In memory of my friend, mentor and musical colleague, the great Vermont jazz bassist Ellen Powell, I wrote ‘One Time Only’, a tune based the changes of the jazz standard ‘There Will Never Be Another You’. Here’s a link to a video of my solo piano rendition of ‘One Time Only’. Like the vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn, Ellen was committed to exploring slower tempos, including ballads and slow Latin jazz feels like bossa nova, so ‘One Time Only’ is a slow bossa. (I wrote about Horn and transcribed one of her rare but highly swingin’ piano solos in an earlier post.) The melody of ‘One Time Only’ is inspired by some beautiful phrases Ellen played in a solo on a recording we made together; a link to that recording and a transcription of the solo is below. In building a new melody out of the phrases of a player whose improvising I admire, my model is the lesser known trumpeter and better known composer Benny Harris, who built his tune ‘Ornithology’ out of Charlie Parker phrases (see my blog post on that tune), repurposed a phrase from Bud Powell’s tune ‘Strictly Confidential‘ in his composition ‘Reets and I‘ (also originally recorded by Powell), and built ‘Crazeology’ (a.k.a. ‘Little Bennie’) out of phrases by Powell and Dizzy Gillespie.
As a side note, it is interesting to note that both Billy Joel’s ‘New York State of Mind’ and Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ begin with chord progressions that seem to be excerpted from the opening of ‘Another You’. As Joel mentions in an interview with Judy Carmichael, he studied briefly with the great jazz pianist Lennie Tristano, who had ‘Another You’ in his repertoire and recorded it a number of times, including this version from the mid-1950s. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, McCartney mentions that some of his earliest piano playing was accompanying family singalongs where ‘all the old aunties’ would sing ‘all the old songs’. Given that he mentions specifically songs as old as ‘When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along’ from 1926 and ‘Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)’ from 1922, it seems likely that ‘Another You’, which was published in 1942, might have been included, as we can assume the singalongs he was playing for were likely in the early 1950s.
‘One Time Only’ was inspired by Ellen’s solo on her tune ‘Good Dog, Want A Cookie?’, which we recorded for a compilation CD by local jazz players who played in the 1997 Discover Jazz Festival. It was produced and engineered by Joe Davidian and his father Rich Davidian at their home studio. Rich has also made a wonderful video for the tune featuring pictures of Ellen’s dogs, to whom she was very devoted, particularly Elsa and Muffin.