These melancholy ballads do well to express my mood this year. The first week of Spring 2020 began with all concerts, church jobs, club gigs, parties, music performances of all types being cancelled. My heart went out to musicians cutting short their tours, professional and social dance groups who couldn’t meet, students anticipating recitals, teachers who worked hard preparing their classes, weddings which had to immediately reduce their number of arriving guests and cancel a favorite live band.
I was looking forward to being a guest artist for a Jazz Combo Workshop concert on St. Patrick’s Day, and planned to play Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most as an intro leading into the hauntingly beautiful tune, You Must Believe In Spring, accompanying a male singer on that Michel Legrand ballad. I felt bad for Jim who was sounding so good when we rehearsed his songs two weeks before, plus I had put in considerable time finding the right voicings to suit his baritone voice and worked out my own reharmonization of You Must Believe In Spring.
For inspiration I listened to the exquisite recording of tenor Tony Bennett with pianist Bill Evans multiple times. However, the team of Bennett/Evans did the tune in a higher key; I felt the need to adjust my chords to sound clearly supportive for Jim’s lower voice. The song uses many half diminished (mi7b5) chords, which have a tendency to sound very dark. While thinking of the piano as an orchestral instrument, I experimented with the range & placement of my (small sized) left and right hands, keeping in mind how to voice the chords so they wouldn’t clash with or throw off the singer. (It should be noted that when an accompanist works with a vocalist the pianist needs to support and follow the singer’s phrasing. There is no need to play the melody – instead use complimentary chords under the vocal line, and add just the right touch of fills when the singer breathes – for example, at the ends of phrases.)
My father wisely told me no time spent practicing the piano is ever wasted. During this “stay at home” time until we get on the other side of this virus, I’d like to dedicate the following video to all the musicians, students, teachers, and audience members who sadly had events cancel, yet you are still are creating and supporting music in anyway you can!
For you, my solo piano medley of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most/You Must Believe In Spring – 2 ballads for peaceful reflection: