Monday, September 12, 2016

6.) Stars Fell On Alabama

Hello!  Remember me?  Remember this project?  It's been way too long since I've posted.  Needless to say, I'm way behind and I'm definitely leaving behind the idea that this will be done in a year.  August was difficult for this project.  I spent a week at the Kushi Institute playing music with bassist Thomas Morgan.  It was great.  When I returned home, my parents were visiting, and we painted our kitchen cabinets and did some hiking, swimming, and eating out.  After they left we continued to do some painting.  Then it was time to get our teaching schedules worked out.  So it's been busy.

I actually had this arrangement completed before I went to the Kushi Institute, but I didn't begin learning it and memorizing it until after my parents left.  And that's the most difficult part, as I've mentioned before.  Plus I've been soaking up all the end of summer in the Hudson Valley as I can.  It's been great.  I didn't rush to learn this one, and I didn't rush to get the recorder out.  It actually made it much easier when I started recording today.  I just knew the arrangement better.  

I've always been a fairly disciplined person.  I like routines.  I like to set myself up on a schedule of activities or courses of study and stick to them.  I did that for my piano practice in college, for yoga practice, meditation practice, as well as all these internet projects.  New York City helps with that sort of thing.  There's not much nature to get you out of the house, going places is mostly a pain in the ass, and there are amazing musicians doing amazing things all around you.  Well, now living upstate, things are a little different.  Many of my other interests are demanding my time.  Although I'm still close to NYC and still involved in playing there, I'm not immediately surrounded by musicians who's successes make me feel like a failure if I take a day off.  I'm quite happy about this actually, but it's just interesting to note the effects of this change.  

When I was in college, it was about learning jazz vocabulary and learning to physically play piano.  It was the building materials.  Of course that never stops completely.  But post school has been much more about getting inspired to use those building materials in a personal way.  And often the inspiration is coming from sources outside of music.  If you think about it, music would be pretty dull if it existed in its own bubble separate from the other arts, nature, and the rest of life.  I'm feeling super inspired by my surroundings now, but there isn't as much of a feeling of urgency with the work.  I'm okay with that, as long as you are.  What's the rush?  I'm a fourth done with this project now.  There's a long way to go.  But I'm excited about it.  And I'm starting to feel the desire for creative expansion.  There's plenty to expand upon within the parameters of "straight ahead" solo piano arrangements and I plan to stick to the format.  As my ideas are "used up" a contraction occurs and new things are squeezed out.  

The sixth song is Stars Fell On Alabama, music by Frank Perkins, lyrics by Mitchell Parish.  I learned this song years ago from the album Cannonball and Coltrane.  I love the way Cannonball Adderly plays this tune on that record.  I checked out the first recording version by Guy Lombardo, as well as several others, including Sinatra again.   They're all good.  This tune is pretty hard to screw up.  (Let me try though!)  It's just a good melody.  About 15 years ago I made a little home recording at school of a few tunes that I gave my relatives for Christmas.  Stars Fell on Alabama was on it, and it was my grandma's favorite.  A couple of older friends of mine have heard me practicing this arrangement and they all know the tune well.  It's just a classic.  

I tried incorporating the lyrics, or at least the title, into my arrangment with some possibly corny "falling" motifs.  The intro has some improvised "stars falling", and there is a continual descending theme happening, first in the bassline, then in a middle voice.  I reversed the direction of it in the last A section with a sequence of ascending harmonic seconds.  I think I've heard this sort of thing called word painting.  It's fun, and hopefully not too obvious.  Another fun thing about the lyrics that you won't get from my arrangement - you'll have to check out some vocal versions - is the necessity of some sort of east coast or old fashioned accent in order to make the lyrics rhyme with Alabama.  

We lived our little drama (dräma)
We kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night
I can't forget the glamour (glamah)
Your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night
I never planned in my imagination
A situation so heavenly
A fairy land where no one else could enter
And in the center just you and me, dear
My heart beat like a hammer (hammah)
My arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night