A few years ago Pat Metheny made a solo guitar “covers” record What’s It All About, a record I adore as much for the melodies he picked as how he nursed them. In discussing the idea behind the album. Metheny said,
I was born in 1954 and all of these songs were songs from the Top 40 during my childhood and early teen years. It was a period when harmony and melody were still important and viable elements in popular music. Every one of these songs has something going on that is just hip on musical level, no matter how you cut it. These are all pieces that have stuck with me over the years.
This was truly a golden era of the pop songwriter, and one of the most successful songwriter teams, because they were one of the best, was melody maker Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. Metheny did in fact cover one of their famous songs, “Alfie,” but any of another of their hits could have fit on that collection: “The Look of Love,” “Walk On By,” “Close To You,” “Always Something There To Remind Me,” “Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” and so on.
From the time of Tin Pan Alley, good melodies have made great fodder for jazz musicians, and one particular jazz drummer from Detroit recently tapped the Bacharach/David mother lode for his upcoming second release Cymbal Melodies. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” the 1969, Oscar-winning chart topper as sung by B.J. Thomas, is handled in a creative way by Young and his band.
Young makes the song a tale of three rhythms, starting with boogaloo, moving on to a James Brown funk cadence and then shifting to the double-time swing hinted at earlier. Ace organist Brian Charette, a veteran of Lou Donaldson’s bands, is well suited for this task, stating that classic melody for a couple of go around before holding down chords while Young briefly erupts on his trap kit. Later, the organist settles in on the harmony as guitarist Avi Rothbard steps to the fore with scorching notes and egged on by the increasing intensity of Charette and Young that brings the song to a rousing ending.
Hal David, as we all know now, passed away Saturday at the ripe old age of 91. But his songs, his conversational lyrics, will always remain fresh and youthful to folks like Pat Metheny, Jordan Young…and me.