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BoTM March 2020: How Long Has This Been Going On

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
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It's no secret I love ballads. At their original slow tempos, they're relatively easy to play, yet they present a huge challenge with long notes and a greater need for expressiveness and good time. This month's ballad has been recorded at least 248 times by at least 100 artists, from Audrey Hepburn to Bon Jovi. There's a whole story behind the long and checkered life of the song on The Great American Songbook. I read somewhere that the song suffered because it has the little bluesy twist (the flatted third) at the ends of the A sections. By the way, one might think this is about infidelity like everyone thought the other "How Long" by Ace. It's weirdly about a young woman's first romantic kiss. The intro has several different versions of lyrics but the intro is not in the material here. The Ace tune was supposedly written about the bass player working with someone else!

Here's one of my favorite versions, by Boz Scaggs, released in 2003. Some serious tenor here, in my opinion.
Boz Scaggs, vocals; Paul Nagel, piano and arrangements; Eric Crystal, saxophone; John Shifflett, bass; Jason Lewis, drums.

View: https://youtu.be/e-v9--D-TdE


Ray Charles kills in this magnificent piece of work with The Count Basie Orchestra:

View: https://youtu.be/Kwzbfa-5SlM


Fast bossa: Sarah Vaughn starts with the long intro (1 1/2 minutes of the 6 minutes), the faster part is irreverent in a way that tickles me.

View: https://youtu.be/EbydK6ILi8w


In this very old Gershwin song, the charts show a lot of changes over a pretty simple melody. Unless you're deeply schooled in harmony, when you approach this, I recommend trying to play off the melody, rather than straining to make all the changes. I've generated two versions of backing tracks, one typical slow ballad tempo and one fast bossa groove, based on the Sarah Vaughn version I get a kick out of.

Traditionalists will like Ben Webster's version. Or, Chet Baker's. Here's a score reading video of it that may help hear the harmony.

Here is a playlist with 19 different versions of the tune.

I must thank @nigeld for his work, as I am incapable of preparing sheet music.

Here are the files you need to contribute, and I hope you will. I've included the lyrics, a MuseScore file (thanks again, Nigel), a BiaB to generate your own backing track and the dots and mp3.

 
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saxyjt

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That's another great song!

I just created a Spotify Playlist with Ted Gioia's recommended versions. Except Ray Charles that I couldn't find, but has been listed above...

I like these playlists as I can listen to them in my car so I get the song in my head! It's pretty thick, so I need some repeats to really shove it in.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
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I first heard this because my brother gave me several suggestions for ballads to learn. I searched for versions on YouTube and found a chart of the chords. I didn't hear it, not at all. I thought the chords were too complicated and dense to play over at my level. A quick run through of them on guitar made no sense to me at all. They didn't seem to go with the melody, possibly because guitar chords are limited and don't ever sound good if you don't understand the harmony, which was definitely my problem. Eventually, the harmonic scenario was coming to light: you see six chords in a few bars that really are just movement on one tonal center, so the chart appears several times harder than it actually is.

The melody could not be simpler. The first two measures have just two notes that go back and forth. What follows stays very simple, with clever variations on the rhythm, up until the bluesy climax line, "How long has this been going on?". Rinse and repeat the A section. The B bridge also is conventional, the first half alternates between two chords, then again a similar rhythm and number of chords in the second half on a different tonality. Then back to the A section.

This is a great song to learn because (IMO) it exercises every interesting thing about great songwriting and consequently, great interpreting of that art as you personalize the melody. In the past several months, I have recorded probably a hundred versions of this, one of which I will eventually post here. I would really like someone else to kick this off, either by recording it now or with an existing rendition of theirs. The song grows on you, at least it did on me.
Give it a try!
 
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randulo

randulo

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@Mark Hancock laid back city in the melody! Nice work all around, improv, sound, all good. I've always admired your cool "no big deal" look in these videos too. :D
Which of the sax or vocal recordings if any did you like best? I put my favorite tenor recording first, on the Boz version.
 

Mark Hancock

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@Mark Hancock laid back city in the melody! Nice work all around, improv, sound, all good. I've always admired your cool "no big deal" look in these videos too. :D
Which of the sax or vocal recordings if any did you like best? I put my favorite tenor recording first, on the Boz version.
Thanks Randy! If I don't actively try to stay calm when I'm playing I end up getting a bit frantic/panicked. The look is really a byproduct of it actually being quite a big deal! My favourite version was Ben Webster's. Love the tone and simple melodic style.
 
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randulo

randulo

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@U CAN CALL ME AL Nice minimalist approach, far far better than too many notes, the approach yours truly will be known for some day, if known at all :). Oh, I haven't posted it yet. Coming soon to a screen near you!
Did you or @Mark Hancock read that long and probably unnecessary post of mine above? I ask, because I was curious if you agree with my reflections about melody and all that, having played now? Or anyone else reading this (@Pete Effamy), I'm curious if you agree or not. It's ok to be indifferent, too.
 

Mark Hancock

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@U CAN CALL ME AL Nice minimalist approach, far far better than too many notes, the approach yours truly will be known for some day, if known at all :). Oh, I haven't posted it yet. Coming soon to a screen near you!
Did you or @Mark Hancock read that long and probably unnecessary post of mine above? I ask, because I was curious if you agree with my reflections about melody and all that, having played now? Or anyone else reading this (@Pete Effamy), I'm curious if you agree or not. It's ok to be indifferent, too.
I think you are spot on. The melody is much simpler than the harmony suggests. It really does seem to just shift between a couple of key centres. I wasn't thinking too hard about the harmony when I played it.
 

Pete Effamy

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I think that it's a melody that more or less demands that you don't mess with it too much. Lovely tenor work on the Boz Scaggs but my favourite is the Ray Charles - incidentally this album is not the two greats together, but a modern re-recording of the Basie arrangement behind Ray.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
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I think that it's a melody that more or less demands that you don't mess with it too much. Lovely tenor work on the Boz Scaggs but my favourite is the Ray Charles - incidentally this album is not the two greats together, but a modern re-recording of the Basie arrangement behind Ray.
Anything Ray does is great, I agree it's a fantastic sound together. I do live that tenir on the Boz recording. I didn't listen to much of the Van Morrison one. My next favorite is the Sarah Vaughn. Coleman and Lester are giants, but that style isn't as dear to me.
 

rhysonsax

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My Playlist for this month's tune includes:




And another baritone version that I have transcribed and am trying to learn.

Rhys
 
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rhysonsax

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I finished my transcription of a two chorus recording of this month's ballad - this one on baritone performed by Ronnie Ross. He did an nice studio recording of the same tune with tenor player Art Ellefson, but I picked the concert recording he made in 1959 when Ronnie and Joe Harriott were playing in Manchester with the members of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ). Joe sat out for this which was Ronnie's feature performance of the evening.

Being a live concert recording I had to contend with a cougher who was sitting near a microphone. I also quickly discovered that the recording has at some stage been slowed down before I got it, so that it was about 70 cents under pitch and presumably slower tempo too.

My transcription is here: How Long Has This Been Going On - Ronnie Ross with the MJQ Live V2 - Baritone Sax.pdf - Box There are some lovely phrases, a quotation and a nice structure to the solo.

I made a BiaB backing track at the right tempo and my recording is here: How Long Has This Been Going On - Rhys baritone V2.mp3 - Box

Rhys
 
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