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BOTM October 2019 - Nancy With The Laughing Face

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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4,217
I was excited when Nigel roped me in kindly invited me to host this BOTM. First of all, I've often spoken of how much I love ballads, and this is one of my favorites.
You probably know the story about how the name and words weren't for Nancy at all, but the name got changed for Sinatra's Nancy. Legend has it Frank was in tears when he heard it. I have some further things I'd like to put forth after I do the usual format of links and examples, so first here are those.

Nigel created all the necessary files here:


I don't read music, so without his extensive labor, I couldn't be involved in these other than as a participant. Below is a playlist with over 30 versions of Nancy to click and choose from. I will call out a few I think are significant below it.


Sure, there's Ben Webster, Cannonball, Coltrane, Tony Bennett, Paul Desmond, Herbie Mann, and Frank Sinatra giving expected classic performances, but also many others. Kurt Elling's (Dedicated to You album) with a smooth Ernie Watts solo, and another orchestral arrangement with Ralph Reichert taking the lead on saxophone. Bob Berg plays soprano on Karrin Allyson's tribute to Coltrane's ballads album. Eric Alexander is on David Hazeltine's up tempo version.
Also lots of other instruments, piano, flugelhorn, flute, guitar. Oscar Peterson does what turns into an up tempo version with a heavy blues vocabulary thrown in for good measure. Bill Evans and Addison Frei put in more contemplative piano versions. But we are all about saxophones, so...

Saxophones

I won't gush on about the Coltrane version, but it's the one I have heard the most as I love the Ballads album and have listened to it hundreds of times. I learned the tune in F, that's the key Trane plays it in, and maybe a tenor player can explain why. I did move to Eb when the BOTM thing came up. The version is typical of that period and that album, a pretty straight but very soulful expression of the melody with some of the little slightly outside interjections between the phrases that he's famous for.

Ernie Watts plays some background embellishment with the singer, but his entry at 2:24 is magnificent:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFp0TFm7KcQ&list=PL8N_3Hpv_t3OwXp97hvFW7JWEosGd0geV&index=3&t=0s


I think it's important to listen to at least one of the vocal versions. In fact, while I didn't read the notes or chords, I did read the lyrics many times while playing.

Here's the Karrin Allyson, listen to how she phrases the lyrics (with Bob Berg on soprano).

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PwyoWj0PlA



Bob Berg does a beautiful live rendition with pianist Niels Lan Doky which was nicely filmed and recorded.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK3TXjlW1YI&list=PL8N_3Hpv_t3OwXp97hvFW7JWEosGd0geV&index=6


There's a lot to "parse" on the Cooper Nelson (alto) version. Listen to what Cooper does with the simple tune. This is an a treasure trove of rhythmic and melodic ideas. He uses some surprising staccato and a kind of disjointed rhythm sometimes, both to great effect.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32RqLLWLox4&list=PL8N_3Hpv_t3OwXp97hvFW7JWEosGd0geV&index=14


Whatever level you are at on the saxophone, as a member of this site I invite you to please make and post a recording. It will possibly advance your playing and no one will judge you. You may receive the occasional suggestion, but mostly you'll get the encouragement you need. For you longtime members, you know the drill, so with no further verbiage, I turn the mic over to you.

We all look forward to hearing your take of "Nancy"!
 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
Subscriber
Messages
4,217
Even if you don't have a recorded version and even if you don't plan to make one, any thoughts on this song, or ballads in general and learning them? Some people find them boring. I think they create a whole world of music to play.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,203
Even if you don't have a recorded version and even if you don't plan to make one, any thoughts on this song, or ballads in general and learning them? Some people find them boring. I think they create a whole world of music to play.
Really slow tempos throw up a whole raft of challenges, both technically and musically. There’s a big void if you don’t know how to fill it.

Chords come much more slowly so more time to think in this case, but everything is exposed and there for all to hear.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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Messages
4,217
Totally agree. I find some ballads impossible to play well on. For example, I like the song "The Way You Look Tonight". I think it's a nice melody, good lyrics (that matters in such songs), but the changes in the verse are so simple it's hard for me to find anything convincing to play. The bridge is better. Most ballads follow that scheme of at least two different tonal centers, which helps. IO guess the hardest is modal instrumentals. You really have to be together to make that right.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,203
Totally agree. I find some ballads impossible to play well on. For example, I like the song "The Way You Look Tonight". I think it's a nice melody, good lyrics (that matters in such songs), but the changes in the verse are so simple it's hard for me to find anything convincing to play. The bridge is better. Most ballads follow that scheme of at least two different tonal centers, which helps. IO guess the hardest is modal instrumentals. You really have to be together to make that right.
The thing I find difficult about that tune is that it gets stuck on the same few chords for a bit, making it difficult to not repeat yourself.
 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
Subscriber
Messages
4,217
Exactly the challenge. The movement in Nancy is much richer in possibilities without resorting to Disruptive Rhythmic Obfuscation™

(edit: my bad. The corrector wants me to spell English and didn't catch this wrong spelling in American)
 
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Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,203
Exactly the challenge. The movement in Nancy is much richer in possibilities without resorting to Disruptive Rhythmic Obfiscation™
I think the correct response might be yes but I’d have to look up obfuscation- I’ve been corrected to a U spelling!
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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5,703
without resorting to Disruptive Rhythmic Obfuscation
There is absolutely no excuse for resorting to Disruptive Rhythmic Obfuscation when Disruptive Melodic Obfuscation will suffice.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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4,217
Gentlemen, please, use the trademarked DRO™ and DMO™.
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Messages
5,703
Unintentional Rhythmic Obfuscation (aka getting off the beat) and Unintentional Melodic Obfuscation (aka playing wrong notes) are key features of my playing style.
 

Admitone

Member
Messages
147
IF you play with DRO™, DMO™, URO™, and UMO™, you'll likely get a UFO™. Often it's RRR™ (round, red, and rotten).
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
Subscriber
Messages
4,217
Well if it's unintentional, I guess we won't judge. Let's hear some renditions of Nancy!
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
Subscriber
Messages
4,217
Here's my effort. A few "oops" moments in there, but not too bad for a Wednesday evening! Nice choice Randulo.
Very nice, Mark. Your initial exposition of the melody fits nicely with the poetry of the lyrics, yet there's nothing over conservative in your use of notes, sprinkling them about wisely. Lots of creativity here, and nice tone.
 
OP
randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
Subscriber
Messages
4,217
Last edited:
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