Gil Evan’s was well known for his ability to take fragments of melody or harmony and make an entirely new piece from them. Some of his arrangements became so different from their original that the term re-composition becomes more appropriate. Wait Till You See Her from the album Quiet Nights however, is a case where Gil borrowed just a small fragment. In this case from the 20th century classic – Concerto for Orchestra by Bartok.
The fragment occurs in the Introduzione and is a heralding theme by the trumpets. Gil uses the fragment as the introduction for Wait Till You See Her.
Introduzione – Bar 39 (Texture has been simplified)
- The theme is played by the trumpets with a horn and timpani holding a pedal note. The strings shimmer in the background.
- The time signature is 3/4.
- The harmony is very open and is loosely in the key of A minor and/or E minor
Wait Till You See Her – Introduction
- The texture is tight and tense. Extra percussion elements help to fill up the space.
- The time signature is 4/4.
- The melody has been transposed and embellished slightly.
- The harmony has been changed and loosely outlines a G minor tonality.
In these examples I have transposed Bartok’s melody so that they start on the same pitch. As mentioned above, Gil has embellished the melody slightly and the rhythm is quite different between the examples so I have bracketed the important notes in each phrase that allow us to see where the melody stays the same.
The melody rises up a minor 3rd to its highest point, and then falls down a perfect 4th.
The next phrase starts from a semitone below and drops another major 2nd. Followed by two semitones down and a perfect 4th downward to end the phrase.
Note how Gil changes the high Ab to an A in his version. This could have been to retain the tonality of G minor more clearly. He also did this in the first phrase, where he changed an Ab to a Bb.
Gil severely changed the rhythm from the original. Bartok started each phrase on the beat and prominently used semiquavers with longer held notes throughout. Gil alludes to the original 3/4 time, but sticks to a more standard jazz time by changing it to 4/4. He also makes use of triplets to keep the time more delicate and sustained.
The allusion to 3/4 time:
Bartok’s original is quite open and could be described as being in A minor. Throughout the phrase, major and minor versions of the primary chords are used which alludes to other key centers (A major and D major). There are also frequent uses of chromatic passing tones.
Gil substantially changes the harmony in his version. He changes the pedal note to allow for the use of a more harmonically open G dorian scale. He also treats the melody in much more of a modal way. He adheres to a vertical structure (a stacked 2nd and 3rd) which lends a haunting dissonant texture, but it also affects the way the harmony is utilized. For example in bar 8 & 9 of Gil’s arrangement, harmonic planing is preferred rather than sticking to any functional harmonic structure.
The pieces are markedly different in this element. Bartok’s texture is complex and constantly moving. The texture in Wait Till You See Her is simplified and clearer. Gil utilizes percussion to keep interest in the introduction until the start of the piece.