Spotlight Tune: Dear Old Stockholm

By Sam Griffith

Great musicians are usually quite adept at making any song sound easy. Skilled rhythm section players support the melody (and soloists) by marking the form clearly, or providing interacting with the soloists. Soloists are able to improvise around the melody fluidly, create quality phrases, and shape solos in a dramatic fashion. Without looking at a leadsheet, or analyzing the tune, Dear Old Stockholm SOUNDS very easy to play.

It is not easy to play.

Originally a Swedish folk song, Dear Old Stockholm was introduced in the jazz canon by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. His arrangement of this song was later performed (and probably made famous) by the first Miles Davis Quintet. Davis’ performance of this song is iconic and a great example of how a song with unusual phrases can be performed in a beautiful manner.

ABOUT THAT FORM

Here is the structure of Dear Old Stockholm:

A: 12 bars (8 bar melody + 4 bar vamp)
A: 12 bars (8 bar melody + 4 bar vamp)
B: 4 bars (and no written melody!)
A’: 6 Bars (similar to the first 8 but truncated)
C: 9 bars (7 bar pedal-vamp figure and a 2 bar solo break)

Pretty weird right? Anytime this song is played (or taught), talk through the form. It will get messy. Some tendencies that will occur the first few times a group plays through this song:

• The bass player will forget to play the vamp in bars 9-12 of the A sections.
• The bridge will feel short. (That’s because it is short.)
• A’ will feel short. (It is also short.)
• The break at the end of the form will feel wrong. It will feel too long. Unless you only play one bar. In which case, it will feel too short.

In order to have a successful reading of this tune, it is important to discuss all of these sections.

THE CHORDS…

Aren’t so bad! Enough harmonic movement to help keep things interesting. Several vamps pedals for the soloist to freak out on. In my book….a perfect combination! The chords in this song are great, and not particularly stressful. The magic lies in keeping the form together.

Miles Davis First Quintet

This is the “classic” version. Any aspiring horn player would do well to learn Coltrane’s counter-line to the melody. Not sure if its on-purpose or not, but Miles does neglect the melody after the bridge. One could make a case for and against this. Unfortunately in these moments we don’t know what Miles was thinking and usually assume that he is making an artistic statement by not coming back in with the melody. Totally possible. This artistic statement hypothesis is further supported by the lack of melody at the end of recording. But its a little weird.

All of the solos on this are great. Red Garland’s comping behind Paul Chamber’s solo is great. Davis’ rhythm section does a great job of playing the form of the song and not getting to invested in the soloist. VERY important for a song like this where the form can get messy.
This recording is great. However, the lack of melody is a little weird and Miles solo feels a little tacked on at the end. Perhaps this is just a bi-product of the recording business.

ONE LAST THING

If you are playing (or even listening to Dear Old Stockholm) go out of your way to identify each section in the form. Everything else can be easily figured out. But clearly identifying/marking these sections will greatly help in experiencing Dear Old Stockholm.

Tune Spotlight is our chance to write about songs that have importance in the jazz idiom (or just an important place in our heart). For information on Sam, visit his website http://www.samuelgriffith.com

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