Spirits of the Songs
Ruby My Dear mp3 sample clip
The version of Ruby My Dear that I enjoy the most is on the Thelonius Monk/John Coltrane album that documented a lot of the music they had been playing at New York’s Five Spot Jazz Café during the summer of 1957. The music they were playing was simply ahead of its time. This ballad gives the listener a chance to catch their breath placed in the order of my band’s music.
Ballads are great transitional pieces in the jazz setting of one set of music (like heard at a club). What makes Ruby My Dear so special is that it came from the mind of a genius. Monk could write a romantic sounding piece of music like no other. When he was at the Five Spot Café with Trane, ballads were used to bring the audience together and change the atmosphere of each night. Their music was so fast and complex; the audience needed the shift to something slower every now and then.
When I listen to jazz, I pay particularly close attention to musicians’ song selection of ballads. I’m interested in which famous ballads those wish to interpret and present with their own music. Dexter was a king of ballads, but so was Monk. He was author of possibly the most important ballad in the history of jazz- ‘Round Midnight (second only to Body and Soul). I like Ruby My Dear because it is historically a fresh and less mentioned alternative to the mainstream champion of ‘Round Midnight (in the same way as Kenny Dorham is an alternative to Miles Davis.) I like trying to interpret lesser known work that many musicians often forget about.
Monk wasn’t a commercial success until Blue Note started documenting his work. Soon after this Columbia records signed him to their label. The Coltrane session comes in a middle point time with Prestige Records. Prestige, during the 1950’s, was documenting some very important work. The Miles Davis Quintet made a lot of records with Prestige that are today considered classic (as mentioned above under Well You Needn’t).
My album’s version of Ruby My Dear was recorded when I was only 17 years old (so were the other two Monk pieces). I have learned that time and age are key determinants in the art of playing ballads. Experience has a lot to do with a success interpretation, and I’d like to think the listener can hear how much I’d grown artistically when they compare this ballad to that of the Alternate take of Angel Eyes.