HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN?

How deep? Well, BBC Jazz Club compere Peter Clayton merely observed “Paddington Basin is about 1 fathom with a muddy bottom”. Frankly, I’m more worried about how wide the English Channel may soon seem.

Anyway, here’s the leadsheet for the song:

Image (37).jpg

 

There you have it, as legible I could get it (though probably not on a smart phone!) – Irving Berlin’s beautiful song written in 1932.

You can probably see the dots and the chord symbols but probably not the lyrics which (in case you can’t) are as follows:

How much do I love you? I’ll tell you no lie

How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?

How many times in a day do I think of you?

How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

 How far would I travel just to be where you are?

How far is the journey from here to a star?

And if I ever lost you how much would I cry?

How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?

Very romantic and rather touching – not just schmaltz. Perhaps the most unusual thing is that every line is a question (or two questions), except for “I’ll tell you no lie”.

Irving Berlin (or is it a young Bobby Wellins? No!)

Irving Berlin (or is it a young Bobby Wellins? No!)

 Berlin was going through a lean period when he wrote it and it was first introduced to the world on the radio, not as part of a stage or film soundtrack. But it was an instant hit and was performed the same year by Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman, Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby.

The tune quickly became a jazz standard. It has been sung by Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday and countless others and been performed by every instrumentalist over the years from Coleman Hawkins to Charlie Parker to Miles Davis to Stan Getz and on.

 As you can see, the structure is two lengths of 16 bars (A,B) and the melody and chords (a pleasing original sequence) are ideal for fertile improvisation. It works as a ballad, or at slow medium or medium tempo and even fast.

To complement and illustrate the comments in this short blog, I have added this week to the “music” page no less than four very different performances of How deep is the ocean? I have chosen versions by

(1) the Bobby Wellins quartet with Pete Jacobson on piano from a radio broadcast inJuly 1983. This is a gentle rendition which suits Bobby’s haunting sound.

(2) A trio I led at the Eastbourne Undeground theatre with Barry Green on piano and Chris Laurence on bass in January 2008. This version shows off Barry’s amazing rhythmic and harmonic skills.

(3) My trio at the Swanage Jazz Fesitval 2006, when it comprised Gwilym Simcock on piano and Malcolm Creese on bass. TURN THE VOLUME UP ON THIS ONE to appreciate Gwilym’s genius. THE RECORDING LEVEL IS QUITE LOW

(4) My trio on one of a series at gigs at “The Lift” in Queen’s Road, Brighton, this one from June 2000 and featuring Chris Laurence again (my favourite bass player) and the exciting and unpredictable Liam Noble on piano. This is a barnstorming up-tempo performance showcasing Liam’s creativity. TURN THE VOLUME DOWN ON THIS ONE, THE RECORDING LEVEL IS A BIT HIGH!

Bobby Wellins

Bobby Wellins

Barry Green

Barry Green

 

Laim Noble

Laim Noble

Gwilym Simcock

Gwilym Simcock

Please go to the “music”page and enjoy these very contrasting takes.

And if you play in a jazz group, please add How deep is the ocean? to your repertoire. It’s a great tune to blow on……………….

Spike Wells