Sunday, January 05, 2014

How to play Dear Old Stockholm

Dear Old Stockholm is the English title of a traditional Swedish song, which, you are probably aware, has become a jazz standard. I don't know who first started playing it as a jazz tune, but Miles Davis's version (arranged by Stan Getz, according to Wikipedia) is to me the definitive one. Recorded by Davis in 1952, and again, with embellishments, in 1955, the arrangement has some bells and whistles, and tweaks to the tune's very basic original form, which is why we're talking about it today. So go ahead and download and print out the pdf, and let's begin:

Go ahead and give the recording a few listens-through with the printed pdf:

After the break we'll get into this for real:

It's important to know the simple AABA tune underlying all of this activity, so let's give this a listen:

The form here is:
A - 8 bars | A - 8 bars | bridge - 4 bars | A - 8 bars 

The Miles version modifies that with a little four-measure rhythmic figure (I'll refer to it as a vamp, even though it isn't quite, technically) played at the beginning of the piece, and after the first two A sections. It also has a shortened, 6-measure final A section, and an added 9-measure tag. So the complete form ends up looking like this:

intro - 4-8 bars | A+vamp - 8+4 bars | A+vamp - 8+4 bars | bridge - 4 bars | A - 6 bars | tag - 9 bars

Often at the beginning of the piece, the vamp will be played an extra time, or actually vamped-on for real— played over and over until someone cues the first A. The vamp and the tag are played with the rhythmic figures every time— on the head and during the solos— the rhythm section will never just play time through those parts, so learning the tune by the play X number of measures approach will be misleading here. In the pdf I've given some examples of how Philly Joe Jones sets up the ensemble figures in those sections. Pay special attention to how he plays the vamp at the end of the A sections— to me, it's fairly iconic— the 8th note on the floor tom is played straight, not swung.

On the solos, the form is, with the same numbers of measures as above:

A+vamp  | A+vamp  | bridge | A | tag

You'll notice that there are some figures given at the beginning of the A section; those are played only during the solos, and only on the first A of each chorus. On the repeat, just play time. The figure at the top of the staff is played during the bass solo, and the dotted-quarter note figure is played during the horn solos; Philly Joe generally ends it with a hip thing on the snare drum, which I've transcribed for you. I don't hear those figures played anywhere but on the Miles record, but they're so cool that you should know them; if you put them in, knowledgeable players will appreciate that you've done your homework, and will join you in playing them.

Here are some more recordings of the tune, which I encourage you to get to know. The 1952 Miles recording, released on Blue Note:

Another well-known recording, by Paul Chambers, from 1957:

Here's Stan Getz in 1959. You can hear that Stan almost skips the vamp (at 0:27) and goes into the second A, but the rhythm section plays the vamp, and he follows them:

The Steve Kuhn Trio uses Miles's arrangement elements at the beginning and end of the piece only; they play the vamp at the beginning, and the tag at the very end, but the head and solos are just the straight AABA tune. You can sense why the vamps were added in our arrangement; moving from section to section feels a little rushed without them.

John Coltrane's quartet with Elvin Jones also recorded the tune in its original form, but uses the Miles vamp as the basis of the solos. It's not available on YouTube, but I suggest you seek it out, if it's not in your record collection already.

Here is another traditional rendition of the tune, originally entitled “Ack Värmeland, du sköna.” The tempo is slower, and there is a little breath between sections, so pacing is not the problem it is when a faster, and strict, jazz tempo is used:

1 comment:

Ed Pierce said...

Nicely done, Todd!