Everyone and his dog has covered this song, let's face it. Still, the sheet music was given to me in the late 90s by legendary session bassist (and jazz guitar virtuoso), Carol Kaye. I just had to learn how to play it. Great songs beg to be covered. And jazz standards have the best chord changes. I'm still learning how to play this one, many years later. Here's an instance where I wish I was on a grand piano, instead of my Roland RD 500.
I never had the opportunity to study jazz piano with a jazz music teacher (it probably shows in this performance, to a degree, given I am playing the melody of the song with my left hand), but in so many ways, I have learned so very much just from all the knowledge Carol Kaye has shared online, first on online community message boards, later via email and news lists. She was the first "web friend" I made when I first went online in 1996. When I was working for Sony Music in the late 90s, I got sent down to Los Angeles on business. Of course I contacted her, hoping we would be able to meet for coffee, as she was someone I respected enormously, as a musician, as a teacher, and as an enduring presence in the music business. Carol has enormous integrity, and a shockingly encyclopedic memory, unfiltered by heresay, media spin, and hype. She was right there when all the great music was being recorded in Los Angeles in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Carol is the real deal.
Carol ended up picking me up at my hotel and spent the entire day and evening with me, taking me on a tour of all the studios she had worked at throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, driving me around the city, enjoying a great dinner and good conversation, introducing me to her then neighbour, legendary session drummer Hal Blaine, then capping off the night with a visit to the famed Baked Potato, where we hung out with session pianist extraordinaire, Don Randi. Randi and Carol even played a set together at the venue. I played roadie, grabbing Carol's guitar from out of her trunk (always at the ready!) It was quite a day, and of course I'll never forget it.
Even though Carol is a jazz guitarist and bassist, and I play piano (and of course, no where near to her level, not that I'm not working at it every day!), she has always been quite gracious about imparting her knowledge and insight on music. She is without a doubt, one of the most generous and gifted people I know, and I am so glad we became friends. I like her sense of humour most of all.
Back to Body And Soul. As much as I would like in the future to do a more swinging version of this song with some sort of band accompaniment, it's just me alone in the apartment. I'm doing a straight ahead instrumental version of this, trying to emphasize the jazz and pop elements of the melody and chord changes, because I have yet to commit to which version of the lyrics would best suit me to sing. The lyrics to the song changed over time, to suit the different artists of the day who chose to interpret it. (Billie Holiday sings one set of lyrics, Ella Fitzgerald sings another set of lyrics, Frank Sinatra sings yet another set of lyrics, etc.) I'd love to have a fireside chat with someone like Michael Feinstein, who might be able to give me some background on the trajectory of this song. I recall a few years ago, when an employee at Colony Records in New York told me a story where Mel Tormé was once at a party and sang Body And Soul in Johnny Green's presence. Mel did his best, knowing that the composer was in the room listening, and Mel thought he knocked it out of the ballpark. When Tormé went up to Johnny afterwards, Johnny told Mel flatly that he got the words wrong. That could just be a tall tale, who knows, but the group of old boys surrounding the record store veteran chuckled nonetheless, and so did I.
I think my favourite interpretation of this song has to be Ella Fitzgerald's live rendition found on the Frank Sinatra The Man And His Music + Ella + Jobim television special from 1967. Her melodic command is completely apparent in that performance. But yes, I do also adore the new rendition of this song, interpreted by the great Tony Bennett and the gifted Amy Winehouse.
Anyway, I look forward to hearing how my interpretation evolves over time in the coming years, as I learn more about jazz.
I dedicate my humble performance to the First Lady Of Bass, the one, the only, Carol Kaye, in the spirit of musical learning and practice. She's one cool cat.
She doesn't teach beginners, but she does occasionally take on new jazz guitar and bass students from all over. Thank technology and Skype for that!
Learn more about Carol, and purchase her educational material here: carolkaye.com
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