Sunday, September 27, 2009

In a Sentimental Chapel

Today with the church band I did a mash-up of two songs whose opening lines echo each other almost exactly, though the harmonies, and everything else that follows, are completely different: Artie Glenn's 1953 gospel classic "Crying in the Chapel" and Duke Ellington's 1935 standard "In a Sentimental Mood." Elvis' version of the first is the most famous:

And it's hard to beat Ella's rendition of the latter:

The harmonies in Ellington's piece are particularly thick and rich: While the opening line of "Chapel" lands on the sixth of a major chord (in the Elvis arrangement, it's C# over an E chord, which is the subdominant or IV chord in relation to the song's home key of B), in "Sentimental" it lands on the tension-laden fourth note of a minor chord (in the Ella version it's an A note over an E-minor chord, which in this case is the sub-mediant or vi chord in relation to the home key of G). Essentially, the "Sentimental" harmony functions like a substitution of the "natural" use of the IV chord, then takes it on many winding paths, including an amazing bridge in the exotic key of E-flat.

But it's not just the cool substitutions and cadences that make Ellington's harmonies smudge and purr delectably in the ear; the melody almost pathologically avoids landing on the triadic note of the chord underneath it. Starting at the top:

Then the marvelous figure over the A-minor ninth chord:

The cadence of the first eight-bar section teases us by landing not on the tonic note but the second (or ninth) note of the G:

And it only just sneaks down to the tonic the second time:

In the bridge section, the pattern continues (the last chord should probably be spelled Fm9, my bad):

Then, the ear-bending transition back to the home key starts, not surprisingly for this song, on the fourth note of a minor chord:
And finally, Duke gives us the tonic at the end of all this lovely fizz. Most satisfying:

Here's my take on the whole Ellington chart.

UPDATE: This helpful site points out another song with a nearly identical opening line.

No comments:

Post a Comment