Aug 20, 2018

"My Romance" - What are the right changes?

Rodgers and Hart's song "My Romance" first appeared in the musical "Jumbo" (1935), produced by impresario Billy Rose. From Wikipedia:
The musical opened on Broadway at the Hippodrome Theatre on November 16, 1935 and closed on April 18, 1936 after 233 performances. Directed by John Murray Anderson and George Abbott, it starred Jimmy Durante, Donald Novis, Gloria Grafton, and a number of circus specialty acts. Jumbo tells the story of a financially strapped circus. At the end of each performance, Durante lay down on the stage and permitted a live elephant to place its foot upon his head.
The large 5,000-seat theatre was turned into a circus tent where the various specialty acts (including acrobats and animal acts) performed during the show. The music was played by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.
Other notable songs that first appeared in this musical were "Little Girl Blue," and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World."

Incidentally, this was not the first show at the Hippodrome that had featured a live elephant. The song "Poor Butterfly" (1916) was written in an elephant pen in the basement of the Hippodrome; Harry Houdini performed a "disappearing elephant" trick there too.

Here's a newsreel from 1935, covering the opening of "Jumbo," including some rehearsal footage:

In a recent interview, bassist Steve Swallow mentions that the chords to "My Romance," as shown in the old bootleg Real Book, are the "Bill Evans changes." This, of course, sparked my curiosity about what the original changes were. 

I was able to locate a copy of the original sheet music. In looking at "Golden Age" standards, original sheet music is generally a pretty good indicator of the composer's intention, as it is likely that the composer approved it for publication. Besides that source, I have a version of the song from the "Tune-Dex" fakebook, a popular bootleg from (I think) the early 1950s, which shows bare-bones chord changes for hundreds of standards, probably copied from the sheet music, with a high degree of inaccuracy. 

We can also refer to this 1936 recording by Donald Novis and Gloria Grafton, the stars of "Jumbo." There is a good chance that this arrangement is at least somewhat close to the way the song was presented in the show:

There are two modern fakebooks that show some version of the original sheet music changes, side-by-side with a modern reharmonization - The Best Chord Changes for the Most Requested Standardsby Frank Mantooth, and the Real Jazz Standards Fake Book, both published by Hal Leonard.

The sheet music puts the tune in the key of C, as does the Tune-Dex book, but for some reason the 1974 bootleg Real Book shows it in Bb (the Hal Leonard "6th Edition" Real Book, copying the old RB, also has it in Bb). The 1936 recording is in Eb, probably to accommodate the singers. Bill Evans played it in C. To make comparisons easier, the charts in this post are all in the key of C.

The sheet music includes a "verse" (introductory lead-in) that no one really uses any more; I won't discuss it here. It's included in the "Real Jazz Standards" version.  

In deference to copyright, I won't post the complete sheet music, but I think it's within "fair use" to show this clip:

As is usual in old sheet music, the chord symbols do not really represent the piano arrangement. Below is a chart with the chord symbols as shown on the sheet music:

However, the actual piano notes indicate a harmony closer to this:

Some features in the piano arrangement: 

1) stepwise bass lines in mm1-2, 5-6, 17-18, 21-22. The chord symbols miss this. Modern charts suggest different bass lines here (see "Evans" chart, below).

2) triads with added 9 - a sweet, bright sound.

3) a lot of IV chords - sweet and simple, in keeping with the theme of the lyrics.

4) F#m7 rather than F#m7b5 in m13. Modern charts all use F#m7b5, presumably because it seems like the right way to do a minor-key II V. That's not what Hart wrote, though.

5) D9 in m28 resolves to C/G in m29. In classical terminology, C/G is a cadential tonic six-four chord. This device (II dominant to I with fifth in the bass, followed by a final cadence) is common in classical music. It occurs in the original harmonic setting of several jazz standards, e.g. "After You've Gone," m16; "I Remember You," m32; "There Will Never Be Another You," m28. The fifth in the bass sets up a brief dominant pedal for the cadence.

The II dominant to tonic six-four device has fallen out of favor in jazz. It seems like just about every modern chart of the tunes listed above replaces the IIdom approach with something else. Some modern charts of "My Romance" preserve the G in the bass under the tonic C chord, keeping the dominant pedal effect, while replacing the D7.

Here's an image of the beginning of the Tune-Dex chart:

This chart really cuts to the essence of the tune. The Tune-Dex fakebook was probably the most complete bootleg collection of tunes available to popular music performers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I got my copy from the father of one of my students; his father ("Doctor K.") had been an aspiring musician in New York in the early 1950s. The notations in the margin are Doctor K.'s; he was studying the Schillinger system. The Schillinger symbol ΣIV indicates a #4 melody note; it occurs in m3. The note in the margin says, "going to ΣIV more surprising more intense."

For comparison, here is a chord chart with the bare-bones Tune-dex changes. Try playing the melody with this harmony - I think it preserves the simple, sweet quality of the tune pretty well: 

As Steve Swallow relates in his interview, the old bootleg Real Book was created in 1974 by two Berklee students. Many of their charts originated with some of their instructors, or friends of their instructors. Swallow describes the "My Romance" chart as using "Bill Evans" changes. Here are the chords as shown in the old RB, but transposed to C, rather than the RB key of Bb:

Some features of this version:

1) The bass line in mm1-2 and 17-18 is changed to a familiar I  II III bIIIdim progression. The bass line in mm 5-6 and 21-22 is replaced with a familiar "My Funny Valentine"-type voice-leading line over a static minor chord - the line here is A to G# to G, over the A minor chord.

2) The measure-long IV chords are gone.

3) In mm9 and 11 a bVIIdom chord (Bb7) is added to transition from IV to I - again, a standard device. 

4) In m14 Eb7 is added, a tritone sub approach to the Dm7 that follows.

5) mm27-28 are reworked, replacing a short chain of dominants with a minor II V and a II bIIdom. It's a fancier way to get there, but the Ab7 still sets up a tonic six-four chord.

I think you will find that virtually all modern charts derive from the old RB "Bill Evans" changes, with a few alterations here and there. If you want to learn the tune today, you should probably learn this version. Personally, I favor the key of C rather than Bb. The New Real Book vol. 1 (Sher Music Co.) has the tune in C, with Evans-like changes.

I don't know exactly where the old RB compilers got their chart, but it's pretty close to the way Bill Evans plays "My Romance" in the 1961 Village Vanguard recording:

Here's a link to a transcription by Jorn Swart of Bill's first chorus.

Bill Evans played "My Romance" through his entire career. He recorded it a number of times, including on his first album, "New Jazz Conceptions" (1956) and his last, "The Last Waltz" (1980). Of course, the lead sheet does not even begin to show what he did with the tune; his approach evolved continuously. Here's his last recording of "My Romance":

Aug 16, 2018

Steve Swallow interview

A friend sent me a link to this video - Steve Swallow and John Scofield, interviewed by Dr. David Schroeder. It's over an hour, but well worth the time. Topics include "ear" playing versus reading skills; the origin of the Real Book; Steve's experiences working with Gary Burton, Stan Getz, Carla Bley and others; and Steve's transition from double bass to electric bass. Some great stories here!

I'd long wondered why the old Real Book had changes to "Here's that Rainy Day" that seemed so wrong - according to Steve, they were Jim Hall's reharmonization. Steve also mentions that the Real Book changes to "My Romance" are the "Bill Evans changes." That made me wonder what the original chords to the song actually were, since pretty much all modern fake books show something close to the changes in the old RB. The original harmonization was quite a bit different; I'll get to that in a future post. Here's the interview:

Aug 6, 2018

Combo project - "Horace Silver Complete" fakebooks

Over the last several years, my Saturday adult combo class has taken on some ambitious projects. The first was playing repeatedly through a list of 100 jazz standards, trying to play by ear and from memory, rather than reading (we are not done with this project). Next was playing through all the tunes in the Thelonious Monk Fake Book, one or two tunes every Saturday for more than a year. After that was the Just Gershwin Real Book, then Charles Mingus - More Than a Fake Book. Following that was an effort to go through all the Tadd Dameron tunes that we could find charts for.

Our newest project is to play through the two volumes of the "Horace Silver Complete" fakebooks - Horace Silver Complete Vol. 1: The 50s (58 tunes), and Horace Silver Complete Vol. 2: The 60s (49 tunes).

We had hoped at first to check out at least one or two tunes each session, but it hasn't worked out that way. One reason is that many of these tunes involve arrangements that are more detailed than the usual head/solos/head format of a run-of-the-mill combo rendition. Another reason we've been working more slowly is that Horace's compositions are enjoyable and challenging, and some need several weeks, just to come anywhere close to getting it right.

We felt the same way about the Monk and Mingus repertoire, though we got through the list of Dameron tunes somewhat faster. As for the Gershwin fakebook, I think we all agreed that George and Ira in fact wrote a large number of pretty unmemorable tunes, along with the wonderful ones that made it into the jazz standards canon.

Jay Glacy, the editor of the two Silver books, has made a fine contribution to jazz education. I do have to say, after going through the first dozen tunes with the class, that some charts could have benefited from one more round of proofreading. It has been helpful for the class to listen to Horace's original recordings, both to check for typos and to understand the intended form of the tunes. Of course, checking the recordings is something that we should do anyway, since a lot of musical elements can't really be put into lead sheet form. The charts do include many shout choruses, bass lines, and harmony parts.

I'm hoping the editor will eventually publish one or two more volumes in this series. Horace recorded through the 1990s. He was with Blue Note records from 1952 to 1979 (27 albums). According to Wikipedia,

His final Blue Note album was Silver 'n Strings, recorded in 1978 and 1979. His stay was the longest in the label's history. By Silver's account, he left Blue Note after its parent company was sold and the new owners were not interested in promoting jazz. In 1980, he formed the record label Silveto, "dedicated to the spiritual, holistic, self-help elements in music"...Silver also formed Emerald at the same time, a label for straight-ahead jazz, but it was short-lived. 

From 1993 to 1999, Horace recorded five more albums for Columbia, Impulse, and Verve.

Here is Horace's Wikipedia bio, and here is his discography

Here are the Amazon links for the two volumes:

Horace Silver Complete Vol. 1: The 50s 
Horace Silver Complete Vol. 2: The 60s 

The books, as well as pdf versions, are also available from