Grandfather’s Waltz – Making sense of the form

Grandfather’s Waltz is a wonderful song recorded by Bill Evans and Stan Getz in 1964 (the Stan Getz & Bill Evans album) and again live in 1974 (on But Beautiful, recorded on a live date in Holland).  I transcribed Bill Evans’ piano solo from the 1974 live album – which I think is quite a little masterpiece.  The form of the song was strange, though.

Some time later, I heard from Dan Loschen, who was trying to make sense of the form. I’ve recently listened to all the recorded versions (that I know of), and come up with this rationale for the form.

The song is AABA with an interlude.  The interlude is the first four bars of the B section, repeated 2-4 times.  (One could say it is to the B section what Peace Piece is to the A section of Some Other Time.)

Referring back to the original recording from 1964 – actually there are two full takes of that track on the Complete Bill Evans on Verve box set – it’s pretty clear that the intended form is this:

  • Rubato piano intro
  • Interlude
  • AABA (Stan plays the head)
  • AABA (Stan solos)
  • Interlude
  • AABA (Bill solos)
  • Interlude
  • AABA (Stan plays the head)
  • Interlude, longer for fade

In the album cut from that session, the interludes are 16 bars long, but only 8 bars on the alt take (which also has just a single A section on solo piano prior to the first interlude).

I believe things just got a little out of control in the live version from 1974.  Here is the form that was played:

  • AABA (rubato piano intro)
  • Interlude (8)
  • AABA (Stan plays the head)
  • ABA (Stan solos – it seems pretty clear Stan played the B section early and the others followed)
  • Interlude (16)
  • ABA (Bill solos – I think he just copied Stan’s form mistake as an inside joke type of thing)
  • Interlude (16 – Bill solos through the interlude)
  • AABA (Bill solos, but doesn’t hack the form this time)
  • Interlude (16)
  • AABA (Stan plays head)
  • Interlude to breakdown

My guess: the reason Bill’s solo continued through the interlude was that Stan had left the stage and therefore couldn’t play the head out yet.  So Bill continued to play beautifully around the form one more time.   Halfway through the interlude after Bill’s second chorus, the audience suddenly applauds, which I’d bet was when Stan made a hasty return to the stage.

The live version of this song shows that the jazz greats occasionally have “form malfunctions.”  They just handle it better than I usually do.

Update: Here is the live version, via Youtube:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *