Jun 24, 2013

"Recorda-me" and "Invitation"

Ever notice the similarity between Joe Henderson's "Recorda-me" and Bronislau Kaper's "Invitation"?

Joe's tune (AKA "Recordame" or "No Me Esqueca") was, according to Joe, written when he was a teenager. Here's a quote from his interview with Mel Martin:
When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I wrote my first composition. That tune was recorded on a Bluenote record, the very first record I did. It's one of the tunes that I get the most recognition for and it's called Recordame. When I first wrote it, it had a Latin flavor to it. But when the Bossa Nova came out I changed it to fit that rhythm, which meant that I changed a couple of phrases around.
Pretty good for a first composition, by a 15-year-old. Joe was born in 1937, so that would have been around 1952.

Kaper's "Invitation" was written for a movie that came out in 1950, then used again for another movie in 1952 (however, Sher's "New Real Book" shows 1944 as the copyright date). Joe could very well have heard it or played it as a kid - that would have been a pretty hip upbringing (he had some jazz guidance from an older brother, beginning at age 9). 

I'll save myself the trouble of writing out the charts, and assume you have a fake book. Both tunes are in the old Real Book, as well as in the Hal Leonard "6th Edition" Real Book. You can also find "Recorda-me" in the Sher Music "New Real Book" Vol. 1, under the name "No Me Esqueca," and "Invitation" in New RB Vol. 3.

Check out the similarities:

  • Both tunes begin with extended minor chords, with the second related to the first by ascending minor third (Am to Cm for "Recorda-me," Cm to Ebm for "Invitation'). "Recorda-me" does this in 8 bars, with 4 bars of each chord; Invitation takes 16 bars, and connects the two extended minor chords with a couple of dominant chords - but the areas of minor tonality move in the same way.
  • Both melodies begin with a short phrase involving a relatively large melodic leap, with the melodies hitting the major sixth over a minor 7th chord.
  • Both tunes employ a device of dwelling on the minor chord long enough to make it come across as tonic, then re-interpreting the minor chord as a II in a II V I, sending the progression forwards.
  • Both tunes then move through a string of II V I sequences, with each I chord becoming the II of the next sequence. "Recorda-me" uses major II V I progressions, while "Invitation" uses altered dominants and minor I chords.

It seems to me that there are just too many points of similarity for this to be a coincidence. I guess Joe was into theory as a kid. That's not too surprising.

Joe recorded "Invitation" several times. The Joe Henderson Discography (not just recordings, but also documented live performances) shows 19 performances of "Invitation" (36 for "Recorda-me," by the way).

Here's Joe playing "Invitation":