Lesson: Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" Revisited, Part 2

Reimagining a jazz classic, Part 2

Last month we examined the A section through the first ending of my solo piano arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s song “’Round Midnight.” This month I present Part Two of my article on reimagining jazz standards.

Second Ending Onward

This month, we pick things up at the second ending of my piano arrangement. It follows the lead of the first ending, but resolves with a somewhat Gershwin-esque flavor (sus4 to major to minor). The tempo change at the start of the B section sets up the bridge for an up-tempo excursion. A small melodic cell echoes the original melody of the bridge of “’Round Midnight.”

Beat 4 of measure 32 (played the second time only) begins a whole step ascension to the Bb7b9b13 chord in measure 37, a technique known as Constant Structure/Variable Function. Measure 40 requires some fleet fingers, but it looks harder than it actually is, especially after slow and deliberate practice. You might also recognize the trademark Monk whole-tone scale.

Measures 42-44 use octave and fifth/triad structures often associated with the pianist Chick Corea, who has a strong affinity for Monk, having recorded and performed many of his compositions. This progression mirrors Monk’s own for a pivotal part of the tune. Measure 45 has some diminished structures (derived from the diminished scale) that can also be heard on some of Corea’s work, but they veer off slightly in different directions. Measure 46 has another tempo change and helps shift gears with our trusty melodic motif established in the intro from Part One of this series. After measure 46, go back to the A section (measure 5 of this arrangement), and take the second ending. A restatement of the McCoy Tyner-flavored intro in measures 59 and 60 bookends the arrangement—almost. It’s followed by the recurring motif and another melody reference before one more resounding melodic motivic conclusion.

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You might be wondering where the original intro and coda are. I chose to use McCoy Tyner’s “lost” intro instead of the commonly played “Round Midnight” intro. The Latin-flavored coda usually associated with “Round Midnight” was not included due to space constraints. (A note of historical interest regarding the original intro and coda: Both were composed by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. They were so compelling and fit so well that many musicians, including Monk himself, used them to frame the song.) I hope my arrangement sparks some ideas and insights for your own solo piano excursions! You might find further inspiration in this video of Bobby McFerrin and Herbie Hancock performing "Round Midnight."

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Practice Tip

“Thelonious Monk composed the A section of ‘Round Midnight’ at the age of 19 and called it “Grand Finale.” A few years later, trumpeter Cootie Williams composed the B section for a big band arrangement. The two sections were joined and became what we now know as ‘Round Midnight,’” says pianist and composer Andy LaVerne, who has performed with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz and Chick Corea. His latest projects include the book Chords in Motion, the DVD Chords & Lines in Motion and the CD I Want to Hold Your Hand. Andy is Professor of Jazz Piano at SUNY Purchase in New York and the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut, and on the faculty of the Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops. Find out more at andylaverne.com

Click here for Part 1 one of "'Round Midnight, Revisited."