And now for something completely different.
This entire post is about a single song. A song with two titles. The first is, “A Melody in A Minor.”
Composed in 1911 by Charles Dawes, (1865-1951) the wordless tune, written for piano and violin by Dawes, was popular in its time.
It was even more popular in 1951, when lyricist Carl Sigman, wrote words for the tune and renamed it “It’s All In The Game.” The song immediately enjoyed moderate success. Tommy Edwards’ version reached 18 on the Billboard charts in 1951.
In 1958, however, when Tommy Edwards re-recorded the song in stereo, a slightly bluesier version, the song went to number one on the Billboard charts.
There are some facts about tune’s composer, Charles Dawes I find fascinating:
- Soldier, politician, and composer, Dawes served as Vice President under Calvin Coolidge from 1924 to 1928
- Dawes drafted the plan to help Germany recover from the first World War. He shared a Nobel Peace Prize for writing the “Dawes Plan”
- Dawes is the only Vice President or Nobel Peace Prize Winner to write a Billboard number one hit
“It’s All In The Game” has been recorded by many people over the years, including Dinah Shore, Louis Armstrong, Merle Haggard, Art Garfunkel, Van Morrison, and Elton John, under his real name, “Reg Dwight”.
But the recording I’m fixated with is by pianist, Keith Jarrett.
The tune is featured on the 2004 album “The Out Of Towners,” a live recording from a Munich, 2001 concert featuring Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette.
In the concert, the song was preformed as the encore, a solo performance by Keith Jarrett.
I can tell you the first time I heard Jarrett’s rendition. I was sitting in a Starbucks. I heard the strains of the song in the midst of the afternoon din. I tried to “Shazam” the tune but there was too much background noise.
I recognized the melody so I Googled “It’s All In The Game” and looked at the different versions. I quickly deduced it might be Keith Jarrett’s version.
I was blown away by it. And I still am. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to the track but it still fills me with a sense of calm.
In writing this post I found a review from “Jazz Times” where reviewer Thomas Conrad writes, “This sentimental song is played straight and unadorned, yet it becomes emotionally authentic, even majestic.”(November 2004, Jazz Times)
I wish I could better articulate why Jarrett’s version resonates so much for me. I don’t know why the performance stirs me so. But it does.
And sometimes, that’s enough.
Listen to Keith Jarrett’s version here.
PS: NPR did a story on the song in 2006, a fact I was unaware of until I started writing this post. If you want to listen, it is here.