Woody Herman: Tenderly

“Tenderly” is a fascinating song, originally written in three and often played in four. It has remained a standard all these years later, and has had quite a few recordings by pop and jazz artists, many of which sold in large numbers (I admit a weakness for Rosemary Clooney’s version, arranged and conducted by Percy Faith).

Sims, Getz and Cohn were gone, but Bill Harris was back, Gibbs was contributing wonderful solos, and Shelly Manne was aboard now that Stan Kenton had disbanded and was making plans to be a psychologist (!). But attendance at gigs was dwindling thanks to the infant television, and the final straw was the presence of drugs in many of the player’s systems. By November, Herman disbanded, later calling this edition of his band “an albatross.”

That didn’t mean that the quality of the music suffered. Hefti’s setting is so clever that you may not realize it is in three until it is pointed out to you, and his gift for re-harmonization and transition really shows here. Herman’s romantic alto sax reminds us of the wonderful ballad playing he was capable of, and solos by Harris and Ammons are equally lovely, as is the brief saxophones soli toward the end.

Hefti was also to change direction in a few short months. Wanting to simplify his style of music, he would create memorable melodies that Count Basie would eventually make world famous.

October 04, 2009 · 0 comments


Eric Dolphy: Tenderly

Two days in the life of Eric Dolphy. On December 20, 1960, he participates in Gunther Schuller's significant Jazz Abstractions Third Stream recording session in New York. To start the next day, he joins Ornette Coleman in a New York studio for Ornette's influential Free Jazz. To end the same day, Dolphy travels to New Jersey for his first recording date with trumpeter Booker Little. By then, perhaps, he needed a break from experimentation and a return to some standard tunes. He performs "It's Magic" on bass clarinet with just the rhythm section, and "Tenderly" unaccompanied on alto sax.

His solo version of "Tenderly" affords us an intimate and enchanting glimpse at how Dolphy could simultaneously respect and deviate from a song's melodic and chordal structure. With his distinctive piercing tone, he utilizes ostinatos, intervallic leaps and some intricate, nearly boppish runs to navigate the piece, occasionally appearing about to enter a swinging groove only to quickly fly off into another inspired variation or embellishment of a particular aspect of the theme. This off-center, uninhibited interpretation is, in the end, right on target. A rarity in jazz up to that point – a recorded solo performance by a saxophonist, and one to treasure.

May 02, 2008 · 0 comments


David S. Ware (with Matthew Shipp): Tenderly

Shipp rose to prominence through Ware’s torrential music. The second of two versions of “Tenderly” on Earthquation illustrates perfectly what Shipp brought to the process. On version two, Shipp’s stacked chords form the song’s core, serving as both the quartet’s navigator and Ware’s anchor. As the tune and the improvisation progress, it’s almost as though Ware wants to veer further and further from the melody while Shipp’s deliberate chords beckon, “Here, here, David.” What chemistry.

February 11, 2008 · 0 comments


Ben Webster: Tenderly

Hey, I'm only writing about jazz till there's an opening in Romance Novels. You may not realize it, but RNs generate $1.4 billion in sales annually. Plus, unlike jazz, they're recession-proof. I mention this because "Tenderly" strikes me as an RN in disguise. Ben Webster is an RN's dream, an archetypal hairy-chested brute with a soft spot for heaving bodices. His manly tenor ravishes with fluttery allusions to sighing breeze, trembling trees, mists, kisses and breathless caresses, interspersed with crashing waves, wet shores and lips taken willfully to keep those bodices heaving. (Excuse me, gotta run. Harlequin is calling!)

December 05, 2007 · 0 comments


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