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Nat King Cole: Discovering the real man (behind the great musician).
The Nat King Cole story is a tale of two major talents, both owned by the same person. Equally skilled as a jazz pianist and a middle-of-the-road pop crooner, Cole would still be remembered with affection today if he only had one of those musical identities.
Nathaniel Adams Coles (he changed his last name to Cole early in his career) was born March 17, 1919 (although his birthdate has sometimes been given as 1917) in Montgomery, Alabama. He was one of four brothers who became musicians: bassist Eddie Coles (who was nine years older) and pianists Ike Cole and Freddy Cole, all of whom also sang. Raised in Chicago, Nat started on the organ when he was four and had his first piano lessons when he was 12. He considered his musical hero and main influence to be Earl Hines although, by the late 1930s, one could also hear bits of Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum in his playing.
Cole dropped out of school when he was 15 to work as a pianist, leading the Royal Dukes in 1934. When Eddie Coles returned to Chicago after touring with Noble Sissle, they formed a sextet, Eddie Coles’ Swingsters, recording four titles for the Decca label in 1936. The following year they toured with a revival of the musical Shuffle Along. That year he married a member of the cast, Nadine Robinson, and settled in Los Angeles after the show ended.
Cole led a short-lived big band and then formed a trio to play in clubs that also included guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. At first they called themselves the King Cole Swingsters before settling on the King Cole Trio.
All of the music that exists from Nat King Cole’s first period (1936-43) except for two sessions as a sideman with Lionel Hampton in 1940, has recently been released on the superb seven-CD (or ten-LP) Resonance box set Hittin’ The Band: The Early Years. The release starts off with the Eddie Coles date and then includes no less than 71 selections that were recorded by the trio for radio transcription services that predate the trio’s first official recordings in 1940.
These noncommercial renditions were made strictly for radio airplay and were not available for purchase. The music alternates hot swing instrumentals and ballads with vocalizing by the trio in worked out scat-filled unison passages on heated versions of standards and novelties.
On some numbers the trio accompanies other singers (Bonnie Lake, Juanelda Carter, Maxine Johnson, Anita Boyer, Pauline and her Perils, and the Dreamers) but up to that time Cole was not singing solos and the group’s ballads tended to be instrumentals. The legendary tale about how Nat King Cole first sang, being requested by an annoying drunk in a club, is a good story but obviously not true as evidenced by these performances.
The trio’s first official recordings were four titles made for the Ammor label on April 18, 1940 and these ironically have Lee Young added on drums; perhaps the label thought they were playing it safe. Of greater significance were a dozen titles made for Decca on December 6, 1940 and March 14 and July 16, 1941 for they include Nat King Cole having his first hit with a solo vocal on “Sweet Lorraine,” and doing a fine job on “This Will Make You Laugh” in addition to participating on some more group vocals and instrumentals.
By that time, the King Cole Trio, which had become quite popular in Los Angeles, was beginning to gain a national reputation, helped out by its radio broadcasts. Cole, who can finally be heard singing a ballad (“Nothing Ever Happens”) on a radio transcription from July 22, 1940, was starting to be noticed, both as an increasingly influential pianist and a likable singer. But it was the interplay of his piano with Oscar Moore’s guitar that really made the group catch on at that point.
Moore, who (inspired by Charlie Christian) had switched from acoustic to electric guitar, was at the top of his field, playing consistently swinging and inventive solos that, while often brief, added a great deal to the trio’s sound.
Wesley Prince did a fine job in a supportive role with the trio and, after he was drafted in 1942, his place was taken by the equally skilled Johnny Miller.
One of the turning points of Cole’s career occurred when he signed with the Capitol label in the fall of 1943, an association that would continue throughout the remainder of his life. The best way to acquire Nat King Cole’s jazz recordings of 1943-61 is unfortunately a difficult and expensive task. The 18-CD box Mosaic box set The Complete Capitol Recordings Of The Nat King Cole Trio is perfectly done, including not only Cole’s studio sides but the many radio transcriptions that his group continued to make during the remainder of the 1940s along with later sessions from the 1950s that utilize the trio sound.
But unfortunately, this huge set was a limited-edition release and is long out-of-print. Unless one can snag a copy on eBay, fans have to be content with much smaller repackagings of some of the music
Cole’s first Capitol session included a hit in “Straighten Up And Fly Right” and it was soon followed by a remake of “Sweet Lorraine,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” and “Embraceable You.” Cole took a brief period off from the trio to participate in the first Norman Granz Jazz At The Philharmonic concert (having a humorous tradeoff with guitarist Les Paul on “Blues”) and occasionally appeared on all-star combo dates, but otherwise he continued as before except on a higher level. Between the recording sessions, radio transcriptions, radio shows, and club dates, the King Cole Trio kept very busy and evolved.
The group vocals largely ended after the mid-1940s with Cole now taking solo vocals on both swingers and ballads. While half of their sessions were instrumentals, the most popular records featured Cole’s friendly and warm singing including such hits as “Nature Boy,” “Route 66,” Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” Each of those songs became standards thanks to Cole’s singing.
In 1947 guitarist Oscar Moore left the trio which was no longer a democracy but a unit dominated by its leader. His successor Irving Ashby played in a similar style as Moore. The following year, Joe Comfort took over for Johnny Miller on bass. But the biggest departure for the group was the addition of Jack Costanzo on bongos later in 1947, with the billing now being Nat King Cole and his Trio. The quartet was now occasionally hinting at bebop and, with Costanzo a regular member, they were open to utilizing Cuban rhythms.
In 1948 Cole divorced his first wife and married Marie Ellington (who had sung with the unrelated Duke Ellington). They would have five children (two of whom were adopted) including the future r&b singer Natalie Cole.
Everything changed in March 1950 when Nat King Cole recorded “Mona Lisa.” His recording became a Number One hit and suddenly Cole was a pop star. While he continued to tour with his trio for another year, after that it no longer had its own identity, becoming part of a larger orchestra that accompanied Cole’s singing.
While he usually played a song or two on piano during his shows, within a few years many of his newer fans did not know that Nat King Cole was a great pianist. It is a pity that there were not two separate Nat King Coles (with the pianist continuing his career). In the show biz world of the 1950s (and to an extent today), it was considered safer to be a specialist rather than a multi-talented performer so the piano was put on the backburner.
After “Mona Lisa,” Nat King Cole had a continuous string of vocal hits during 1950-64 including “Unforgettable,” “Smile,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” “Too Young,” “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,” “Send For Me,” “When I Fall In Love,” “Pretend,” “Answer Me, My Love,” and finally “L-O-V-E.” By the mid-1950s, his competitors were no longer Earl Hines and George Shearing but Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
During an era when African-American performers in the pop world could only go up so high, Cole helped to pierce the ceiling. The soft-spoken performer was attractive to women and non-threatening to men, he exuded class and, like Bing Crosby his singing always sounded effortless and natural. He became an international star.
The jazz world was not pleased, particularly with some of his sappier ballad albums with arranger Gordon Jenkins or such hits as “Ramblin’ Rose” and “The Hazy Lazy Crazy Days Of Summer,” but Cole gained in popularity every year. While his jazz sessions were secondary, he did not give up performing jazz entirely. Sessions with arrangers Billy May and Nelson Riddle sometimes featured him as a big band singer.
He recorded a few rare sets on piano including the After Midnight album which featured him in quartets (his trio with guitarist John Collins plus a guest horn soloist) although none of those swinging performances were instrumentals.
When he toured Europe in the early 1960s with the Quincy Jones big band, the European audiences gave him a cold reception until, with Jones’ urging, Cole sat down at the piano and played a few jazz standards. He showed during those concerts (some of which are available on CD) that he had not lost a thing in his piano playing.
Being African-American resulted in Cole being subject to racism despite his celebrity status. He had to fight to move to what had been a segregated area in Los Angeles. He was physically attacked (but not seriously hurt) at a concert in Birmingham, Alabama in 1956. And his groundbreaking television series of 1956-57 was cancelled after a year because it could not get a national sponsor for a black performer despite its impressive ratings. Many of those programs, which sometimes include jazz performances (including an episode with the Jazz At The Philharmonic All-Stars), have fortunately been released on DVD.
In his career, Nat King Cole appeared in many short musical films (such as Soundies and Snader Transcriptions) and even some regular films including Istanbul, China Gate, Night Of The Quarter Moon, and as W.C. Handy in the fictional St. Louis Blues. His last role was as a typically likable troubadour in Cat Ballou.
Despite the rise of rock and roll and the Beatles, Nat King Cole’s career was going fine until the fall of 1964 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. A lifelong smoker, Cole’s health declined quickly and he passed away on February 15, 1965, when he was just 45.
In his career and beyond, Nat King Cole had more than 150 singles that made it to the Billboard charts (Pop, R&B and Country) and sold more than 50 million records. His daughter Natalie used film of her father to sing a very popular posthumous duet with him on “Unforgettable,” and his classic recording of “The Christmas Song” made the charts again during the holiday season of 2017. His influence as a singer and leader of trios can be heard in the performances of Diana Krall, John Pizzarelli, and many others.
It is fair to say that the unforgettable Nat King Cole, whose 100th birthday would have been in 2019, has little chance of being forgotten.
This analysis totally ignores the harmonic progression composed by Bill, in order to observe the theme as a complete entity; one that doesn’t need harmony to prove its existence.
In the Modal period (pre-Bach), polyphony reigned supreme; harmony was accidental and therefore not a factor in determining the form or length of a composition. The theoretical basis derived from this period was the MODES or scales: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, MixoLydian, Aeolian, and Locrian, all beginning on the pitch “c.”
After Bach, the modes disappeared, or rather, were swallowed up, allowing for a synthesis which gave birth to the major/ minor system and a theory of harmony based on 12 major and 12 minor scales ( called scales to differentiate between the pre-Bach Modal period and the Tonal post-Bach era). This tonal period lasted roughly 300 years before a new and higher synthesis-Atonality-came into being.
When a synthesis is reached, it always inherits the previous period. Inherent in the Tonal system is the Modal system; inherent in the Atonal system are both the Modal and the Tonal systems. Bill Evans was born with this awareness, and through his study of the Schoenberg harmony, counterpoint, and compositional books, he created his wonderfully rich compositions, full of the past and present and achieving a new synthesis: the conscious merging of classical music with jazz.
There is a term coined by Gunther Schuller: “Third Stream Music.” It means the synthesis of two streams, classical and ja,zz, to produce a third stream. Bill Evans’ compositions are Third Stream, and the following analysis of “Time Remembered” is an attempt to prove that statement true. Here are eight examples that break down the theme into eight phrases (the measure lengths are altered slightly for Part 1 ).
Each example show how the theme expresses a mode based on the gravity caused by the succession of tones in each phrase. The clue lies in the Directional Tones in each phrase. In EX. lA, our ear retains (remembers) the opening “f#” at the arrival of the last note “b,” and identifies these pitches as the dominant or 5th note (f#) and tonic (1st note) of the B Aeolian mode.
The rest of the pitches in this phrase support this conclusion. “C#” is the super-tonic note, “a” is the leading tone, “e” the sub-dominant, etc. The high point on the pitch “d” links up with the” f#” and “b” to form a tonic B minor triad, but I must not use that to support my conclusion, since I stated above that this analysis is linear (horizontal) and not chordal (vertical)!
Our ear does, however, group (link) tones to form chords because it’s almost impossible to forget our 20th century inheritance: harmony! I have therefore included an analysis of what our 20th century ear picks up chord-wise in each example.
Looking at EX. lA again, you’ll see that my ear groups these pitches vertically to form a V7, 1 V7 & I chord (F#m7, Em7 & Bm triad respectively). The modes are very slippery and our ear could very easily shift the tonic to the pitch” e,” giving us an E Dorian mode. This is obvious because both the B Aeolian and E Dorian contain the same pitches. In the latter instance, my ear picked up the Directional Tone” e” (low point, and linked it with the “b” in measure 4, plus the opening “f#,” pulling me gravitationally to the “e” as a tonic note).
In each of the following examples, you must sing (and/ or play) the phrase as written; then sing the analytical sections above and below; then sing the modes; then repeat and repeat until your ear gravitates toward the tonic of each mode. It is entirely with_ill !he realm of probability that you will arrive at other modal conclusions, but rememoer, it is the Directional Tones-the high and low point in each phrase-that will support my conclusion. I’ll stand firmly on all of them! Ultimately, it should be child’s play when you finally sit down with thiswonderful composition, “Time Remembered.”
Bill Evans – Time Remembered – Full Album
1) “Danny Boy” (Frederick Weatherly) – 00:00 2) Like Someone in Love” (Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen) – 10:40 3) “In Your Own Sweet Way” (Dave Brubeck) – 17:08 4) “Easy to Love” (Cole Porter) – 20:07 5) “Some Other Time” (Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green) – 24:49 6) “Lover Man” (Jimmy Davis, Ram Ramirez, James Sherman) – 31:01 7) “Who Cares?” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) – 36:07 8) “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (Cole Porter) – 41:32 9) “How About You?” (Ralph Freed, Burton Lane) – 47:21 10) “Everything Happens to Me” (Tom Adair, Matt Dennis) – 51:27 11) “In a Sentimental Mood” (Duke Ellington, Manny Kurtz, Irving Mills) – 56:15 12) “My Heart Stood Still” (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) – 01:00:41 13) “Time Remembered” (Bill Evans) – 01:05:16
Thelonious Monk’s Harmony, Rhythm, and pianism (Part 1)
On February 28, 1964, jazz pianist, composer, and group leader Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) graced the cover of Time magazine, then America’s major newsweekly. Coming at the height of the civil rights movement and amid dawn-ing recognition for African Americans’ achievements, it was a true breakthrough into mainstream media for him and for jazz.
The moment was short-lived, with rock-and-roll’s ascendancy to cultural dominance just around the corner, but it was also well-earned: Monk had been producing extraordinary music—often under difficult social and personal circumstances—for almost two decades, and would continue to perform for another nine years.
Gnomic and inscrutable, he also magniﬁed, for better or worse, popular clichés about the jazz artist as insouciant, hipster weirdo—aspects played up in Time’s account, and undoubtedly part of the reason its editors had singled him out, for the moment, as jazz personiﬁed.
Yet despite the typecasting, Monk was actually an unlikely icon, musically and personally. Jazz comprises a cluster of genres bound loosely by a symbiosis of individualism, commercial concerns, and high art leanings, but even given this, Monk’s playing was in many ways too idiosyncratic to ﬁ t in to any niche. His music differed more from his contemporaries than theirs did from each others’. His small hands and distinctive piano technique often gave cause for his very skill and competence to be called into question, sometimes not without reason. Such perplexities complicated Monk’s reputation and that of jazz itself, which he was both part of and apart from.
And as if to enhance this otherworldly aura, after touring and recording almost continually from the late 1940s until the mid-1960s, he simply faded away. He stopped playing piano soon after his last record-ings in 1971 and retired into semi-seclusion for the last decade of his life. Yet both his musical legacy and mythic status have continually strengthened ever since.
Our own lifelong obsessions with Monk’s music started in the 1970s. It was a romance of recordings: the only performances we ever saw were on ﬁlm, and that was much later. For us back then, “Thelonious Monk” was an outré persona conjured by liner notes and cover art. The cover of one LP— Monk’s Music, from 1955—showed him writing music while perched in a child’s red wagon, donned in hipster’s garb and sunglasses; another— Underground, his last Columbia recording, from 1968—set Monk as WWII French resistance ﬁghter, seated at an upright piano in a barn hideout, with several open bottles of wine, a live cow, weaponry, and a captured Nazi in tow.
These manufactured images suggested ways for the public to digest the music: Monk as idiot-savant, genius-child, rebel-recluse—a collection of quirky, individualistic, American countercultural personas. But, however these images may have hooked us as teenagers, we could not fail to hear his music as indispensable. His deadpan playing, stocked with “scribbled lightning”, and jabbing, stabbing, amazing chords, textures, rhythms, empty spaces, and clusters, was riveting, at once instantly recognizable, diverse and unpredictable, and full of the divine laughter that made it both deadly serious and hilariously funny. It invaded our musical selves-in-formation and led to insatiable ﬁxation. Of course, we were among many trying to internalize Monk and make him part of us. This chapter harvests fruits of our Monk incubation, and the friendship built partly from it.
Here we also position Monk to represent the multiplicity of jazz, some-thing for which no one artist or performance is suited, and yet, for the same reasons Time chose him, no one is as well suited as he. Our aim is not so much to depict the dimensions of Monk’s style as it is to show what he was able to achieve on one particular occasion. We consider a renowned April 1957 solo piano recording of “I Should Care” (hereafter ISC) , a song composed around 1944 as a number for the boilerplate Hollywood movie Thrill of a Romance and known to the public through recordings by Jimmy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, and others. It appeared repeatedly on the 1947 hit parade and was almost immediately adopted by Monk, (pianist) Bud Powell, and myriad other players.
Our choice of a “standard,” rather than one of Monk’s numerous seminal original compositions, is deliberate, allowing us to focus on the deeply symbiotic relationship between Monk and the jazz mainstream, a microcosm of the relationship between jazz and American popular music as a whole.
Monk’s decision to create a personalized, at least seemingly improvised (though in fact hardly at all) rendition of a popular song is itself “standard” practice for jazz. In general Monk’s taste in standards leaned toward the popular music of his youth, but he seems to have had a particular fascination with ISC: he recorded it at least four times for as many record labels, over a span of twenty years. Our chosen ISC is especially concentrated and allows us to frame Monk’s idiolect against the background of some of the era’s musical conventions and their milieu.
Jazz, Monk, and Modern Jazz Technique
Jazz and Jazz Analysis
In the United States jazz was long ago pronounced “America’s classical music,” a phrase used so often as to now elude original attribution. Many Americans regard this African-American form as a birthright and know it when they hear it, even if hard-pressed to say what it is that makes it “it.” Born in late nineteenth-century New Orleans, it long ago permeated global culture, provoking cultural responses by the 1920s in places as distant as Japan and China.
To have even a passing acquaintance with Western culture is to have some awareness of jazz as an idea involving musical self-expression through improvisation. Beyond the “jazz buﬀs” that live in every country, this awareness can be expressed in indirect, idiosyncratic ways: a “jazzy” turn of phrase in a Bollywood production number, a rural Japanese man belting Sinatra-style while fronting his local high school’s jazz band, or a lip-synching crooner in a Manila transvestite bar. These and thousands of other appropriations attest to jazz’s potency.
Jazz history is often described in terms of a series of fast-morphing eras (until a pluralistic stasis set in after the mid ’70s)—Dixieland, hot jazz, swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, free jazz, fusion, and so on—whose musics evolved but were also retained in coexistence. Throughout, it has been girded by poly-rhythmic, cyclical, repetitive principles tracing back to the West African music of slave ancestors, the dialects of song and rhythm in earlier African-American music (the blues, spirituals, etc.), the strophic ballad and popular song forms of Anglo-America, and the harmony and instruments of European art music. Jazz digested, synthesized, and transformed all of these.
The bebop style of Monk’s era was typically played by combos of up to six players comprised of piano, stand-up bass, drum trap set, and possibly electric guitar (all comprising the rhythm section) , fronted by saxophone(s), trumpet(s), or trombone(s). Most performances use the melody or “head’” of a popular song or a newly composed tune to launch solo improvisations stated over the tune’s cyclically repeated harmonies, which are rendered by the rhythm section in constantly changing accompaniment patterns.
Rhythm section members also take solos. Bebop players such as Charlie Parker (saxophone), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), and Bud Powell (piano) perfected a vocabulary of scales and patterns that brought out the color and quality of the “changes” (the chord sequence) while ﬂying far from the original melody.
Jazz is improvisation, and the image of the spontaneously creative soloist, playing instinctually, is powerful. Some players can and do spin off very different solos from take to take and/or from night to night, but most draw from a personal lexicon of phrases, large and small, that constitute a player’s style. The degree to which great improvisers plan their solos varies, and the line between improvisation and composition is ﬂuid. Aﬁcionados have always known this, but today the ready availability of myriad “alternate takes” by Charlie Parker, Monk, and innumerable others proves that jazz improvisation can be a highly calculated act. The ﬁxed, solo arrangement of ISC we selected is a case in point.
Jazz analysis, like all analysis, begins with listening, and is a multistage process proceeding from general stylistic features to consideration of players’ own styles, and ﬁnally to the details of a performance.
Knowledgeable listeners weigh a critical mass of musical markers including instrumentation, form, harmony, tempo, and rhythmic subdivision to identify and appreciate individual players. Even should such a listener ﬁrst hear a recording of ISC “blind-folded”—that is, without being told who is playing—and fail to recognize Monk’s musical signatures, he or she could still place the music at circa 1945-1965. This was an era encompassing related styles (bebop, cool, West Coast, and more) that we refer to for convenience as the era of modern jazz.
The integrity of any durable genre rests on the tensile strength of its basic principles; Monk’s relationship to modern jazz is a characteristic one of testing these strengths. Among the features relevant to this performance are certain types of harmonic and rhythmic complexity seen in relation to musical form, and a range of ways of laying these out on the piano keyboard. To analyze ISC in terms of these features, we will ﬁrst survey their treatment in the genre. Then it can emerge how Monk mobilizes rhythm (especially ﬂ fluctuations of tempo) and harmony on the one hand, while retaining form and melody on the other, to create a layered, asymmetrical reading of this standard song.
We later refer to a full transcription (ﬁgures 4.5 and 4.6) through which we can ﬁ x the performance in our minds at a glance. But even though we made every eﬀort to make it accurate in pitch and harmony (though one can never be sure) and urge the reader to play it, not even a note-perfect performance will make it sound like Monk. This is because he plays with an embodied hand and ﬁnger pianism that even neurological and psychological description could hardly capture, let alone conventional music notation.
Monk’s touch at the keyboard vividly shapes surface rhythm and the envelope of the sound—its attack and decay contour. Playing it is worth doing, how-ever, to encounter the sonic diversity of his style and wealth of unexpected piano sonorities.
Form and Fusion
ISC is composed in one of a small number of easily recognizable thirty-two-measure popular song types of the era (the top staff of ﬁgure 4.1 gives the melody). It consists of two sixteen-measure periods that are parallel, in the sense that the ﬁrst eight measures of each are identical and the second eight differ. This can be thought of formally as ABAC, in which each letter designates eight bars of melody and chords (actually the very ﬁrst measures of B and C are also the same). Songs of this genre were written to be recorded by professionals and, if successful, were published as sheet music for amateurs.
The sheet music arrangements, distributing the tones of the chords in various ways on the keyboard, were dispensable, but the harmonies were also represented by shorthand chord symbols (about which more below).
A lead sheet consisting of these symbols over a single staff with the notated melody circulated among jazz players; a version of this can be seen by combining the top staff of ﬁgure 4.1 with the ﬁrst row of symbols below the second staff. This version is from The Real Book, a latter-day “fake book” (originally a samizdat anthology of lead sheets for standard tunes and modern jazz compositions).
The “double period” form of ISC stems from European models. In non-jazz performances, such as for ﬁlm or singers’ nightclub acts, the songs last only as long as their words; that is, the music is read oﬀ the arranger or com-poser’s notation and repeated (with preplanned small variants) as many times as necessary to sing the entire lyric. This is as it would be in many a Brahms Lied or an aria da capo in Mozart opera.
But jazz is a deep fusion of European and African music. This integration of independent, but in many ways compatible, musical systems was not only an ingenious cultural project directly contradicting the segregated social realities of America, but could be seen as providing that society with a compelling model of how to overcome those difficulties.
Jazz harmony has roots in African melody based on ﬂexible, unstandardized ﬁ ve- or seven-tone scales, but it acquired new depth of ﬁeld (the range of colors and sensations of unique relation to a stabilizing “tonic” center that harmony evokes) by ingesting Europe’s twelve-tone chromatic scale and its system of functional harmonic progressions. At a time when European composers largely eschewed it, jazz took up the mantle of enriching functional harmony.
Figure 4.1. Melody and four harmonizations of I Should Care, with chord roots and harmonic functions.
Figure 4.1 (continued)
Jazz form evolved to become a cycle of harmonies reminiscent of analogous (though briefer) cycles in much African music, as well as in circular European forms based on a repeating bass line, such as the passacaglia. African cycles are conﬁgured with rhythmic and melodic patterns. These are given multiple, varied repetition, with the patterns locked in and aligned with the unchanging cyclic structure. Such isoperiodicity also deﬁnes most jazz, with regularly recurring chord progressions (“changes”) instead of rhythms or melodies.
Variation may last for as many cycles (isoperiods) as the soloist per-forms, organized by the harmonies linked to the cycle. Cycle and progression, seemingly as contradictory as circle and line, thus reconcile.
So that Monk’s style can soon be broached, let us pause to clarify our usage of three terms already in play:
• Harmony: one of three essential functions of motion or rest perceived from pitch combinations at a given place in the form. These are the stable tonic (T) and the unstable dominant (D; leading to a tonic) or subdominant (S; leading to a dominant). • Chord: speciﬁc root (fundamental tone) and quality (interval structure and sound) of a harmony speciﬁ ed by the lead sheet. • Voicing: the speciﬁc, registrated pitches used to realize a chord.
Harmonic progression in European art music evolved from a conception of counterpoint that wove the simultaneous tones of concurrent melodies into a few stable chordal structures while retaining nuances like anticipation, suspension, and other kinds of melodic dissonances—tones that do not belong to a stable chord and that must resolve to those that do, else the tone combination parses as unstable. Stable chords contain only three tones in European practice. Such triads come in and out of focus when the music’s polyphonic strands either line up or diverge.
Counterpoint oversees the management of dissonance, and this process, at various orders of magnitude, generates both harmony and form in great variety. Western music’s variation forms, similar to jazz in some ways, act to restrain this tendency. But more culturally signiﬁcant and musically distinctive is the fact that counterpoint, with its prolongation of dissonance and harmonic progression, historically urged Western music in extremis to long operas, symphonies, and other noncyclical structures. In jazz, counterpoint and dissonance shape melodic lines and chord progressions, but cyclic structure prevails.
The role of harmony is to identify, with particular colors (i.e., chords and voicings), the region of the cycle through which one is passing. Jazz harmonies are glued to their positions; nothing can dislodge them. It is not the chords themselves that are glued there, but their harmonic functions, and this allows (as we shall see) for many ways to substitute diﬀerent chords of equivalent function, or to severely alter chords so long as their function is preserved. The functions have such a forceful progressive logic that the practiced ear can distinguish which of the many tones that may be sounding are operative in establishing the harmony, and which are more or less ornamental.
Even if crucial tones are absent, expert listeners can infer harmonic function from the context.
What identiﬁes harmonies and how they are realized in sound must thus not be thought of as the same thing; indeed, the two can vary seemingly to the point of severing their relationship—but not quite.
Harmonic Principles and Chords
Songs like ISC are composed in the tonality of one of the twelve equal- tempered chromatic notes, and end with tonic harmony, though some, like ISC, do not begin with it. The tonality, which may be major or minor in quality, shifts ﬂuidly and temporarily at many points in the cycle. We restrict discussion to ISC’s home key of D major for illustration; ﬁgure 4.2a shows the root-position triads (major, minor, or diminished) in open note heads with Roman numerals, indicating the scale tone that is the root of the chord, on the ﬁrst line below the staff.
The second line below the staff labels each with tonic (T), dominant (D), or subdominant (S) function. With rare exceptions, a jazz chord has a harmonic meaning only if it can be conﬁ dently heard as having one of these three functions. Thus III and VII chords are rare in jazz major keys because the former is function-ally ambiguous and the role of the latter is understood as a weak version of V.
In fact, each of the S, T, and D functions is normally linked to a single chord, which progresses to one of the others strongly because their roots are a ﬁfth apart: II for S, V for D, and I for T. IV and VI chords are very often heard as equivalent to ii (note that the roots of ii, IV, and VI together form a II triad). The constituent tones of III, IV, VI, and vii chords may appear as voicings of other chords, or the chords may function in other keys where they play the roles of II, V, or I.
Jazz chords and voicings were inﬂuenced both by the tonal language of other African-American forms such as the blues, and by the sonorities of early twentieth-century French composers like Debussy and Ravel.
Evolving style came to allow sevenths (tones that are the interval of a seventh above the root; shown with black note heads) not to be considered dissonant, and to inhere to virtually all chords.
This is also true of many other nontriad tones (ﬁgures 4.2b and 4.3), but sevenths are essential and assumed. Adding them to triads produces seventh chords of various distinctive qualities depending on the type of the triad and the size of the seventh. The major seventh chord (labeled M7) has a major triad plus major seventh. The dominant seventh chord (labeled 7) is the same but with a minor seventh. The minor seventh chord (m7) has a minor triad plus minor seventh, and in the half-diminished seventh chord (m7b5) the minor seventh is joined to a diminished triad.
These are labeled in the fourth line below the main staff of ﬁgure 4.2a.
Mention of the half-diminished seventh chord occasions a brief diversion into the role of major and minor tonalities in jazz. The exact nature of this relationship is multifarious, varying from era to era and player to player, and intertwined with devices absorbed from other practices such as the blues. As with much European tonality, the distinction between major and minor modes is retained as an overall aﬀect—in other words, tunes are one or the other—but in actual practice the two freely commingle. In essence, this comes down to the unique case of the half-diminished seventh chord, built on the second degree of the minor scale.
Consider that in D major in jazz, one may often encounter an E-rooted seventh chord that uses Bb, from D minor, instead of B, making the chord a half-diminished seventh rather than a minor seventh. Also, as shown above the staﬀ in ﬁgure 4.2a, the VII chord in D major has the same root and half- diminished-seventh quality of the II7 chord in B minor, so it can be used to temporarily change to that key, or even to B major. And by playing a half- diminished seventh when a tonic function is expected, jazz musicians can create a chain of II–V progressions. This is our ﬁrst example of “chord substitution,” a principle of harmonic modularity at the core of jazz practice (see “Chords and Voicings” below).
In jazz, motion from S to D to T functions usually reﬂ ects root motion by ﬁfth, as in the iconic ii–V–I progression. Mastery of jazz harmony involves the ability to manipulate ii–V–I in all keys and combinations. In D major, II–V–I is most simply expressed as Em7–A7–DM7, which occurs twice right at the beginning of ISC, but the same functional progression, transposed and with substitutions, occurs in many places throughout the song. In the fake book (the lead sheet) version shown in the second staﬀ of ﬁgure 4.1, the vocabulary is varied, close to what an accomplished player might actually play, and the progression is sometimes interrupted. For example, the II–V in mm. 8 and 24 suggest that a richly chromatic F major is coming, but the progression is not allowed to complete.
Measures 17-20 bring a dovetailed chain of II–V motions, each one leading to the next, as the arrows show. All staves of ﬁgure 4.1 and all harmony in ISC can be explained in II–V–I terms.
Dominant function chords contain the crucial interval of the diminished ﬁfth (also known as the tritone) between the third and seventh. In the A7 chord, this means C#7 and G. The tritone’s distinctive sound is absent from major and minor seventh chords, but their occasional substitutes, the bor-rowed half-diminished seventh and the dominant seventh sonority itself—which does double duty as tonic in blues forms—include it. The interval impels forward motion in II–V–I progressions, which sometimes concatenate and elide into strings of descending tritones in inner voices, creating, if art-fully done, a spinning vortex of dominant resolutions. The approach to and departure from the tritone is more expansive in the music of Monk’s era—and certainly to an even greater degree in Monk’s own music—than it is in classical music; it is without question the most important source of the feeling of harmonic progression in the music.
The tritone is the structural hub orienting and ordering the tremendous vocabulary of idiomatic chord voicings.
We Will Meet Again is an album by jazz pianist Bill Evans made for Warner Bros. Records in 1979. It is notable in that it is Evans’s last studio recording.
After the suicide of Bill Evans’ older brother, Harry, earlier in 1979, Bill made this album with his brother in mind, “We Will Meet Again” is addressed to Harry.
Just after Harry’s suicide, Bill Evans started a relationship with a Canadian waitress called Laurie Verchomin, the track “Laurie” is named after her. Laurie eventually took care of Bill Evans until his death, she was the last person he saw before he died.
At the Grammy Awards of 1981, I Will Say Goodbye won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo and We Will Meet Again won the Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Group awards.
The Allmusic review awarded the album 4 stars.
Several compositions of Bill Evans were dedicated to beloved persons in his environment:
“Waltz For Debby” for his three year old niece Debby, daughter of his brother Harry. “We Will Meet Again” for his brother Harry. “Peri’s Scope” for his black girlfriend Peri Cousins. She joined Bill in tours of the southern US inquiring the various hotels to see if they accepted guests of both colors. “B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine) for his girlfriend Ellaine Schultz. “For Nenette” for his wife Nenette Zazarra, whom he married in 1973. “Maxine” for stepdaughter Maxine, daughter from a previous marriage of Nenette. “Letter To Evan” for his son Evan, born in 1975. “Laurie” for his last girlfriend Laurie Verchomin. “We Will Meet Again” on the suicide of his older brother Harry.
“Song For Helen” and “One For Helen” for his lifelong manager Helen Keane. “Knit For Mary F” for a friend, Mary Frankson , who was a big fan, who made beautiful sweaters for him and the Evans family. “Re: Person I Knew” perhaps an anagram of the name of his Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews. The song “N.Y.C.’s No Lark” on “Conversations With Myself” is an anagram for pianist Sonny Clark’s name, like “Yet Ne’er Broken” for his cocaine supplier Robert Kenney. “Tiffany” is dedicated to drummer Joe LaBarbera’s daughter when she was 10 days old. She later wrote a lyric herself to Bill’s melody. “Comrade Conrad”, a tune Bill had written for Crest touthpaste. It had never been worked out. He dedicated it later to a photographer friend of Bill and Ellaine, Conrad Mendenhall , who was killed in a car accident.
The story of the “bootleg tape” of Bill Evans which Marc Johnson has been holding on for years after Bill’s death in 1980. “Here is Something For You” and “Evanesque” that Marc’s wife, the pianist Eliane Elias, transcribed from the original tape (FaceCulture, 2007).
Bill Evans’ compositions, arranged alphabetically:
• B Minor Waltz • Bill’s Belle • Bill’s Hit Tune • Blue In Green • C Minor Blues Chase • Carnival • Catch The Wind • Children’s Play Song • Chromatic Tune • Comrade Conrad • Displacement • Epilogue • Evanesque (posthumous) • Five • For Nenette • Fudgesickle Built For Two • Fun Ride • Funkallero • Funny Man • G Waltz • Here Is Something For You (posthumous) • In April • Interplay • It’s Love – It’s Christmas • Knit For Mary F • Laurie • Letter To Evan • Loose Blues • Maxine • My Bells • N.Y.C.’s No Lark • One For Helen • Only Child
• Orbit • Peace Piece • Peri’s Scope • Prologue • Re: Person I Knew • Remembering The Rain • Show Type Tune • A Simple Matter Of Conviction • Since We Met • 34 Skidoo • Song For Helen • Story Line • Song No.1 (posthumous) • Sugar Plum • The Opener • Theme (What You Gave) • There Came You • These Things Called Changes • Tiffany • Time Remembered • Turn Out The Stars • T.T.T. • T.T.T.T. • The Two Lonely People • Very Early • Very Little Suite • Walkin’ Up • Waltz For Debby • Waltz In Eb • We Will Meet Again • Yet Ne’er Broken • Your Story
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Erroll Louis Garner (June 15, 1921 – January 2, 1977) was an American jazz pianist and composer known for his swing playing and ballads. His best-known composition, the ballad “Misty”, has become a jazz standard. Scott Yanow of Allmusic calls him “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” and a “brilliant virtuoso.” He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6363 Hollywood Blvd. His live album, Concert by the Sea, first released in 1955, sold over a million copies by 1958 and Scott Yanow’s opinion is: “this is the album that made such a strong impression that Garner was considered immortal from then on.”
Garner was born with his twin brother Ernest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1921, the youngest of six children in an African-American family. He attended George Westinghouse High School (as did fellow pianists Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal). Interviews with his family and music teachers (and with other musicians), plus a detailed family tree are given in Erroll Garner: The Most Happy Piano by James M Doran.
Garner began playing piano at the age of three. His elder siblings were taught piano by Miss Bowman. From an early age, Erroll would sit down and play anything she had demonstrated, just like Miss Bowman, his eldest sister Martha said.[ Garner was self-taught and remained an “ear player” all his life, never learning to read music. At age seven, he began appearing on the radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh with a group called the Candy Kids. By age 11, he was playing on the Allegheny riverboats. In 1937 he joined local saxophonist Leroy Brown.
He played locally in the shadow of his older pianist brother Linton Garner.
Garner moved to New York City in 1944. He briefly worked with the bassist Slam Stewart, and though not a bebop musician per se, in 1947 played with Charlie Parker on the “Cool Blues” session. Although his admission to the Pittsburgh music union was initially refused because of his inability to read music, it relented in 1956 and made him an honorary member. Garner is credited with a superb musical memory. After attending a concert by the Russian classical pianist Emil Gilels, Garner returned to his apartment and was able to play a large portion of the performed music by recall.
Garner made many tours both at home and abroad, and regularly recorded. He was, reportedly, The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s favorite jazz musician, appearing on Carson’s show many times over the years.
Garner died of cardiac arrest related to emphysema on January 2, 1977. He is buried in Pittsburgh’s Homewood Cemetery
Short in stature (5 feet 2 inches [157 cm]), Garner performed sitting on multiple telephone directories. He was also known for his vocalizations while playing, which can be heard on many of his recordings. He helped to bridge the gap for jazz musicians between nightclubs and the concert hall.
Called “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” by Scott Yanow, Garner showed that a “creative jazz musician can be very popular without watering down his music” or changing his personal style. He has been described as a “brilliant virtuoso who sounded unlike anyone else”, using an “orchestral approach straight from the swing era but … open to the innovations of bop.” His distinctive style could swing like no other, but some of his best recordings are ballads, such as his best-known composition, “Misty”, which rapidly became a jazz standard – and was featured in Clint Eastwood’s film Play Misty for Me (1971).
Garner may have been inspired by the example of Earl Hines, a fellow Pittsburgh resident but 18 years his senior, and there were resemblances in their elastic approach to timing and use of right-hand octaves. Garner’s early recordings also display the influence of the stride piano style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. He developed a signature style that involved his right hand playing behind the beat while his left strummed a steady rhythm and punctuation, creating insouciance and tension. The independence of his hands also was evidenced by his masterful use of three-against-four and more complicated cross-rhythms between the hands. Garner would also improvise whimsical introductions—often in stark contrast to the rest of the tune—that left listeners in suspense as to what the piece would be. His melodic improvisations generally stayed close to the theme while employing novel chord voicings.
Pianist Ross Tompkins described Garner’s distinctiveness as due to ‘happiness’.
Garner’s first recordings were made in late 1944 at the apartment of Timme Rosenkrantz; these were subsequently issued as the five-volume Overture to Dawn series on Blue Note Records. His recording career advanced in the late 1940s when several sides such as “Fine and Dandy”, “Skylark” and “Summertime” were cut. His 1955 live album Concert by the Sea was a best-selling jazz album in its day and features Eddie Calhoun on bass and Denzil Best on drums. This recording of a performance at the Sunset Center, a former school in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, was made using relatively primitive sound equipment, but for George Avakian the decision to release the recording was easy.
In 1954 Garner composed “Misty”, first recording it in 1955 for the album Contrasts. Lyrics were later added by Johnny Burke. “Misty” rapidly became popular, both as a jazz standard and as the signature song of Johnny Mathis. It was also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Stevens and Aretha Franklin. Clint Eastwood used it as the basis for his thriller Play Misty For Me.
One World Concert was recorded at the 1962 Seattle World Fair (and in 1959 stretching out in the studios) and features Eddie Calhoun on bass and Kelly Martin on drums. Other works include 1951’s Long Ago and Far Away, 1953’s Erroll Garner at the Piano with Wyatt Ruther and Fats Heard, 1957’s The Most Happy Piano, 1970’s Feeling Is Believing and 1974’s Magician, on which Garner performs a number of classic standards. Often the trio was expanded to add Latin percussion, usually a conga.
In 1964, Garner appeared in the UK on the music series Jazz 625 broadcast on the BBC’s new second channel. The programme was hosted by Steve Race, who introduced Garner’s trio with Eddie Calhoun on bass and Kelly Martin on drums.
Because Garner could not write down his musical ideas, he used to record them on tape, to be later transcribed by others.
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This LP comes from a live 1975 concert by the Bill Evans Trio, which was broadcast by Radio Suisse in Switzerland. The pianist is in superb form, joined by longtime bassist Eddie Gomez and newcomer Eliot Zigmund on drums. The sound is excellent, without the annoying announcers or distortion, so this release could have very well been produced from the master tape itself. The set is wide-ranging, including both recent and older compositions by Evans, “Gloria’s Step” (the best-known work by former Evans sideman Scott LaFaro, who died far too young), along with standards like a buoyant “My Romance.
” The leader’s treatment of his ballad “Turn Out the Stars” is rather upbeat, while his somewhat avant-garde composition “T.T.T.T.” (also known as “Twelve Tone Tune Two”) is a modern masterpiece. Perhaps the greatest surprise was Evans‘ inventive treatment of pop singer Bobbie Gentry‘s “Morning Glory.”
This CD comes from a live 1975 concert by the Bill Evans Trio, which was broadcast by Radio Suisse in Switzerland. The pianist is in superb form, joined by longtime bassist Eddie Gomez and newcomer Eliot Zigmund on drums.
The sound is excellent, without the annoying announcers or distortion, so this release could have very well been produced from the master tape itself. The set is wide-ranging, including both recent and older compositions by Evans, “Gloria’s Step” (the best known work by former Evans sideman Scott LaFaro, who died far too young), along with standards like a buoyant “My Romance.” The leader’s treatment of his ballad “Turn Out the Stars” is rather upbeat, while his somewhat avant-garde composition “T.T.T.T.” (also known as “Twelve Tone Tune Two”) is a modern masterpiece. Perhaps the greatest surprise was Evans’ inventive treatment of pop singer Bobbie Gentry’s “Morning Glory.”
The only real problem with this CD is the sloppy composer credits on two numbers. This 1990 release may be somewhat difficult to find, but it is one of the better bootlegs issued under Bill Evans’ name. — Ken Dryden, Rovi.
01 Sugar Plum 07:27
02 Midnight Mood 08:23
03 Turn Out The Stars 04:56
04 Gloria's Step 07:09
05 Up With The Lark 06:19
06 Twelve Toned Tune 07:10
07 Morning Glory 04:25
08 Sareen Jurer 06:59
09 Time Remembered 05:38
10 My Romance 07:54
11 Waltz For Debby 05:58
12 Yesterday I Heard The Rain 05:42
Bill Evans, piano
Eddie Gomez, bass
Eliot Zigmund, drums
Epalinges, Switzerland, 6th February 1975
Bill Evans was on an upswing in 1968. There had been tragedy and depression and demons to bear, but the jazz pianist had made his way forward over the previous few years. He had collaborated fruitfully with such peers as Jim Hall, gained a devoted new manager, signed with the high-profile Verve label, and won his first Grammy Award. Evans had also developed rapport with a virtuoso young bassist, Eddie Gomez, and they eventually added an up-and-coming force of a drummer, Jack DeJohnette, for a new trio — one that seemed to hold a dynamic promise that the pianist’s groups hadn’t quite shown since his famously inspired trio with drummer Paul Motian and short-lived bassist Scott LaFaro in 1959–61.
A European tour by Evans, Gomez, and DeJohnette in the summer of ’68 would yield an ebullient live album, At the Montreux Jazz Festival, that garnered the pianist his second Grammy. Then Miles Davis broke up the band.
That is, Davis lured DeJohnette away to his own group. Evans could scarcely blame the drummer for leaving him to join the era’s most iconic jazz bandleader. After all, the pianist had made his own name as the trumpeter’s kindred-spirit collaborator on Kind of Blue, the LP that would turn on more people to jazz than any in music history. (DeJohnette would end up playing on Davis’s Bitches Brew, an album almost as epochal for the late sixties as Kind of Blue was for the late fifties.)
But it seemed like a missed opportunity, as the Evans trio with DeJohnette and Gomez, having been together for just six months, was only able to make that one live recording, nothing in the studio. Or at least that’s the way the story went until 2016, when Resonance Records released Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest, a two-disc set derived from impromptu recordings made by the trio in a German studio just five days after that celebrated Montreux concert.
For reasons not quite clear, the recordings had never been issued before Resonance’s sleuthing. But all’s well that ends well, at least for today’s Bill Evans fans.
Then lightning struck twice. Last year, Resonance followed up Some Other Time by releasing a second, contemporaneous discovery: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert, which presents a pristine recording of Evans, Gomez, and DeJohnette performing for an audience in the intimate hall of the Netherlands Radio Union, just two days after that studio session in Germany. Moreover, the set list for that Dutch broadcast recording only features two numbers in common with the Montreux concert from the week before. Suddenly, we have two valuable “new” albums — recordings never even bootlegged before — by one of the most beloved and widely influential pianists in the annals of jazz.
“Bill Evans has shaped the harmony of every jazz pianist of the past fifty years, whether they want to admit it or not — because even if they didn’t listen to Bill, they listened to players who did listen to him, from Herbie Hancock on down,” says ace jazz pianist Frank Kimbrough, who teaches at the Juilliard School. “And for the public, the beauty of his music, particularly his early work, has always been accessible — easy to listen to, even if it isn’t ‘easy listening.’”