Jazz of the Week: Waltz for Debby
Ah, yes. The irreplaceable classic.
Words can't describe how much I love this song.
I even wrote an article on re-harmonizing this song for jazz guitar players for FRETMONKEY records.
I don't exactly remember the moment I discovered this song, but I do remember the moment I discovered Bill Evans.
Browsing YouTube one lonely day, I came across his 1981 record, You Must Believe in Spring. Sitting there, I let the magic waft over me, and I was instantly hooked.
I launched into a Bill Evans obsession soon after, digging up everything I could find about him. Over the course of the next few days, I would religiously listen to Alone, Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, and, of course, Sunday at the Village Vanguard.
The accessibility in this song is incredible for a jazz composition. Many people who are not jazz enthusiasts often find the genre miserably boring; but that's not the case with "Waltz for Debby."
The song is in the key of F major and its A-section is played in 3/4 time. The genius of this song comes with its trio setting: The bassist, Scott LaFaro, customarily plays the root-note of each chord in the first five bars before descending chromatically and remaining in step with Evans, jumping back to the song's chorus and eventually launching into the B-section with Paul Motian, who plays the drums.
This communication between the players keeps the song rooted in the jazz genre while making its popular melody memorable and acceptable, like a good pop song would do.
The waltz-timing and rhythm of the song immediately installs a head-swaying flow in the listener with its rotating fifths. The sweet melody reminds us of our own loved ones. The synergy felt between the players completes the piece wonderfully.
And now, in today's day and age, "Waltz for Debby" has become Evans' staple recording, known and loved by all Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers, and the occasional millennial whose taste in music hasn't been plagued by bass-boosted kick drums and broken hi-hats.