Saturday, April 15, 2017

12.) The Song Is You

The Song Is You is a song I've known for awhile.  I've always liked the tune and the harmony - notably the sound of the modulation coming out of the bridge.  But this tune has always kicked my butt.  It was always difficult for me to improvise on these chords.  So I thought it was worth it to include in the 24 Standards project, you know to tackle the challenge and what not.

Probably what made it difficult for me all those years was that it's often fast.  I best know the Keith Jarrett Trio recording from the album Still Live and they play it very damn fast.  Charlie Parker played it pretty fast too.  For me, improvising at a fast tempo forces me to fall back on rehearsed patterns that my hand and ear know.  I think it's rare to find a musician who can really hear and execute new ideas at burning tempos (Keith is one of them).   This has always caused me to dislike playing fast tempos - which has actually been an issue for my whole career.  I always have an abundance of slow material and I usually have to write a lot before anything fast comes out.  Fast music is overrated, okay.

And when you start checking out these songs historically, with the lyrics in heavy consideration, those fast tempos don't make a lot of sense anyway.  So in returning to The Song Is You, I took the tempo down a bit.   There were a couple recordings that I liked a lot - one was the Frank Sinatra / Tommy Dorsey recording.  (Sorry if this is getting predictable and boring - perhaps I should have done this project exclusively based on the Sinatra / Dorsey recordings.  There just so good!)   Another one I liked was Tony Bennet and Bill Charlap duo.  It's from an album of all Jerome Kern songs.  There is a nice youtube video of Bill playing All The Things You Are (also by Kern) for a radio broadcast and he describes Kern as "The angel at the top of the tree for American popular writers."

So the chord changes always kicked my butt, and arranging the song did too.  This was the first one that I started over a couple times.  I ended up with a little two voice counterpoint at the beginning - something different than I've done so far in this project.  I'd like to tell you that I think it's nice, but in truth I don't know.  At this point of the process (after laboring over the arrangement, then practicing it nearly to death, doing multiple takes to record, listening back, etc.) I've pretty much lost all objectivity.  I'll have to come back to it and listen in a few days and assess.  And even then it won't be the same as how it will sound to me in a few months time.  Fun with the artistic process!

This is number 12.  I'm officially half way through now.  It's not getting easier at this point, but I think that's okay.   I didn't do this because I thought it would be easy.  Thanks for reading and listening!