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.

Here’s Billy Eckstine from a featurette made in 1946, with an arrangement by Tadd Dameron:





If you’re interested in more info about the film, it’s all here.

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 right at the beginning:




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!