Frank Loesser — “My Time of Day”

June 29, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

Today is the birthday of Frank Loesser, composer of one of the greatest Broadway musicals, “Guys and Dolls.”  The most frequently played song from that show, at least by jazz musicians, is “If I Were a Bell.” Miles, with his 1956 quintet recording, made it a standard part of the jazz repertoire, and that’s the version I was going to use here.

Instead, I’m going with “My Time of Day” – not so well known and rarely sung outside the context of the show. Here is Peter Gallagher in the studio for the cast recording of the 1992 revival. The saxophone player doing the intro so beautifully is Red Press.

The song is very different from standard Broadway fare. It begins in the key of F. The lyric for the first two bars is, “My time of day is the dark time.” The first emphasized note, “day,” is on the flatted fifth of a chord(G7) – very unusual for Broadway songs then in 1950 or now. Then comes “dark time,” a descending interval of a tritone, also uncommon.
A few bars later, “When the street belongs to the cop, and the janitor with the mop” is sung over four descending major chords – G, F, E, D – so unusual that I cannot think of another song with this sequence. A few bars later, the song shifts key to G major, which is where it ends. Except it doesn’t really end. There’s a tense chord that leads to the next song,  “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” a duet sung with the female lead.

Loesser wrote other musicals (“Most Happy Fella,” “How to Succeed”) but “Guys and Dolls” is by far the best.


Unknown said...

You're right that it's not so well known: I have a shelf full of fake books and it's not in any of them. Sigh; it's a lovely tune. The bloke I'm studying guitar with does a nice version of “I’ve Never Been In Love Before*,” though. But not much of his work is on youtube. Here are a couple of standard standards.

*: This is the tune that I first noticed that the Japanese term for the B section (sabi, from wabisabi) is a way better term than bridge.

Jay Livingston said...

It doesn't surprise me that this song is not in any fake books. It just does not travel well to places outside the show. And the chords and structure are so strange. The only jazz musician I can imagine playing it is Sonny Rollins, who liked to do tunes nobody else would think of doing ("No Business Like Show Business," "I'm an Old Cowhand," etc.)

I'm not sure what wabisabi means, and the Wikipedia entry didn't help. At least, I couldn't see the connection to the bridge (also sometimes called the "release" -- at least it used to). I like your sensei's playing. Am I wrong in hearing a lot of Johnny Smith there? (I've never heard of Archtop guitars. I wonder if they're sold here in the US.)

Thanks for the comment.

Unknown said...

More Kenny Burrell than Johnny Smith, but that's the idea. "Archtop" refers to the generic hollow body jazz guitar with a violin-like carved arched top as opposed to the flat top on flattop (folk and classical) guitars. (I can go on an on about archtops. Gibson is said to have invented the archtop to do similar punchy things to what banjos did, but nowadays the top/resonant cavity is about making a slightly more interesting, but still electric, electric guitar sound. Most current jazz guitarists just use an electric of some sort.)

Well, if Rollins had played it, it'd be thought to travel well...

The dictionary at hand* gives "The aesthetic sense in Japanese art emphasising quiet simplicity and subdued refinement." for wabisabi. Or the expression of that sense. Release is a good word, too.