[Monday Note No. 86] Claus Ogerman was a great arranger who made wonderful orchestral albums with Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and many others. His collaboration with Wes Montgomery produced the 1966 album Tequila, from which we now hear Little Child (Daddy Dear).
Tequila is a commercial album, certainly not one of Wes Montgomery’s most important. Claus Ogerman merely arranges a few string parts. Precisely because it is an ordinary and unpretentious work, we can appreciate Claus Ogerman’s great ability to create with a few brushstrokes a tailor-made suit for its wearer: in this case Wes Montgomery.
Little Child (Daddy Dear) is a children’s song, a kind of lullaby in three-quarter time, which played by Wes Montgomery becomes a jazz waltz. The first part of the theme is in the key of C minor and moves around the first degree (Cm, measure 1) and the fourth degree (Fm, measures 8-9).
Wes Montgomery plays this part twice, limiting himself to a few modest variations in the second. The piece continues by modulating to the relative major key (Eb, measures 18-25) before returning again to Cm (measures 26-33).
In this second part, we can appreciate Claus Ogerman’s work even more. In measures 18-25, the string section takes centre stage and play a second melodic line that overlaps the main theme.
One of Claus Ogerman’s hallmarks is the use of the sus4 chord as the appoggiatura of the minor triad, which we can hear in measures 16, 17 and 33.
The coda of the piece (measures 34-37) is also his work; the final four chords do not exist in the original piece. Claus Ogerman moves from the tonic chord Cm to the dissonant chord built at tritone distance (F#7♭5) and then descends again towards the tonic through F7 and D♭.
From a harmonic point of view, more happens in these four coda measures than in the rest of the piece. This is the imprint of Claus Ogerman, a great arranger capable of adapting to very different situations while maintaining his own unmistakable style.
Until next Monday