Mark your calendars for Tuesday, November 3rd when the Ed Mascari Jazz Trio featuring Rebecca Wellons and Marliese Ballon will be presenting a free one hour concert at 7:00 PM at the Hudson Public Library. Plan to join us for a musical program of familiar standards, jazz tunes and inspiring originals guaranteed to keep your feet tapping and put a smile on your face. Check out our other gigs and performance videos.
For today’s featured section When I Fall in Love, I decided to play a standard that I performed with one of my middle school age students at our 30th Annual Piano Recital for our Natick MA Studio. Although I had played When I Fall in Love as a solo pianist as well as with Rebecca Wellons in our jazz duo when we first started, I can still remember rehearsing and performing this wonderful standard with piano student and vocalist Arden Knapp back in June of 2014.
Arden has been singing solos for the past few years despite her young age. She also takes vocal lessons. That year she had learned and performed When I Fall in Love with her Wayland Middle School Specialty Chorus under the direction of Stephen Murray. Thanks to Steve’s versatility and expertise, these students continue to be exposed to a broad repertoire of some wonderful music.
For as long as I can remember, I have encouraged my piano students to share their musical talents at our June recitals by not only playing their favorite pieces on the piano, but by also playing their other instruments or singing in a duet context with me.
As I’ve often told people, students rarely get the opportunity to play their other instruments as soloists. Thanks to John Cice, Director of the Natick High School Band program, the Honors Band Program has been incorporating this type of opportunity for the past decade. However, this is a rare exception.
As a piano teacher, I have had the many wonderful opportunities to play duets with some of my students. For the most part, these have been with those who play jazz trumpet or saxophone. Of course, adult student Ken Taylor and I continue to close our Annual Adult Students Piano Recital with one of our one piano-four hands jazz duets. Ken always selects something surprising for us to rehearse, but it’s always great fun!
Getting back to the reason for today’s selection, here’s what happened. Arden already came to me knowing how to sing When I Fall in Love because of her school chorus experience. However, with my jazz style accompaniment, even maintaining this song’s traditional ballad tempo, she was challenged to listen and expand her musical horizons. It was truly a duet performance with both Arden and I each responding to the musical contribution of the other. The result was marvelous and enjoyable for both of us. The audience of parents and relatives as well as the other piano students loved it too!
Today’s featured selection, When I Fall in Love was composed by Victor Young (1900-1956). Victor’s career began with studies and work as a classical violinist. He also studied the piano at the Paris Conservatory. This combination laid the foundation for his extensive work in Hollywood composing, arranging, conducting and performing on both violin and piano.
What’s interesting for those of us who play jazz, is that his creative output of jazz standards is generally limited to three amazing songs: When I Fall in Love, My Foolish Heart and Stella by Starlight (a fourth one, Street of Dreams is performed as well though less frequently than the other three).
Introduced in the 1952 film, One Minute to Zero, When I Fall in Love was sung by Jeri Southern. However, it was Doris Day’s recording in July of that year that reached number 20 on the Billboard charts. Edward Heyman (1907-1981) wrote the beautiful lyrics to When I Fall in Love which undoubtedly contributed to the song’s popularity. Interestingly enough, Heyman also wrote the lyrics for Body and Soul which just so happens to be my most recent blog post.
Written in standard song form When I Fall in Love is a 32 measure piece using an A-B-A-C structure. This configuration is fairly common among the standards and in this case, it works quite effectively. A quick clarification of song structures used by American Popular Songbook composers: in addition to this often-used form followed by Victor Young for When I Fall in Love, one of the most other common structures for standards is the one used for Over the Rainbow A-A-B-A (verse, verse, bridge, verse). These make it much easier to interpret and remember the standards.
When it comes to pop songs, however, the forms often follow the lyrics in whatever direction they happen to take since composers are often the performers. These musicians start by singing their lyrics to a pattern of chords. Thus you’ll notice even the melodies of individual verses can differ. So when it comes to exploring optional stylistic interpretations, musicians have a much more difficult time than they do with standards.
Although Irving Berlin and Cole Porter wrote their own lyrics and ended up expanding of song structures to accommodate their phrasing and extended melodic forms, their compositions relate much more closely in structure (as well as in other ways) to those of their peers. We can’t say this of contemporary composers.
For my solo piano arrangement for When I Fall in Love, I stuck with the traditional ballad tempo (after a rubato first chorus). I hope you enjoy the peaceful and harmonically rich approach that I took for this great standard. By incorporating some energy into the up-tempo improvised section, I was hoping to energize your listening experience by creating some additional variety.
Despite the fact that Spotify provided me with an extensive list of recordings of When I Fall in Love. I definitely had to sort out ones that reflected my stylistic preferences. Two instruments caught my particular interests: piano (as you might expect) and trumpet.
Pianist Oscar Peterson’s solo rendition is masterful as expected combining some bluesy lines and stride. Bill Evans recorded When I Fall in Love in both the trio and solo piano contexts. Though he takes a medium ballad tempo middle section with the trio, his rendition clearly influenced Keith Jarrett. You can hear this in Keith Jarrett’s ground breaking Trio Live a the Blue Note box set of CDs which includes a sensitive interpretation of this great standard.
As with so many standards that continue to be played by mainstream jazz players, Miles Davis’ Quintets established so much of the repertoire. I found his version of When I Fall in Love particularly engaging. Then there is the current extremely popular jazz trumpeter, Chris Botti. Chris plays beautifully and has recorded When I Fall in Love several times. While his lyrical interpretations unmistakably honor this beautiful ballad, he is an expert improviser over a variety of backgrounds. Check out his rendition at the Newport Jazz Festival and you’ll hear him really stretch the limits!
How about you?
Are you ready to stretch your limits musically or are you content to keep playing the same songs on the piano? If that’s the case, you are probably getting bored and have lost interest in getting to the piano.
Wouldn’t you rather be excited about playing the piano every chance you get? That can happen when you get the help you need to learn to play the music you love.
Why wait any longer?
You can now start incorporating Piano Lessons into your leisure time activities right away. The Ed Mascari Piano Studios still has a few openings at both our Natick MA Piano Studio and Hudson, MA Studio locations.
To find out if taking piano lessons at the Ed Mascari Piano Studios is right for you or your son or daughter, you can schedule a free interview /consultation with me. I will be delighted to meet with you at either one of our conveniently located studios in Natick, MA or Hudson, MA. All you need to do to get started is to take 20 seconds to contact us today.