Tunes On Tuesday: If I Were A Bell

Why this tune?

If you’re a jazz fan, you may know If I Were A Bell as that Miles Davis tune from one of his great 1956 sessions for Prestige Records. Like so many jazz standards, though, it’s a song from a musical, in this case Guys and Dolls, written by the great Frank Loesser. Even if you’re playing show tunes like these as instrumentals, it’s still a good idea to learn the lyrics to really understand the rhythm and feel of the song.

It’s also always interesting to compare the Broadway versions of these American standards with the jazz versions. See below for two versions of this tune, a classic jazz reading by Blossom Dearie and the musical version from the 1992 revival of the musical, sung by Josie de Guzman. As a jazz player, I’m so used to the jazz phrasing, tempo, and interpretation that the “original” musical versions can sound a bit strange.

Dig this detail!

For this tune, it’s worth learning the lyrics because they’re another example of Frank Loesser’s creativity and cleverness. They’re also so much fun!

Yes, I knew my morale would crack
From the wonderful way that you looked
Boy, if I were a duck I'd quack
Or if I were a goose I'd be cooked

Check it out!

Miles Davis Quintet

Duke, CBlossom Dearie: the song sounds like it was written for her!

From the Guys and Dolls soundtrack: 1992 revival by Josie de Guzman

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer from Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology consultant currently working with nonprofit cllients

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