Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" by Kurt Elling

One of my all-time favorite Cole Porter songs (and perhaps the best closing song ever written). In this version (from the album Flirting with Twilight, the last track) we start a slight piano intro ending on a half cadence. That's it, only Kurt and the piano on this song. Kurt comes in just off the downbeat and we're off on this slow, lamenting version of the classic. Kurt shapes the phrase so well, making each word his own. On the first line, he chops off the "a little" and ellides the line into the next phrase. This may not seem like much, but this causes the lyric to end on a PAC, and puts even more emphasis on the second line, as this time we have the final lyric, which changes the meaning just enough to make it feel new. Now for the second half of this verse we have a key change (like a small binary form) and continue to a half cadence in our original key by the end of the line. This pulls us into the second verse, which now could sound as a recapitulation, or a variation of the section. The piano adds a little fill between the pauses in the lyrics, altering the texture slightly with arpeggiations instead of simply blocked chords and suspensions like the first verse. The lyric once again chops off the end of the first line, pulling us into the second line and the piano matches it, slowly crescendoing through to the key change to the second half of the verse. We come back to the original key for the end of the line, but deceptively move away, moving to the terminative section, repeating the last line once more, then moving away again, as the vocal line sounds final, but the piano plays a half cadence under what was supposed to be an IAC, then the lyric finishes with a flourish, finishing on a minor i chord, with Elling singing the fifth, while the piano arpeggiates from low to high through all registers and ends on an IAC. Instead of repeating "goodbye" which would make just as much sense, he sings "I cry" and ends on the melancholy minor i, after all signs point to ending on a PAC in major. Just powerful stuff. Elling has the power to make any song he sings a definative version. He just has this innate sense of timing that comes out absolutely, especially with a well written lyric. This song also has so many great moments, such as commenting on the change from major to minor (we modulate into the relative major right before this line, then back to the minor right after it) and just capturing all the feelings that accompany saying goodbye to a loved one.

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