Autumn Leaves

For my second recognizable tune on my next album I wanted to do “Autumn Leaves”, a standard made initially famous when it was sung by Yves Montand.

For the song, I wanted to make it sound a bit like a Mechanical Orchestra, so instead of having one part play the melody, I split it between 4 instruments. Then had them hold the chord which is created.

The second time through, the 4 clarinets are assigned the notes, but given no indication when to come in, sounding a bit like the Mechanical Orchestra has broken down.

For the final time through, a single clarinet plays the melody with the bass clarinet accompanying.

These are the original French lyrics for “Les Feuilles Mortes” by “Realist” poet Jacques PrĂ©vert, translated by google translate. This is the version Yves Montand sang in the soundtrack to the movie, “Les Portes de la nuit”.

Oh, I wanted you to remember
Happy days where we were friends
At that time life was more beautiful
And the sun is more hot than today
Dead leaves gathered by shovel
You see, I have not forgotten
Dead leaves gathered by shovel
Memories and regrets also
And the north wind prevails,
In the cold night of oblivion
You see I have not forgotten,
The song you were singing
Dead leaves gathered by shovel
Memories and regrets too,
But my silent and faithful love
Still smiles and thanks life

I loved you so much, you were so pretty,
How do you want me to forget you?
At that time life was more beautiful
And the sun is more hot than today
You were my sweetest friend
But I do not regret
And the song you were singing,
Always, always I will hear it
This song reminds me of us,
You loved me, I loved you
And we lived, both together,
You who loved me, I who loved you
But life separates those who love each other,
Gently, without making noise
And the sea erases on the sand
The footsteps of disunited lovers

The American songwriter, Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics most associated with the tune “Autumn Leaves”, and performed by a wide variety of Jazz and Pop vocalists, from Jo Stafford to Frank Sinatra to The Everly Brothers. They’re a little lame, in comparison to the French lyrics.

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

16.June.2016

When I get frustrated with my ability to play the “right” notes, I take some time off to play the “left” notes, instead.

When I was putting my bass clarinet together, I noticed that the sound of the keys closing was pretty cool and kind of similar to the sound of the African instrument called the Mbira.

So I recorded the keys closing as the percussion track for this tune. Now I just need to figure out how to use Audacity to make a loop out of it.

Bluesette

So, this is the first arrangement I wrote fully on my own.

I transcribed Jean ‘Toots’ Theileman’s Bluesette and wrote the Bass Clarinet and Second Soprano Clarinet part based on the key changes.

I think it is kind of fun, it has a propulsive, merry-go-round feel that works with the melody. I only wish I knew how to play accordion better, so I could play the bass part on accordion. That would make it really cool.

Tho, playing the bass clarinet part through as many times as it took for me to get it mostly down, gave me a new respect for tuba players. I shall never make fun of the tuba!

Here’s the pdf of the arrangment: Bluesette

It’s a Mystery

William Parker:

Last Question. Do you think that they, whoever “they” are, the writers, the people who document stuff, do you think they’ll ever understand this music the way musicians understand it?

Fred Anderson:

No, because I don’t think nobody understands. (laughs) They can only go by what they hear and what they like and what they don’t like. And I think that is the way they write about it, what they think is good. But I think most musicians that I know, anybody that ever said anything, ever did anything, never was satisfied with what they were doin’. They were searchin’. And I don’t think they really knew what they were doin’. They were still searchin’. And I think it’s been a mystery, just like life. Everybody writes a book and tells you how to do it this way, do that. That’s just their opinion and I don’t think nobody knows. I think life is a mystery. The music is a mystery. I think this whole universe is a mystery. (laughs) We’re talkin’ about somethin’, man, that nobody really understands. But, you’re entitled to your opinion and if you can put it out there and somebody can get something out of it, cool. It’s an individual thing. It’s a mystery. You make these decisions and that’s it. Whatever you leave, you leave it. (laughs) You just have to believe in what you’re doing and stick to it and be consistent and try to do it right and do it the best way as you see it. If somebody can benefit, cool. I’ve benefited from a lot of things that I’ve heard, by applying some of these techniques in my mind. Now that don’t mean that I was right or wrong, but if I did anything, I learned from observance, seeing how things was done. Another thing that taught me a lot of stuff–I didn’t realize that my wife was sick. She could’ve been sick a long, long time before I even met her. But it came upon me to deal with it. So you don’t know man. You just have to deal with the problem. Whatever the problem is, you try to deal with it. Sometimes you can deal with it, sometimes you can’t But that’s it, man. That’s how I see it.


From “Conversations”, a collection of interviews William Parker conducted with various performing artists and composers, published by RogueArt.

When I was young, I really liked music that used the recording studio as an instrument.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to question the value of those sorts of albums which are stitched together in the studio. Those Frankenstein creations where the musicians might or might not even be in the same room (or building).

I think my perception radically changed when I saw Anthony Braxton’s Quartet (Braxton, Crispell, Dresser, Hemingway) at Yoshi’s a number of years ago. I had been collecting Braxton recordings and attempting to understand them without much success. Seeing that band, though, and feeling what was going on between the players, I understood that the music often called “Jazz” is most about the interaction of the players in the moment.

Jazz recordings, at best, are like insects captured in amber.

To be captured in amber, the insect has to die.

Similarly, the spontaneity of the moment and the energy exchange between players, things that are the essential features of a jazz performance, have to be stripped away, in the interest of fidelity and trapping a piece for eternity.

I’ve come to feel that most recordings of Jazz are really just souvenirs, simply reminders of artists I respect and gestures of support for their ongoing struggle to represent their craft against all odds.

The Duke Dreams

Duke Ellington: This Isn't Piano, This Is Dreaming from thisisdreaming.com on Vimeo.

“Where did you get your ideas from?”
“The Ideas? Oh, man, I got a million dreams. It’s all I do is dream. All the time.”
“I thought you played piano.”
“No, no, no, no, no! This is not playing piano, this is dreaming.”
…Duke plays…
“That’s dreaming.”

Horn Players

I was watching last last Jazz Night in America with the Bad Plus and Joshua Redman playing tracks from their new album.

Bad Plus Plus Joshua Redman

Watching, I was struck by how funny it is, that in modern small combo jazz, the horn player often sits there and basically does nothing for what amounts to nearly half of the concert.

The piano, drum, and bass players play the whole night, but the horn player plays during the head and his solos and then just sits out the rest of the concert.

Related, listening to early jazz, Armstrong, Oliver, Bechet, I’ve been paying attention to how the clarinet interacts with the ensemble. It seems like the clarinet is most closely allied with the banjo. While the brass, piano, and drums play mostly on the beat, the clarinet & banjo play contrapuntally and interstitially.

While the horns play the main theme or motif, the clarinet will often play against the theme, or after it, or during breaks in the music. Sort of like the clarinet player is commenting on the theme.

Similarly, in early small combo jazz, the horns don’t sit out, they act as part of the rhythm section when they are not actively soloing.

It’s funny that that custom seems to have been lost in much of modern jazz.