Just Thinking Of You suite for piano solo; 15' (2003) (very) loosely based on the melodies of Jerome Kern
1. 2. (“Hush”) 3. 4. (“Won’t You Please”) 5.
performed by the composer:
composer’s note: “Just Thinking of You” is a mostly quiet, contemplative piece, taking the wonderful melodies of Jerome Kern as a jumping-off point. The first, third, and fifth movements are all based on “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” taking the melody of that song and shifting the rhythm (and octave displacement) around just enough that it becomes a new thing, a piano solo with some of the feel of that classic tune, but with its own dramatic and musical goals. Those three movements act as lovely little reference points, to which “Just Thinking of You” keeps returning. In between those anchors, there is the pointillist “Hush,” based on Kern’s “All the Things You Are.” “Hush” takes that amazing melody (one of my all-time favorites) and deconstructs it, adding one note at a time until a big harmonic structure is built, containing all the notes in each phrase of the original song sounding simultaneously. And there is “Won’t You Please,” based on “The Way You Look Tonight.” That song’s intro is turned into a lilting melody, which slowly bleeds into an unusual 3-part canon that presents the “hit tune” of the original song, but rhythmically complicated, and in three different transpositions. Eventually this all leads to the middle section, a quiet and contemplative contrapuntal treatment of the “bridge” of “The Way You Look Tonight.” These are a lot of words describing the process of writing the piece, but all that is simply a way to create mood, a way to deconstruct these songs into something like watercolors.
As the piece progresses, those three re-imaginings of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” become slower, turning inward. In that way, the whole piece becomes a progression from extroversion to quiet introverted contemplation. Along that journey, the original melodies of these three classic Jerome Kern tunes are basically unrecognizable in the complex counterpoint and crystalline textures of this piano suite. But they help to create a harmonic and melodic language that feels simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary, both strangely deconstructed and strangely familiar.