Dec 18, 2014

Combo Projects! "Thelonious Monk Fake Book," "Just Gershwin Real Book," "Charles Mingus - More Than a Fake Book"

I've been coaching a jazz combo class on Saturday mornings for longer than I can remember - at least 25 years. The personnel have stayed pretty constant. Every five years or so, a bass player will move away or something, but we have some great continuity. Two of our current members were also founding members (Ralph on trumpet, Bob on bari).

We've had a few long-term projects. The first was my "List of Shame," a list of tunes that no self-respecting adult jazz improviser should ever have to read again (e.g., Take the A Train, All of Me, etc.). That list turned into my list of 100 Must-Know Jazz Tunes. Currently, every Saturday I will call two of these tunes, with reading strongly discouraged.

A couple of years ago we took on another project: playing through every tune in the Thelonious Monk Fake Book. The "Monk Book" is a collection of 70 Monk tunes, published by Hal Leonard. At the rate of one or two tunes per Saturday, this took us some while. We eventually completed the project, and had a lot of fun doing it. We played some tunes better than others, but we did check them all out. "Brilliant Corners" and "Trinkle Tinkle" were particularly challenging, but we gave them our best effort.

I can recommend the Thelonious Monk Fake Book as a well-researched collection of most of Monk's compositions. Chord changes are clean and jazz-friendly.

With that project finished, we then took on the Just Gershwin Real Book (Alfred Publishing). This book has charts for over 100 George Gershwin compositions, including the great tunes we all know, as well as a very large number of lesser, obscure ones. At two tunes per week, we are about a week or two away from finishing that project.

I can recommend the Just Gershwin Real Book as an extensive collection that will give you a sense of Gershwin's writing and the nature of his output, with a few hidden gems that you may not have known, along with many that are not exactly George and Ira's ticket to everlasting glory. The chord changes are not always clearly stated - the editors seem to have followed the path of omitting the original piano arrangements, but nevertheless trying to replicate the piano arrangements with chord symbols. This quite often results in charts that are cluttered with extraneous and non-functional chords. We got a lot of practice in editing charts on the fly - figuring out which changes to disregard, while sight-reading. It's a great collection, but not completely jazz-friendly.

It looks like our next project will be Charles Mingus - More Than a Fake Book, a collection of 55 Mingus pieces. This is a great product. Transcriptions are excellent; former Mingus sidemen were involved in the project. Lots of informative notes and Mingus lore are included.

This should keep us busy through 2015.

Nov 21, 2014

The "I Got Rhythm" Bridge - Some Historical Notes

George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," published in 1930, has provided the harmonic structure for perhaps hundreds of other jazz tunes. The bridge has a kind of perfect simplicity - a chain of dominant chords that begins on the III dominant, each resolving into the next along the circle of fourths, two bars each, until we land on the V of the original key, setting up the return to the last "A" section.

In the tune's usual key of Bb, the chords to the bridge are:

||  D7  |  D7  |  G7  |  G7  |
|   C7  |  C7  |  F7   |  F7  ||

However, these are not the chords that we see in the "original" sheet music, or in charts that are modeled on the "original" changes. Below is the bridge in what I think was its original form (I've had this sheet lying around for quite a while; I copied it from a Gershwin collection). Click to enlarge.

The chord symbols, taken by themselves, leave a false impression. As shown, they are not functional, but rather just an attempt to represent the notes in the piano arrangement. If a guitar plays the symbols while a piano plays the arrangement, it will sound OK. However, if you follow only the chord symbols, the harmony will sound fragmented and discontinuous - unless you are so extraordinarily clever that you can recreate the piano arrangement from the symbols!

The real gist of the harmony is in the left hand bass notes, which indicate:

|  D7  |  D7  |  G7  |  G7  |
|  C7  |  C7  |  Gb7 |  F7  ||

The many additional chord symbols attempt to represent the mostly-chromatic inner voices in the right hand, particularly the line that starts by ascending from F# in the first bar of the bridge, in the chart above (lyrics: "Old Man Trouble...").

Here's a priceless clip of George Gershwin playing "I Got Rhythm" in 1931. You can clearly hear the chromatic line in the bridge, although he alters it a bit in the third and fourth bars, continuing the line upwards. In this clip, he plays the tune first in Db, goes briefly to D, and finishes in Ab.

I found a few more printed "lead sheet" versions that seem to have been derived from the sheet music, showing similar chord symbols for the bridge:

Tune-Dex fakebook (c. 1949):

|  D7  C  |  Ddim  D7  |  G  D+5  |  Dm  G7  |
|  C7  Bb  |  Cdim  C9  |  Gb7  |  C7 with Gb  ||

Dick Hyman's Professional Chord Changes and Substitutions for 100 Tunes Every Musician Should Know :

|  D7  Am7/E  |  Fdim  F#m7b5   |  G   D7+5  |  Dm7/G   G7  |
|  C7  Gm7/D  |  Ebdim  Em7b5   |   Gb7b5   |    F7   ||

Just Gershwin Real Book :

|  D7  C/E  |  Fdim   D7/F#   |  G7   F/A  |  Bbdim7   G7/B   |
|  C7  Bb/D  |  Ebdim  C/E  |   F7   |    F7   ||

For comparison, here is the progression from the "original" sheet music, above:

|  D7  Am7  |  Fm6  D7  |   G   D+  |  Dm  G7  |
|  C7  Gm7  |  Ebm6   C9   |  C7b5  |   F7    C7 F7  ||

All of these seem to be trying to suggest the chromatic inner voice leading in the original piano arrangement, or some similar line.

Jazz players don't generally pay much attention to this line when playing tunes based on "Rhythm changes." Typically, they'll either just follow the basic chain of dominants, or use that as a basis for an elaborated progression (a couple of examples are shown here).

The pared-down approach seems to have started pretty early. Here's a Red Nichols version from 1930:

There's some interesting material in this Wikipedia article, including the fact that "I Got Rhythm" was actually written in 1928, as a slow song for the musical "Treasure Girl," but was re-used two years later in a faster setting, for "Girl Crazy."

The basic harmonic pattern of the "Rhythm" bridge was used by George Gershwin for the bridges in several more of his songs (I found these in the Just Gershwin Real Book); the first two definitely predate "I Got Rhythm":

Hang On to Me (1924)
Sweet and Lowdown (1925)
Feeling I'm Falling (1928)
Boy! What Love Has Done to Me (1930)

But this bridge idea wasn't necessarily original with Gershwin. The same harmony occurs in the bridge of "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue." That song was copyrighted in 1925, but according to Wikipedia, may have been composed in 1914.

Aside from the fact that the "chain of dominants" progression is about as old as European classical harmony, I have to wonder if there isn't an even earlier example in American popular song, operetta, or ragtime. Please let me know if you run across one. To qualify, it has to be an 8-bar bridge in a 32- or 34-bar form, starting on the III dominant, then moving around the circle of fourths, 2 bars per change.

Nov 9, 2014

399 Scales in 12 Keys, from

If you haven't seen it yet, you should check out this resource from The "Scale Omnibus," a compendium of 399 distinct scales from worldwide sources, each one shown in 12 keys. It's a free download in .pdf format - a real public service!

I have a backlog of practice items that will take me more than a lifetime to work through. Still, I could see the potential for some excellent obsessive practicing projects, using this book.

There's a wealth of other great stuff on, including links to over 2,000 solo transcriptions for various instruments, and much more.

Oct 26, 2014

"Pennies" and "How About You"

In my previous post, I noticed a harmonic similarity between bars 13-14 of "How About You," and bars 13-14 of "Tangerine," a device perhaps traceable to a couple of earlier Ray Noble tunes.

Looking at "How About You" (Burton Lane, 1941) I also noticed some interesting similarities to "Pennies From Heaven" (Arthur Johnston, 1936):

1) In bars 1-6 and 17-20 of both tunes, the opening melodies stick to the first, second, and seventh scale steps.

2) In bars 1-6 and 17-20 of both tunes, the supporting harmonies are often shown with the same changes (depending on your printed source).

3) In mm 21-24, both tunes move to the key of the IV, and the melodies have a definite resemblance.

I'd like to discuss bars 1-2 in this post (the same changes are used for mm 5-6 and mm 17-18).

Let's start with "Pennies":

Various sources show these measures differently. Takes on mm 1-2 of "Pennies" include:

|  Cmaj7  F7  |  Em7  A7  |
|  Cmaj7  F7  |  Em7  Ebdim7  |
|  Cmaj7  Dm7  |  Em7  A7  |
|  Cmaj7  Dm7  |  Em7  Ebdim7  |
|  Cmaj7            |           Ebdim7  |
|  Cmaj7            |  Em7  Ebdim7  |
|  Cmaj7  Em7  |  D7sus4  D7  |
|  Cmaj7  Em7  |  Am7  D7  |
|  F#m7b5  Fm6  |  Em7  Ebdim7  |

or even just

|  C                |                  |.

These all work OK for harmonizing the "Pennies" melody. Not all of them work as well for "How About You," if you want to avoid half-step clashes with the melody (the second progression above is perhaps the better one for "How About You"). On the other hand, once you are into comping for solos, these are all pretty much interchangeable, for both tunes.

The concept is pretty simple: How can you harmonize two bars of what basically is a tonic chord, to provide some movement, and set up the II chord in bar 3? These are all reasonable solutions.

Of course, I wondered about the original harmonizations for these songs. For a few dollars each plus postage, I obtained the original sheet music.

Notice that - as is often the case with old sheet music - the chord symbols are a poor representation of the piano arrangement. If a guitarist plays the symbols, the resulting notes won't clash with the piano, but the symbols really don't describe the functional harmony. What the piano part actually shows is one measure of C with a descending left-hand bass line, then two beats each of D9sus4 to D7. Bar 3 is really Dm7, not an F triad. So the first 4 bars are more like: 

|  C          |  D9sus4  D7  |   Dm7  |   G7   |

Most of the reharmonizations above actually sound better than the original. I recall an Alec Wilder quote to the effect that if generations of musicians work out a common-practice change to a song, it is probably an improvement.

Now, how about "How About You?"?

Here the chord symbols are closer to the arrangement. For a modern lead sheet, I'd just use Gmaj7 or G6 for the first 6 beats. 

The sheet music symbols miss the bass line in bars 2-3, but including the line in a lead sheet would be a little too fussy:

|  G6  Gmaj7  | G/B  Bbdim7  |   Am7   |   D7   |

Note that in both tunes, the the original sheet music shows the V chord in bar 4 as anticipated, starting on the last beat of measure 3. That's not unusual in tunes of this era. It's a convention that works well with a 2-beat bass pulse, a "period" sound.

The first two bars of the sheet music are basically:

|   Gmaj7   |              Bbdim7  |      (the fifth version on the "Pennies" list above, when transposed to C).

As a side note, both tunes have a "verse," or introductory section. The verse to "Pennies" is not entirely forgotten. The verse to "How About You," on the other hand, is pretty much completely forgotten, perhaps with good reason. But there's an interesting moment that uses a whole-tone scale (bar 13, below) - a clever touch in 1941.

For more on these tunes, including references to classic recorded versions, check the entries for "Pennies" and "How About You" on

This post would not be complete without a reference to the classic parody, "Benny's From Heaven." Wikipedia says that the lyrics are "possibly" by Eddie Jefferson. Here's James Moody singing it. Terrific tenor solo, too!

Oct 10, 2014

More Tangerine Changes

My recent post on the harmonic similarities of "Tangerine" and "Doce de Coco" got me thinking about other tunes that have that distinctive "Tangerine" feature of modulating briefly to the key a major third up, in measures 13-14 of a 32-bar form.

Here are some American "Golden Age" standards that do this:

The Touch of your Lips (Ray Noble, 1936 - OK, so he was English)
I Hadn't Anyone Till You (Ray Noble, 1938)
Tangerine  (Victor Schertzinger, 1941)
How About You (Burton Lane, 1941)
I Love You (Cole Porter, 1944)

Brazilian tunes that do this:

Lamentos (Pixinguinha, 1928)
Doce de Coco (B section) (Jacob do Bandolim, 1951)
Noites Cariocas (B section) (Jacob do Bandolim, 1957)
Triste (Jobim, 1967)

I'd always identified that device with "Tangerine," but obviously there are antecedents.

Thanks to Tom Simpson for pointing out the Ray Noble songs. They came earlier, and use the 2-bar modulation in the same spot, bars 13-14. "The Touch of Your Lips" (1936) seems to be the earliest one we have. Thanks also to Keith Bernstein for mentioning Irving Berlin's "Always" (1928), which also uses that device, though not exactly in the same spot in the form.

The harmony to Porter's "I Love You" seems to be a blatant "Tangerine" appropriation from beginning to end, with only a few small differences, including putting in some half-diminished II chords to give it that Cole Porter-ish minorness.

Please leave a comment below if you have a tune to add to the list. I'm looking for a 2-bar modulation up a major third, in bars 13-14.

Of course, most harmonic patterns did not originate with the popular music composers of the early/mid 20th century. Somewhere in the works of Bach or Schubert or Scott Joplin, you can probably find a modulation to the key a major third up, in measures 13-14 of a 32-bar form. If you run across anything like that, let me know!

Charts for "Tangerine" and "Doce de Coco" can be found here.

Finally, here's Pixinguinha's choro "Lamentos," played by Jacob do Bandolim. Great stuff, and pretty advanced for 1928!

Sep 28, 2014

B2B Update - Destination Reached!

The B2B bicyclists have arrived at their destination in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Their 14,000-mile journey took nearly 13 months; they started out from Berkeley at the beginning of September, 2013. It's an inspiring accomplishment! The team has been documenting capoeira practices and music all along the way, and I'm looking forward to the recordings and video.

Postings from the B2B team have been understandably sparse lately. If you would like to check in, here is a link to their Facebook page:

Sep 21, 2014

"Doce de Coco" and "Tangerine"

I just can't resist this stuff. Check out the "B" section to Jacob do Bandolim's choro "Doce de Coco" (coconut candy*), a Brazilian classic, and compare it to the American jazz standard "Tangerine" by Victor Schertzinger. The harmonic structures are suspiciously similar. Some details differ, but the basic shape is:

  • mm 1-12:  II  V  I  three times
  • mm 13-14:  modulation up a major third, to the key of the III ( I  VI  II  V in the new key)
  • mm 15-16: set up return to II in the original key
  • mm 17-22:  Like mm 1-6
  • mm 23-24: bVIIdom, acting as subV of the following V of II
  • m 25:  II
  • m 26-27  II  V  I  to the relative minor
  • mm 28-32  progression differs somewhat

Chord charts are below.

"Tangerine" dates to 1941; Jimmy Dorsey's version was #1 in the charts for 6 weeks. "Doce de Coco" was composed in 1951. Jacob, a very fine musician, would almost certainly have known the earlier tune.

Here's Jacob do Bandolim - the "B" section in question starts at 0:47:

Here's a mellow version of "Tangerine" with Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins:

Yes, I know, the harmonic similarity isn't obvious at first listen - the tunes have a very different character otherwise. But check out the chord charts, below. The charts are in different keys, so you'll have to transpose. Click to enlarge.

*Comment from my friend Carlos: A better literal translation is coconut brittle. This is a popular brittle you find in street markets in Brazil, which you buy in chunks, looks like peanut brittle we have here. Doce de coco can also be made as a thick paste, like a jam that you eat with a spoon, or roll into small truffles. But in the context of the song (I found some lyrics online) it actually means "sweetheart" or "cutie pie", also a common popular expression.

Sep 2, 2014

B2B Update 9/2/14

The B2B team has just marked one year on the road, bicycling from Berkeley to Bahia, documenting regional capoeira practices all along the way. They are now in Recife, about 800 km from their destination, Salvador, Bahia.

Check this post from Pirata, one of the participants, and a very good writer.

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Aug 12, 2014

Dotted-Eighth/Sixteenth Figures in Swing

Below are the opening bars to "Satin Doll," as notated in three different charts. The first is from Ellington's own lead sheet, the second from the "official" published sheet music, and the third is from the old bootleg Real Book. Would you play the rhythms in the first three beats any differently? I wouldn't.

Ellington's lead sheet:

Published sheet music:

Old Real Book:

I can recall more than one occasion, when I was playing tenor in a big band, when the lead alto chose to interpret a dotted-eight/sixteenth figure as though it meant what it said: three-fourths of a beat, one-fourth of a beat. This put the rest of the sax section in an impossible position. Should we follow him, and ruin the groove, or should we ignore him, play with a nice normal swing feel, and make the section sound out-of-synch?

The dotted figure turns up more often in older swing charts. I could guess that to musicians of those days, it just meant "long-short." One thing I've never really figured out is why some swing charts are notated mostly with normal eighths, and then, for no apparent reason, a dotted-eighth/sixteenth figure is occasionally thrown in. One time in a thousand, it might sound right to actually observe the figure, and play closer to three-fourths/one-fourth. Usually it makes no sense.

In relatively modern charts, swing beat is usually notated as normal eighth notes. Sometimes you'll see a note at the top of the chart that says "swing," sometimes not. Sometimes you'll see an indication at the upper left of the chart like this:
The "triplet" idea isn't quite right, either. It's impossible to notate swing beat in a way that is mathematically correct.

At a slow tempo, eighth notes will approach a true triplet feel (the first eighth around 67% of the beat, the second around 33%). However, notating it as triplets would be visually cumbersome. Better to just show eighth notes, with a note at the upper left that says "12/8 feel."

At a medium tempo, swing eighth notes are usually played closer to a three-fifths/two-fifths ratio. Obviously, notating it accurately would be out of the question (quintuplet sixteenths with the first three tied, and the last two tied? What a reading nightmare!)

My music notation program has an option to adjust "percentage of swing" on playback, and 60% seems about right at a moderate tempo. That's my take, and I think it's pretty mainstream.

At a very fast tempo (think "Giant Steps" or "Cherokee"), eighth notes become virtually even (50%).

Summing up, here is my advice: When you see a dotted-eight/sixteenth figure in a swing chart, ignore it, and just play the music.

Aug 10, 2014

B2B Update 8/10/14

Mestre Acordeon, Mestra Suelly, and the rest of the B2B riders are in the last few weeks of their one-year project, bicycling from Berkeley to Bahia, and documenting regional capoeira practices all along the way. They are one day from Fortaleza, Brazil.

More about the project here:

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Jul 9, 2014

"Samba de Orfeu," "Noites Cariocas," and "I Could Have Danced All Night"

If you are a fan of classic sambas and choros, here's a post for you. Check out the similarities between the  "A" sections, in both melody and harmony, of "Samba de Orfeu" (Luis Bonfa, 1959), and "Noites Cariocas" (Jacob do Bandolim, 1957). I'm not necessarily saying that Bonfa had been listening to "Noites Cariocas" when he wrote "Samba de Orfeu" for the movie "Black Orpheus," but one has to wonder.

A nice performance by Paul Desmond and Jim Hall:

Here's the original setting of "Samba de Orfeu," from the end of the movie:

Jacob do Bandolim playing "Noites Cariocas":

The melody of "I Could Have Danced All Night" (Lerner and Loewe, 1956) is kind of similar, too:

Below are charts for the first 16 bars of these three songs, all in the key of C, for easy comparison:

Besides the similar aspects of the melodies, these three tunes all share the same basic harmonic structure in their 16 bar "A" sections:

  • major key
  • first phrase (8 bars) I moving to II or II V in bar 7
  • second phrase (8 bars) II or II V for 6 more bars, then back to the tonic chord in bar 15.

These charts are fairly "vanilla" versions, unembellished. Other charts for these tunes are often crowded up with additional harmonic details.

It's a simple harmonic template, and a common one. A few more jazz-related tunes that follow a similar harmonic pattern: "Begin the Beguine" (1935), "Ve Se Gostas" (1950), "Moon Over Naples" aka "Spanish Eyes" (1965), Bye Bye Blackbird (1926).

When I mentioned to my wife that all of these "harmonic template" similarities might make a good blog post, she said, "But what is your point?"

I replied, "Well, the harmonies of these songs all share a common pattern, and that might be interesting to some musicians."

She said, "But what is your point?"

 I replied, "OK, that means that you can quote pretty much any of these songs in a solo, over any of the other tunes."

She said, "Great! I like quotes. Everybody likes quotes."

Jun 25, 2014

Doc Pomus, The Drifters, Paul Anka, and Frank Sinatra

So we were cleaning up after dinner, washing the dishes, watching "Classic Arts Showcase" on the TV. Placido Domingo was singing "My Way." My first thought was, "This song only works for Sinatra." But then another thought hit me. The melody and chord structure are not that far off from "Save the Last Dance for Me."

Pretty unlikely, right?

"Save the Last Dance for Me" was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (the story is here). The first recording, by The Drifters, was released in 1960.

"My Way" was originally a French pop ballad, "Comme d'habitude," written in 1967 by Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux. Paul Anka acquired the rights to the melody, and wrote new words for Frank Sinatra, who recorded it in December 1968 (the story is here).

Both melodies start with pickups, landing on the third of the key on beat 1 of the first full measure, then hang around the third for a few bars, then drop to finish the first phrase (it's a 4-bar phrase in "My Way," a 5-bar phrase in "Last Dance").

The second 4-bar (or 5-bar) phrase of each song starts with pickups, landing on the fourth of the key in the first full bar of the phrase, ending the phrase on the third of the key.

The third 4-bar phrase of "Last Dance" starts with the IV chord; the third phrase of "My Way" also moves to the IV in the third bar of the phrase. The melody in both cases then continues to climb: "My Way" reaches the sixth step of the key, while "Last Dance" reaches more dramatically to the ninth above the initial tonic.

The fourth 4-bar phrase begins on the third of the key in both songs, moves up a bit to the fourth, then down to the tonic note.

The bridges are not at all similar. The bridge to "My Way" adds drama to the song, while the bridge to "Last Dance" seems kind of unrelated.

Below are chord charts for the A sections of "Last Dance" and "My Way" (the changes to "Comme d'habitude" are nearly the same as "My Way"). Aside from the 5-bar phrases, it's almost as though Francois and Revaux took the harmonic template of "Last Dance," and recrafted it with more sophisticated detail. The same thing could be said about the melody.

But as I said above...pretty unlikely, right?

Both songs are shown here in C, for easier comparison.

The basic harmonic template of the first 8 bars is a common one: first phrase tonic, changing at the end of the phrase; next phrase dominant (or II V, which is just an elaboration of V), back to tonic at the end of the phrase. Movement to the IV, as in the third phrase, is quite common, too.

This pattern reminds me of a similar group of tunes, that share a template very close to this one (let's call them the "Samba d'Orfeu/I Could Have Danced All Night" group). I'll save that for another post.

Jun 22, 2014

B2B Update 6/22/14

Mestre Acordeon and Mestra Suelly's B2B group, bicycling from Berkeley to Bahia, has arrived in Tabitinga, Amazonas. They left Berkeley on September 1, and are finally in Brazil. Only half a continent left to go!

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B2B Facebook page

Rider blogs: (some nice essays from B2B rider "Pirata" - recommended)

May 27, 2014

"Misty," "I Want to Talk About You," and Tadd Dameron

The next entry in our “Who Wrote It?” chronicles:

It’s been observed by many that “Misty” (Errol Garner) and “I Want to Talk About You” (Billy Eckstine) have pretty much the same chord changes, with just a bit of difference in the bridge. 

Rahsaan Roland Kirk noticed the similarity:

Here’s John Coltrane's classic version of Eckstine’s tune:

Most people assume that “Misty” came first, but that’s not the case. “I Want to Talk About You” was first recorded in 1944; “Misty” was written in 1954. Errol Garner seems to have borrowed from Eckstine, not the other way around.

True, the progression follows some common patterns: I, then II V to the IV chord, etc. - and the bridge starting with II V I in the key of the IV. But the two tunes' progressions are too similar for it to be a coincidence. The opening melodic motifs of the two songs are also similar: a strong gesture of three notes, members of a major 7 chord, moving downwards, followed by a pause.

It's been suggested that Tadd Dameron actually was the composer of "I Want to Talk About You," but there seems to be no real evidence for this.

While looking into the Tadd Dameron question, I stumbled onto another odd bit of information: According to this very interesting “jingle” websiteDameron may have written the famous “Wildroot Cream Oil” theme (though the melody borrows heavily from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” - see this post). 

Details from the jingle site: 
Woody Herman's radio show was sponsored by Wildroot Cream Oil hair tonic, and he co-wrote two compositions -- one simply called "Wildroot" was co-written with arranger Neal Hefti and the other one below; It's not known what part (if any) of these compositions used the melody "I've Been Working On The Railroad" from which the hair tonic jingle was adapted... 
"Cream Oil Charlie"; [Wildroot Cream Oil Charlie] melody by Tad Dameron & Woody Herman. (c) Jan. 27, 1946; EU 4670. Charling Music Corp., New York.
Update: A Youtube search turned up the Hefti tune, "Wildroot," played by the Herman band. It was named for the sponsor of Woody's radio show, but was not an advertising theme. I guess that leaves Dameron and Herman as the composers of the tune I remember from my childhood. That seems kind of bizarre - but after all, a jingle is a gig too. 

May 22, 2014

Jobim and Chopin: Frevo de Orfeu

Here's an interesting correspondence:

First, listen to Chopin's famous "Marche funebre" from Sonata No. 2 in Bb minor, Op. 35. Here's Rachmaninoff playing it for you. Check the second section, in Db major, starting at 2:00, to about 4:00:

Now check out Jobim's "Frevo de Orfeu," from the movie "Black Orpheus." The first video below is a newer concert version. The music starts at 2:30, after the interview. You have to imagine it slowed way down, played on piano.

Below is the original setting from the film, with a cool marching band. The frevo is at 2:50:

Jobim liked Chopin. Perhaps you already knew that "How Insensitive" is based partly on Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E minor (see this post).

I'm imagining a discussion about the music Jobim was going to write for the movie. He's joking around, and considering that the Eurydice character is stalked by Death, and doomed, he says, "I've got it..." and plays the funeral march. Later on when he actually writes the tunes for the score, he completes the joke, in a more subtle way.

Is this a stretch? You be the judge!

Update: Check comments!

May 18, 2014

Chuck Wayne Playing "Solar" in 1946

I hadn't seen this before  - A blog post from 2012 by Larry Applebaum, on the Library of Congress website, centering on documentation regarding Chuck Wayne's authorship of "Solar." It includes a clip from a recording of Chuck playing the tune (he called it "Sonny," for trumpeter Sonny Berman) at a session in 1946, eight years before Miles recorded "Solar." Chuck uses Cmaj7 for the first 2 bars rather than Cm#7; also note the turnaround and some other melodic details.

There might be some wordplay in the title "Solar" - as the article notes, the tune is (very) loosely based on the chord changes to "How High the Moon." Moon/Sonny/Sunny/Solar.

The LOC post occasioned an article in the Atlantic, which I hadn't seen until now. Ethan Iverson also posted some interesting comments on "Do the Math."

For more on Miles' appropriation of others' work, here's a story, along with a little research I did a few years ago.

May 16, 2014

Do You Have an Eddy Flenner Story?

Back in 2011, I posted some reminiscences about my first jazz teacher, Eddy Flenner. Eddy was the go-to guy for saxophone instruction (jazz or classical) in Portland, Oregon, from sometime in the 1940s until the early 1970s. I owe him a lot. Here's the post.

Recently, I received some very cool comments on that post, from Eddy's daughter and from one of his students. To view them, click the above link, and scroll to the comments at the end.

Eddy must have had many hundreds of students, over the years. If any of you happen to read this and would like to share some stories, please click the link and contribute a comment!

I have a few more reminiscences, and some associated thoughts about teaching music, which I'll put up as comments on that post, as soon as I have a few minutes to write them up.

May 7, 2014

Like Someone in Love - Part 2 (The chord changes?)

Jimmy Van Heusen's "Like Someone in Love" first appeared in 1944; it is one of those tunes that has undergone some harmonic development over the years. Published sources and recordings differ with regard to the key and the chord progression. (Click here for Part 1, concerning what keys this tune is generally played in.)

I thought it would be interesting to survey the harmonic variations that one might encounter. The first reference to check was the original sheet music; I got a copy from the Kampko Vintage Sheet Music Shoppe

As with all vintage sheet music, this is not a lead sheet, but rather a piano arrangement. Above the measures are chord symbols, charted so that a guitarist playing from the symbols wouldn't clash with the piano arrangement. When played without the arranged piano part, the chords make for a sketchy but adequate accompaniment. Below is how the chords alone appear in this chart (you can find the melody in any fakebook). Click to enlarge.

By 1944 standards, this is not a bad chart. The most questionable part is the last 5 bars, cluttered with chords that were intended to reflect the (simpler, clearer) piano arrangement. 

To change this into a lead sheet of the sort that we prefer today, the chords need some simplification and modernization.

The original piano arrangement (not shown here in its entirety, due to copyright considerations) has some nice features that are not reflected in the chord symbols. In particular, note the descending line in the first 4 measures, shown below (top voice in the bass clef, 2 beats each, C - B - A - G - F# - F - E ). This line is used in many modern lead sheets.

Here's another nice touch in the piano part - a #9 to b9 in measure 16, where the melody hits the #5. Not bad for 1944!

Incidentally, this tune was written with an introductory "verse," shown in the sheet music, but not present in any other printed or recorded source that I could find. This tune was not written for a Broadway show, and the verse does not seem to have been used in the movie where it first appeared ("Belle of the Yukon," with Dinah Shore and Gypsy Rose Lee).

Next, below are the chords from a 1950s fakebook version (apparently a "Tune-Dex" chart). The chords are simplified, and the last 5 bars are cleaned up. The harmonic rhythm in bars 3 and 19 is off, and many chords are shown only as triads. The II V in bars 8 and 24 has been simplified to just a V. Aside from the original sheet music, this is what was available to musicians in the 1950s:

Now, let's skip ahead to some more modern versions. Below is the basic chord progression shown in "Pocket Changes," a Jamey Aebersold book from the 1980s. It's a perfect "vanilla" chart, a simple reworking of the sheet music. There are no superfluous changes; tonal center shifts are shown as the II V I's that we are all used to working with. I should note that the "minor" chords are undoubtedly intended to be played as minor sevenths, and the major chords as maj6, maj7, or maj6/9, as the player may choose. Note the addition of the A7 in mm.4 and 20, the Gm in mm.8 and 24, and the Bm in mm.10 and 26.

"Pocket Changes" shows some alternate changes too - see the chart below. Note the chromatic bass line in mm.1-4 and 17-20 (present in the original piano arrangement); the Eb7 in mm.4 and 20 (tritone sub for A7); and the II V in mm.6 and 22 (it's a II V in E minor, but resolves nicely into the tonic C chord in mm.7 and 23)

The chords in the original Real Book version (c. 1974) are shown below (the old RB has the tune in Eb; I transposed it here into C). In mm.1 and 17, E7 has been added to set up the Am7 that follows. In mm.3 and 19,  F#m7b5 is not too different from the original D7/F#. The F7#9 in mm.3 and 19 may be a typo; it sounds better as F7#11 (which is not too different from G7/F). The reharmonization in mm.1-4 and 17-20 preserves the chromatic bass line, but alters the harmonic implications. Measures 3-4 and 19-20 are somewhat like the sequence in "Night and Day" that begins with a m7b5 chord built on the b5 of the key.

In mm.6-7 and 25-26, the II V resolves into Em7 (not too different from Cmaj7). This old RB version has most of the "bells and whistles" that we see in other modern charts for "Like Someone in Love." 

Next, here are chord charts from two commonly-used fakebooks: The first is from the "New Real Book" (Sher Music), the second is from the "The Real Book: Sixth Edition " (Hal Leonard). They are not too different, and use the various "bells and whistles" that we have already noted (the Hal Leonard book shows the tune in Eb; I've transposed it to C):

I've checked out quite a few more printed versions and recordings. Virtually all of them use some combination of the harmonic devices discussed above.

Next, here are the alternate changes from the chart in "Dick Hyman's Professional Chord Changes and Substitutions for 100 Tunes Every Musician Should Know" (1986). I'm sure that they work best with Dick's voicings:

Don Haas was a legendary Bay Area jazz pianist and teacher, who passed away a few years ago. I never studied with Don - I'm not much of a pianist anyway, really - but I did get my hands on some of his teaching material, via a couple of his former students. Among other things, he wrote out a series of seven charts for "Like Someone in Love," with different harmonizations, progressing from very simple (I, IV, and V chords) to very complex (see below). 

I really hope that someday Don's family will publish his handouts. A lot of musicians would benefit!

Below is a chart taken from the last reharmonization in the "Like Someone in Love" series. Don's arrangement was complete with written-out voicings, omitted here out of respect for copyright. But you will get the idea. Give this one a try!

Apr 4, 2014

Like Someone in Love - Part 1 (What key?)

"Like Someone in Love" is one of the great standards, basic to the jazz repertoire. The tune was written by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyrics by Johnny Burke, and was first introduced in the 1944 movie "Belle of the Yukon," sung by Dinah Shore. In March 1945, Bing Crosby's version reached #15 on the Billboard chart. It's been recorded by a host of jazz luminaries.

It's a "must-know" tune, but fakebooks and recordings show different takes on the harmony, and present the tune in different keys (in fakebooks, either C or Eb). If you call this tune at a session, you should make sure that everyone is on the same page.

First, about the key - The original sheet music was in the key of C. I'll have more to say about printed versions, and chord changes, in the next post. For now, here is a list of performers, with the dates and keys of their recordings:

As you can see, the keys are all over the place. Dinah Shore's key of F# seems unlikely - perhaps the result of imperfect recording equipment. Sinatra's key of Ab appears to have been picked up in subsequent recordings by a number of jazz artists (Coltrane, Blakey, Dolphy, Gordon, Jamal). Others like the key of C (the original sheet music key). Vocalists probably chose keys that worked well for their range.

The New Real Book shows "Like Someone in Love" in the key of C. Both the old bootleg Real Book and the Hal Leonard "6th Edition" version show the tune in Eb, as does the iRealBook, though no jazz artist that I listened to recorded it in that key. I would guess that Hal Leonard just copied the key from the old RB, but it's a mystery to me why the old RB would have chosen Eb. I could see a good case for C or Ab, but not Eb.

Update: Stan Getz did record it in Eb, on his 1991 album "People Time," with Kenny Barron (thanks, Larry!).

Most of the recordings cited here can be found on Youtube. Here's Coltrane in 1959, with Cecil Taylor, Kenny Dorham, Chuck Israels, and Louis Hayes. The album is from a Cecil Taylor recording session, originally issued under Taylor's name with the title "Stereo Drive," later reissued as "Coltrane Time." They play "Like Someone in Love" in Ab.

In the next post, I'll look at some different versions of the chord changes.

Mar 10, 2014

B2B Update 3/10/14

Mestre Acordeon and Mestra Suelly's B2B group, bicycling from Berkeley to Brazil, has just left Leon, Nicaragua, and are headed for Managua. They left Berkeley on September 1, and six months later, are about halfway to Bahia.

B2B Facebook page

Rider blogs: (some nice essays from B2B rider "Pirata" - recommended)

Feb 23, 2014

Saxophone Metals - Some Scientific Opinions

A while ago, I exchanged emails with my friend Jude Foulds regarding some aspects of saxophone construction, particularly metals. Jude’s opinions should carry some weight - he has an MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, and has had an extensive career in failure analysis. He’s also a sax player (former student).

Our conversation was prompted by a Steve Goodson interview that another sax player friend had sent me, that included some assertions about the aging or “breaking in” of metal, cryogenic treatment, and silver/gold plating. I asked Jude about these things, and I had a few other questions as well.

Here are some excerpts from our email exchange, beginning with Jude’s response to the interview:


[quoting the interview:] “Of course, the older horns sound different. I think that a large part of that difference is because the horn has been played for years and years and the metal has ‘broken in’ and responds more freely to a given range of frequencies. You can achieve the same effect of this breaking in by having the horn cryogenically treated to free up the stress in the metal.”

There is no aging effect for brass and most metals at ambient conditions. Also, using the horn would not have any significant effect on the response of the brass over time. There could be some, minor relaxation of stresses (induced from the original forming process) over time, but this would not have a significant effect on the metal's acoustic response. In short, the horn material should be no different than what it was the first day it was formed. Cryogenic exposure would have absolutely no relaxing effect on internal stresses. In fact, it could have the potentially opposite effect of inducing (residual) stresses simply from the uneven cooldown and subsequent heatup back to ambient. We typically heat up metals to remove stresses, not cool them down.

[quoting the interview:] “Around 1970, manufacturers began to use brass that contained more zinc than was used in the past. This gave the horns a brighter sound, and a little more projection, but at the expense of tonal complexity...I'm not sure this was a good idea. We've...found some brass recipes that give a nice mix of overtones. Our alloy is significantly higher in copper content than the alloy used by other makers. On our high end models, we hand hammer and hand burnish the bell, bow, and body so the metal doesn't become ‘work hardened’ and lose resonance.”

I'm having a terrible time believing the alloy effect. The alloy variation effect, I would estimate, to be a distant secondary one to the forming effects, geometric effects and the keys/pad design and construction...An important aspect of horn construction related to alloy is formability. I believe much of the tonal response (all other things being equal) is a function of the forming process, and I think Goodson may have something in his hand-forming of the bell. His higher Cu brass may make formability easier and this could be the "alloy" effect, rather than the chemistry itself.

Goodson is right-on [regarding] plating effects [that is, that plating material has little or no effect on tone].


Thanks! ...I guess you wouldn't subscribe to the theory that pre-1960 French saxes sound better because they were made from recycled WWII shell casings. Then again, the best old horns do sound different, not all the same, often with a more complex tonal color. Is it all in the design and workmanship?

Is zinc harder than copper? I always thought that harder materials in mouthpieces reflected out high overtones more. Do you think that's correct?


Here are a few facts and my thoughts on Zn in brass:

(1) Zn does increase the strength and hardness (resistance to plastic deformation and to nicks and scratches), while also making it more difficult to form.

(2) Zn also makes brass less stiff (elastically). This could, if anything, correlate more with tonal response than does hardness since elastic properties correlate with sound attenuation through the metal.

(3) Metals handbooks often refer to the 80-20 (Cu-Zn by weight percent) "low brass" as a musical instrument alloy. This is a far cry from the cartridge shell brass (70-30) that is much harder and more difficult to form. Did they make a lot of saxes from these shells? I can see where the significant Zn increase (from the "handbook" number) could affect tonal response, but they must have put a lot of work into making those saxes, particularly when much of the forming was done by hand. If you get a chance to, you may want to analyze a sliver of material from a discarded vintage and from a modern horn.

(4) An important effect on acoustic response comes from the metal grain structure and what's in the grains - greatly affected by the forming operation. This is a key factor that is much too in-depth an issue to have been seriously studied (good thesis topic).

(5) The industry may have increased Zn in the 70s when they became more automated in their forming; albeit more difficult to form, the harder materials probably gave a more reproducible formed product with fewer rejects. Also, they may have reduced the gage.

(6) I would also look into the gage thickness variability (vintage versus modern). I don't know how standard this is, but the first thing I noticed with the SML was the gage at the bell. I have nothing to compare it to, but it sure feels beefy.


Thanks again...The idea that old French saxes sound better because the brass was from cartridges is a sort of urban myth among sax people. It certainly seems plausible that European brass was from scavenged sources for 10 or 15 years. But couldn't the metal suppliers have added copper if they wanted to?


The remelt shops could have added Cu (I used to work in a brass foundry and process shop where, among other things, we made 60-40 leaded brass from a mix of scrap and raw Cu and Zn and Pb, for tubulars and rods, etc. that we extruded and drew at the plant). However, I guarantee you Cu was even more expensive back in the post-war years and not easy to come by. Any Cu additions would likely have ruined the economic advantage of remelting the cartridges.

To blog readers:

There it is, for your consideration. I was reminded of this exchange when one of my students mentioned a recent interview with Wayne Shorter where Wayne repeated the story about WWII shells.

I find it quite believable that late 40s - early 50s French saxes could have been made with brass from recycled shells, perhaps with a 70-30 “cartridge brass” ratio rather than an 80-20 “musical instrument” ratio. Whether this would have any significant effect on timbre, and by what mechanism that might work, is not clear to me. Oddly, it seems that more zinc increases sound attenuation, which one might think would not be helpful to timbre. I don't know. (Incidentally, I've also heard it suggested that 1930s European horns used brass from WWI shell casings. Maybe there is a 95-year-old French metallurgist out there somewhere who knows about this.)

And it's possible that they added copper anyway, in spite of the cost. No final answers here.

Jude implies that the hand-forming process might have affected the acoustic qualities of the brass, for the better.

I can agree that plating material has little effect, and it’s pretty much impossible for me to believe that lacquer (color, or lacquered/unlacquered) has any effect on tone. I don’t see any reason to believe the cryogenic stuff.

When I was getting this post ready, I asked Jude a couple more questions.


1) You mentioned that a higher zinc ratio would result in a harder alloy, but would increase elasticity, which could affect tone. How would it affect tone? Would a more elastic alloy attenuate certain frequencies more/less?

2) You mentioned that "I believe much of the tonal response is a function of the forming process." Can you tell me how that might work?


(1) We define elasticity as a modulus (stress divided by strain). A stiffer alloy (higher modulus) will typically transmit sound better (less attenuation). The addition of Zn makes the brass less stiff and therefore increases attenuation (less sound transmission efficiency). I don’t think hardness (not an elastic property) by itself affects attenuation...
(2) Tone for me is the quality of the desired frequency...What’s in the metal (grains, dislocations structure within grains, etc.) likely governs the purity of the emission. Forming methods that control grain structure and the material within grains (we call this microstructure) can affect tone. If you ask me what is optimal, I’d have to research the structure of the specific instrument, specifically the manner in which the sound travels through the metal and the relationship between dominant sound path(s) and the microstructure (e.g., orientation of grains).
Please recognize that I’m no expert on Clint Eastwood said in one of his Dirty Harry movies – Man’s got to know his limitations.