I Know That You Know

I love jazz standards. I especially love finding great tunes that have somehow escaped the common repertoire (though tunes do cycle in and out of popularity). To celebrate my first gig as a bandleader in Boston, I thought it would be fun to profile one such tune that we will be performing tonight entitled “I Know That You Know.”

The website JazzStandards.com provides great background on the tune:

“I Know That You Know,” composed by Vincent Youmans with a lyric by Anne Caldwell (also known as Anne Caldwell O’Dea), was introduced by Beatrice Lillie in the 1926 Broadway musical  Oh, Please!  … Although the show ran for only 75 performances, the song rose to number five on the charts in 1927, performed by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra. The Benny Goodman Orchestra revived it in 1936 and took it to number 14 on the charts.

JazzStandards.com

This tune was on a couple albums I really enjoy but for some reason it did not stick out to me when I first heard it. It wasn’t until being introduced to Jimmie Noone’s version during Survey of Woodwinds Styles class that I was completely captivated. Between the great arrangement, the sweet tone of the alto saxophone on the melody, and Noone’s virtuosic obligato, I was obsessed. I have probably listened to this version well over 100 times at this point:

Years later, I found another take by Noone:

These are the two versions that I had already heard prior to realizing the splendor of this simple tune. In retrospect, they are absolutely amazing.

Nat King Cole takes it very up-tempo. I love his phrasing on the melody, especially how he sometimes pulls back against the time:

The infamous Sonny Side Up rendition, while great, somewhat obscures the melody with the heavy tenor counterpoint, which is perhaps why I did not realize this was the same tune at first. I love how the two Sonnys express their different musical personalities on this tune (and the rest of the album):

I was thrilled to find out that Sonny Stitt recorded this tune on alto:

Twice! (maybe more?):

My jaw dropped upon first hearing this stunning take by Art Tatum. His use of the whole-tone scale is particularly jarring as are his metric modulations:

And then I discovered “I Know That You Know” made some appearances in film. Here is a fun take from Tea For Two (1950). I love the incorporation of tap dancing in the performance of the tune. While there is some dated dialogue at the end of the clip, I think it is still worth a watch (or 50 if you are like me):

I then found this clip from Hit the Deck (1955). It includes a verse, and I have not been able to determine if that was added for this film or if it is original to the composition. While this performance is in the theater vein rather than jazz, I appreciate the way the delivery of the lyrics changes their meaning:

The lyrics to the tune seem pretty consistent between all the vocal versions:

I know that you know
That I’ll go where you go
I choose you, won’t lose you
I wish you knew how much I long
To hold you in my arms

This time is my time
Will soon be goodbye time
Then in the star light, hold me tight
With one more little kiss
Say, nighty night

They do not hold much substance, and while they are sweet, are not what attracts me to this tune. I think it is the unusual accenting of the 4th beat, along with the contrast elements of the melody with the first half being stagnant and the second half with a lot of motion, that keep me so invested in this song.

What do you think of this tune? Is there another version I should check out? Which tunes are you so crazy about that you have to scour the internet for every version you can find? Let me know!

IAWM Search for New Music Contest Winner!

I am so honored to have been selected as an International Alliance for Women in Music Search for New Music contest winner! My original composition “Survivor’s Suite” was chosen for the 2019 Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Prize.

Watch the premier of “Survivor’s Suite” from April 11, 2019

Now here’s the part people don’t usually talk about. This is my third time applying for this contest. It is always a little soul-crushing to see these types of press releases come out every few months announcing the winners of contests for which you also applied. Some days it is easier to handle because things are going well otherwise. Sometimes it is really hard-hitting to have that rejection. I just want to take a moment in the midst of my excitement to say that for every award I have won, there are many others I did not, and that’s okay. I want to be real about this common shared experience in the arts world.

A little background on the piece…

Toward the end of high school, I began discovering Duke Ellington’s extended works. I was already very familiar with the classics – “Sophisticated Lady,” “Take the A Train,” “In a Mellow Tone,” and the like. I was also pretty familiar with Ellington’s earlier repertoire – “Hot and Bothered,” “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “Black and Tan Fantasy,” and so on. But after hearing The Tattooed Bride, my conception of Duke Ellington, and jazz, was permanently altered. Then I started listening to the suites – Such Sweet Thunder, Nutcracker Suite, Far East Suite, Queen’s Suite, and others.

During my first semester at Berklee College of Music, one of my professors asked me what my ambition was by the time I graduated. I said, “I want to write a suite like Duke Ellington!” At that point, I had very limited previous writing experience, nothing beyond writing a basic lead sheet. I had never orchestrated anything for an ensemble before and had never written a through-composed work (one without a repeating form). I didn’t know the ranges of the instruments or anything about drum notation. I had only been using Finale (a music engraving software) for a few weeks. Yet, here I was with all the hope and ambition in the world.

A lot happened between then and now. A lot. And in spite of all the hurdles and setbacks and sidetracks, I somehow managed to pull it together and make that younger me’s dreams come true. I premiered my first suite this past April in my senior jazz composition portfolio recital, as part of a full concert of original big band music.

The content and context of the piece is intensely personal for me. I tried to convey my experiences of surviving through a very challenging situation in my life. I was afraid to perform it live or put it up for a contest to be scrutinized, but I did it with the support of my family, friends, and teachers.

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me achieve this and thank you to IAWM for supporting women artists around the world to create and build community.

Freddy Martin: My New Hometown Hero

One of my life’s passions is studying jazz history, as well as interplay of jazz’s evolution with that of American culture. I am trying to use my blog as a space for my musings rather than filling up everyone’s Facebook feeds. I hope you find this content interesting and that it shows another side of my musicianship, that of the researcher.


I am always thrilled to discover artists from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland has a rich history of producing great jazz musicians, so it was no surprise for me to come across yet another interesting character, saxophonist and bandleader Freddy Martin. While Martin allegedly did not consider himself to be a jazz musician, he was influential in the swing era and inspired some of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time. Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington’s long-time lead alto player (and my favorite saxophonist) gave Martin the nickname “Mr. Silvertone,” in admiration of his sweet sound. Legendary tenor player Chu Berry once cited Martin as his favorite saxophonist.

Upon first listening to Freddy Martin, the sweet tone for which he was praised was so evident. I am nostalgic for (if that is even possible, since I was not alive during this time) a return to the “sweet” sound of the swing era. The warm, lyrical quality of his playing is refreshing in comparison to the straight tone and busy playing in vogue now.

Another interesting aspect of Freddy Martin’s band is the repertoire, which included several classical pieces adapted to a dance band style. The most famous of these is “Tonight We Love,” adapted from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 23. Compare the two side-by-side.

The original Tchaikovsky

The Freddy Martin Rendition
(from the movie Mayor of 44th Street, the only video I have been able to find of Martin performing “live.”)

I was surprised to see hear this cross-genre work happening at such an early date (the film was released in 1942, so the arrangement was likely written even earlier than that). I often associate this type of experimentation with the Third Stream movement, spearheaded by Gunther Schuller (who founded the jazz studies department at New England Conservatory, where I will begin studying in a few short weeks). I also think of Duke Ellington and his adaptations of classical works for jazz orchestra (Peer Gynt Suite, and perhaps most famously, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite).

Ironically, Freddy Martin released his own rendition of the Nutcracker Suite (arranged by Ray Austin), 18 years before the infamous Ellington/Strayhorn arrangements! Check out these takes on the March.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1892)

Freddy Martin (1942)

Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn (1960)

This leaves me with so many questions! Was Ellington aware of the Martin recording? Was Martin’s embrace of classical repertoire an inspiration to Ellington, as Martin’s saxophone playing was an inspiration to Hodges? Did Martin and Schuller ever have any dialogue? Hopefully, with some more digging around, I can unearth some more answers.

Sources
Freddy Martin Obituary, New York Times
Freddy Martin, Encyclopedia.com
Freddie Martin, Solid!

Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Celebrating and Empowering Women

I was honored to be included in this story about the gender bias in jazz and how the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice is working to empower women and put female narratives back into the history of jazz. Thank you to WBUR and Amelia Mason for sharing this important story!

Hear and read the full story here.