For some reason I have no recollection of when I first heard the wonderful standard Have You Met Miss Jones? by Rodgers and Hart. Ironically, it was sung by Robbie Williams in the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary which starred Renée Zellweger. Needless to say, like so many of our peers, Brenda and I saw the DVD and yet certainly hearing the tune doesn’t ring a bell. Perhaps I heard the tune played by one of my favorite pianists along the way, but I simply don’t recall it.
Despite this fact, I do remember finding the music in one of my Fake Books and figuring out how to play it. Once I did that, it joined the ranks of the songs I simply enjoy playing. It seems to me that like so many of the other tunes by this wonderful songwriting team, Have You Met Miss Jones? has a rich sense of harmony, an interesting melody, a solid structure and offers the opportunity to use the anchor bass in conjunction with walking bass lines.
Written in 1937 for the musical comedy I’d Rather Be Right, it’s not surprising that given the experience of these collaborators Have You Met Miss Jones? is such a solid piece of music. If you’re interested in a much more in-depth commentary about the background of the tune, I would suggest that you take a look at Sandra Burlingame’s informative article.
When it comes to the music though, the variety of interpretations moves me. If you listen to my recording of Have You Met Miss Jones? in the blog post audio player on the right you’ll notice how I savored the richness of the harmonies in my ad lib tempo introduction. After that, the natural evolution for me was to move into the “bass in 2” followed by the walking bass. I then took the opportunity to do something I haven’t done for a long time, and that was to emulate the flavor of a solo that would be played by an upright bassist.
Although some pianists might be able to do this with their left hand, I discovered that if I put my right hand over the left I was able to think more clearly as I was improvising in this style of someone like Ray Brown. As I have told my students many many times, it was those 14 years of playing every Friday and Saturday night at the Radisson Hotel in Milford that my piano style and skill developed and evolved. Nothing happens overnight. So the best advice I can give is to enjoy the learning process.
Interestingly enough, I just realized that Have You Met Miss Jones? was the lead song on Dave McKenna’s solo piano recording entitled Left-Handed Complement. Having seen Dave perform many times at the Copley Plaza hotel in Boston when I was working as solo pianist next-door at the Sheraton, I bought the cassette tape and listen to it in my car often. In addition to this wonderful recording, I found several others.
I mentioned Ray Brown earlier in this article, and his trio rendition featuring Gene Harris at the piano is upbeat, bluesy and really swings. An ensemble called Hofferquattro took a totally different approach to Have You Met Miss Jones? It’s really a samba and boy you can’t help tapping your feet! I like to hear more from these folks. It might surprise you to hear the track by Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias. Rather than give the tune a Bossa Nova treatment, she and her trio play this standard with in a swing tempo.
Of all of the tunes that I featured in this Rodgers and Hart blog series, it seems that my playlist is longer for this great song than any of the others. Perhaps because of the fact that Have You Met Miss Jones? is so inspiring to jazz musicians, it’s less well-known to most of my piano students. It certainly has its challenges to someone learning to play the standards on her keyboard, but it is well worth the effort.
And so at this point, it is with gratitude and perhaps a touch of sadness that I am closing this series of sensational standards created by one of the most wonderful songwriting teams who contributed to the American Popular Songbook: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. I’ve learned a lot, and I hope that you have enjoyed experiencing all of this wonderful music as well. My next series will feature the standards of yet another wonderful American composer of popular song, Hoagy Carmichael.
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