It works fine but seems to me a little fussy - too many changes, too many extensions shown. I prefer a chart to be more “vanilla” than this. But I do like the Abdim7 in bars 3 and 19 (see the Cannonball version in the post to follow).

The Bdim7 in bar 28 is meant to be on beat 4 of the measure (it’s a vestige from the original sheet music).

The chart from songtrellis.com seems to be cribbed from the old RB chart - the chords are identical, except for m28, where the Bdim7 has been mistakenly entered as on beats 3 and 4. Played on beat 3, it would make a brief clash with the melody - not awful, but not something the songwriters had in mind (and a nonprofessional moment).

The chart from the Jamey Aebersold playalong vol. 39 (Hal Galper on piano) is remarkably similar to the old RB chart, with these differences:
mm 1-2: | Bbm7 | Bbm7 Eb7 |
mm 27-28: | Cm | Bdim | (clash with melody on m28, beat 3.)
mm 31-32: | Ab Db7 | Cm7 F7 |
this chart also adds a coda

To be continued - in the next post I'll look at several more print and recorded sources.