To Reharmonize Or to Not Reharmonize

I love Jam of the Week – it’s a Facebook group with 55,000 members by now that contribute impromptu videos every week to a song theme that is posted by Farnell Newton, the mastermind behind the idea. The themes range from specific jazz standards to various artists/ composers to decades/ styles or just showcasing transcription artistry or original music. It’s a truly crowdsourced gem of ideas, performances, and communal encouragement on achievements and next steps. I feel like I have made some friends just from listening to their weekly contributions even though I never met them. Here is the link to the group.

Since everyone is encouraged to comment, every so often a comment makes you think about perceptions and approaches. I like getting challenged and I also enjoy considering various perspectives and debating rights and wrongs, even if the comment is critical there is always something to learn. So I’m hoping to get some perspectives on this recent comment.

On the 60s theme I posted my version of the Beatles’ And I Love Her, which in jazz fashion takes a new harmonic approach:

But of course, changing the harmonies and making a song instrumental changes the expression, adapts to a new medium, and some listeners might have certain emotional attachments to the piece that they feel got lost in translation. Nevertheless, jazz is an art form based on the idea of transformation and creating an individualized, new version with every performance Рhence, I was surprised to find this comment:

It’s better to stick to the Beatles harmonies and embellish those…in my opinion. They wrote “And I Love Her” that way with those chords for a reason….to sound harmonious and beautiful!

This week, the theme was 70s songs – so I moved on to Carole King’s classic You’ve Got A Friend from her most successful album Tapestry. I came up with a version that uses moving fifths in the base as drones and gives a dark character to the piece. Carole sings about friendship and support and it can be interpreted as a happy, encouraging offer for support, it could also be placed in a dark moment where such encouragement is needed. In any case, here is my version that I posted with the request to comment on the notion of reharmonization as a musical tool. So far most comments validated the idea as an important personal expression and a common practice that even Paul McCartney engages in when he plays a George Harrison song on Ukulele. What do you think?