Sandy Brown Jazz

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Take Two

Somewhere Over The Rainbow




Take Two


Most people will know a young Judy Garland as Dorothy singing Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's Somewhere Over The Rainbow from the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the song didn't appear in the The Wiz, the 1978 take on the story that starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross where the most successful song was Charlie Small's Ease On Down The Road, where the music was produced by Quincy Jones. The Wiz is an interesting movie in that, to quote Wikipedia 'Upon its original theatrical release, the film was a critical and commercial failure, and marked the end of the resurgence of African-American films that began with the blaxploitation movement of the early 1970s. Despite its initial failure, it became a cult classic among black audiences, Jackson's fanbase, and Oz enthusiasts.'

Somewhere Over The Rainbow enjoyed a hit revival by Eva Cassidy in 1992, but it has also long been a favourite with jazz musicians. Our first take is by guitarist Stanley Jordan. I struggle to understand why we hear so little about this phenomenal musician these days, although he has recorded albums for the Mack Avenue label in 2011 and 2015. In 1985, when Bruce Lundvall became president of Blue Note Records, Stanley Jordan was the first person he signed.

Stanley Jordan has an unusual guitar technique: 'Jordan's touch technique is an advanced form of two-handed tapping. The guitarist produces a note using only one finger by quickly tapping (or hammering) his finger down behind the appropriate fret. The impact causes the string to vibrate enough to sound the note, and the volume can be controlled by varying the force of impact. Jordan taps with both hands, and more legato than is normally associated with guitar tapping. His technique allows the guitarist to play melody and chords simultaneously. It is also possible, as he has demonstrated, to play simultaneously on two different guitars, as well as guitar and piano. He plays guitar in all-fourths tuning, from bass to treble EADGCF (all in perfect fourths as on the bass guitar) rather than the standard EADGBE. He has stated that all-fourths tuning "simplifies the fingerboard, making it logical".


Here is Stanley Jordan's take on Somewhere Over The Rainbow:




Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow

Why, oh, why can't I?


Our second take is by Ben Webster. His style lends itself perfectly to the feeling behind the lyrics. It appeared on the albums Ben Webster For Lovers and See You At The Fair by the Ben Webster Quartet. Neither album appears to be currently available. but this live preformance video seems to come from the mid-1970s. The details are unclear, but it is suggested that Stan Tracey is the pianist, with Rick Laird (bass) and Jackie Dougan (drums).




There are other takes on the tune you might like to explore, for example there is a video of Keith Jarrett playing it in Tokyo in 1984 (click here), or this vocal version by Dee Dee Bridgewater with pianist Lang Lang (click here).


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Other pages you might find of interest :

I Fall In Love Too Easily
Tracks Unwrapped
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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