All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Anatomy of a Standard

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

6

"Charade" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer

Tish Oney By

Sign in to view read count
Ever known for his peerless and timeless musical masterpieces created for the silver screen, Henry Mancini (1924-1994) opened the 1963 motion picture, "Charade," starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, with a masterfully written theme bearing the same title. Over his storied career, Mancini won six Grammy awards plus fourteen additional nominations as well as a slew of Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and wins for his film and stage compositions, among several additional awards. His 1961 classic, "Moon River," also co-created by his frequent collaborator, Johnny Mercer, (1909-1976) for yet another Hepburn film triumph, Breakfast at Tiffany's, won the Grammy that year for Best Music, Original Song. The Mancini/Mercer team managed to churn out some of the finest Great American Songbook standards ever composed for the film industry, including those mentioned as well as "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Dear Heart."

Melody and Phrase Structure

Being the mind responsible for the universally recognizable Pink Panther theme with its mystery-evoking use of sneaking, chromatic figures leading to a lingering "sharp four" (reminding us that dissonance can sound wonderful), Mancini treats the melody of "Charade" no less brilliantly. Beginning this waltz in a double-time feel with a Phrygian figure in the first three notes, the composer sets up the listener's ears for a delight of the senses. He then leaps the melody up a perfect fifth where it lands on the ninth of the minor scale, a bold departure from most popular songs of the era whose conservative, often stepwise melodies lent themselves to be sung or played easily by the average listener. The Phrygian semitone relationship returns in the next sub-phrase, but turns its contour downward, eventually finding the ninth an octave lower, in contrast with its initial jump skyward in measure two (the author considers this piece as having sixteen-bar sections instead of the usual eight as in other AABA form tunes). At mm. 9-13, a two-bar motive appears thrice in repetition with a modification on the end. This being the case, the first two (identical) A sections can be broken down into sub-phrases thusly: 4 measures + 4 measures + 2 +2 + 4, with the final sub-phrase having an extension that steps down to tonic.

At the bridge, Mancini shifts the tonal center up a third to the relative major key, giving the minor melody soaring climactic energy at a crucial point in the song. Playing up the potential for a rousing climax, he sends the melody up a full octave from whence it had just resolved into a cadence, to begin the new B theme. The melody continues to climb by step to the new tonic before falling downward by leap through a long string of thirds. The leap of a sixth and a descending delineation of a major triad precede another sixth leap to the fifth of the new key. Then the whole process begins again for the second half of the bridge where the first sub-phrase remains the same, but the last is modified to include stepwise motion that stays in a lower register, reserving its energy for the last A section's late release of built-up tension. The phrase structure of the bridge reverts to the usual stock pattern of sub-phrases, providing necessary contrast between A and B: 4 measures + 4 + 4 + 4. In the final A, the melody stays the same as the first two iterations of A until the final three measures of the tune, "best on the bill, charade," where the formerly downward contour sharply leaps upward to the (flat) third scale degree (also the tonic of the relative major key in the bridge), then resolves down by step to the minor tonic.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read "Charade" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer Anatomy of a Standard
"Charade" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer
by Tish Oney
Published: June 28, 2018
Read "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg and Billy Rose Anatomy of a Standard
"It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen,...
by Tish Oney
Published: March 6, 2018
Read "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser Anatomy of a Standard
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser
by Tish Oney
Published: December 1, 2017
Read "Georgia On My Mind" by Hoagy Carmichael Anatomy of a Standard
"Georgia On My Mind" by Hoagy Carmichael
by Tish Oney
Published: July 28, 2017
Read "Close Your Eyes" by Bernice Petkere Anatomy of a Standard
"Close Your Eyes" by Bernice Petkere
by Tish Oney
Published: June 7, 2017
Read "Nice Work If You Can Get It" by George and Ira Gershwin Anatomy of a Standard
"Nice Work If You Can Get It" by George and Ira...
by Tish Oney
Published: April 24, 2017
Read ""Charade" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer" Anatomy of a Standard "Charade" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer
by Tish Oney
Published: June 28, 2018
Read ""It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg and Billy Rose" Anatomy of a Standard "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen,...
by Tish Oney
Published: March 6, 2018
Read ""Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser" Anatomy of a Standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser
by Tish Oney
Published: December 1, 2017
Read "Miles Electric Band at Koerner Hall" Live Reviews Miles Electric Band at Koerner Hall
by Alain Londes
Published: October 28, 2017
Read "Jazz Jantar 2017" Live Reviews Jazz Jantar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: December 21, 2017
Read "Diane Schuur at Birdland" Live Reviews Diane Schuur at Birdland
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Katie Thiroux Trio at South Jazz Parlor" Live From Philadelphia Katie Thiroux Trio at South Jazz Parlor
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "Herbie Hancock: Quintessential Quintet Live" SoCal Jazz Herbie Hancock: Quintessential Quintet Live
by Jim Worsley
Published: March 15, 2018
Read "Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery" Live Reviews Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery
by Jonathan Manning
Published: January 22, 2018