Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You Can Still Believe in Christmas

Here's a rough demo (voice and guitar) of a Christmas song I came up with a few years ago but just polished up this year.

S You Can Still Believe in Christmas C

If you don’t believe in Santa Claus
you might believe in love.
You don’t have to picture angels
in choirs up above.
You can still believe in Christmas,
that magic time of year
when family, friends, and miracles appear.

You don’t have to drain your bank account
to give someone a smile.
Kind words said to a stranger,
hey, now that’s the Christmas style.
You can still believe in Christmas
and warm a winters night
for love will always make the season bright.

I’ve had my humbug moments, 
held a Christmas grudge or two.
But I let them go, ‘cause now I know
t’was the Christmas thing to do.

I believe in Zuzu’s petals. 
I believe in Nat King Cole.
I believe that nearly everyone 
has some Christmas in their soul.
You can still believe in Christmas 
and toast on Christmas Eve—
t’is better to forgive than to receive.

Words & Music © 2011 by Lee Charles Kelley
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Summer's Waltz

I came across this tune while looking around on YouTube to see if there were any jazz waltzes out there about summertime. In fact I was hoping to find one with the title "Summer's Waltz." And I did! It also happened to be a very lovely tune.

It was written by jazz bassist David Carpenter. He wrote it in 2001, and unfortunately passed away a few years later at the very young age of 48. I got in touch with his widow (with the help of drummer Peter Erskine), and sent her this demo. She really liked it! 

I hope you will too!

(click on the title to listen)

Summer’s coming, the days grow long.
Bees are humming their old sweet song.
Birds are chirping, kids slurping their milk shakes and malts
and dancing to summer’s waltz.

There’ll be lakes to swim in and bikes to ride,
stones for skimmin’ and kites to glide,
there’ll be T-shirts and concerts and sweet somersaults
and dancing to summer’s waltz.

You can eat your fill at an outdoor grill
then find a girl to help you count the stars at night.
Yes, a summer fling may not mean a thing
but then again, who knows, it might.

(And though you hope that) summer leaves lasting mem’ries of
the dreams it weaves into summer love
there’s a reason the season hurries then halts—
it’s dancing to summer’s waltz

Music © 2001 by David E. Carpenter
Mild Cheddar Music (BMI)

Lyric © 2013 by Lee Charles Kelley
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Monday, September 30, 2013

She Takes Pictures

This is a nice little jazz/pop waltz about an amazing photographer I know...

(click on title to hear demo)

Sunshine, flashbulb or halogen,
the light leads her to inner peace.
You can almost feel the shock of oxygen
as each camera click brings sweet release.

She likes taking pictures—her world’s a camera lens—
quick photographic raptures, transcending all the trends.

Rock stars, hoods, and hipsters, denizens of cool—
it’s a kick to take their pictures. This chick is nobody’s fool.

L.A. to London, St. Bart's to Big Sur, 
a never ending blur streams through her aperture.
But in the shutter’s afterglow a shadow is revealed,
slightly out of focus in her depth of field.

She loves the game, she loves the game
of tryin’ to pin life’s moments in a frame.
So day and night, both day and night 
she hopes to catch the glow of natural light.
Windows and shutters and rainbows and fluttering eyes.
Double exposures bring subtle disclosures of lies.

When it all fades to blueprint blue 
there’s only one thing left to do…

… with all life’s little pressures, the things she can’t control,
they will keep her taking pictures to pacify her soul.

They’ll keep her taking pictures—there's always one more roll.

Words and Music © 2012 by Lee Charles Kelley 
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Always Summer in My Mind

Although this is a piano-jazz ballad, it was inspired by several songs Brian Wilson wrote for The Beach Boys, especially "Your Summer Dream." 

Note: there's a lyrical change in the 2nd verse which differs from the recording.

As usual the recording is just me and Janice Friedman (on piano) recorded in her living room with a hand-held Olympus voice recorder.

Brian Wilson

(click on the title to listen)

When autumn colors come to paint the park,
and skies grow dark, I’m not inclined
to let the season choose the clothes I wear,
for it’s still summer in my mind.

And when my radiator murmurs low
and winter snowdrifts form, I find
I’m by the seashore in the balmy air.
And it’s still summer in my mind.

I found my love as cotton clouds blew by,
one sweet July, long, long ago.
But then September came and summer said goodbye.
Years pass and I still love her so.


when laughing daffodils declare, “It’s spring,”
and skylarks sing just to unwind,
their shining fineries can’t compare to mem’ries
of her and summer in my mind.

It’s always summer in my mind.
A Johnny Mercer summer in my mind.
It’s always summer in my mind.

Words & Music © 2011 by Lee Charles Kelley
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Rough Demo
Vocal: Lee Charles Kelley
Piano: Janice Friedman

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Last Train to Mercerville

This one has generated a bit of interest here and there, especially the big band version recorded by Laura Ainsworth on her CD Necessary Evil. Note: after the introductory verse the lyric is made up almost entirely of Johnny Mercer song titles (in bold below).

(click on the title to listen)
Sometimes in quiet contemplation
when all the world seems tired dull and stale,
bored to tears with my computer’s cursor,
I yearn for an amusifying verser
whose clever lyrics always cure my alienation.

So if you share my fond preoccupation
with good old tunes that tend to tell a tale,
and words just terse enough not any terser,
as written by a certain Johnny Mercer,
perhaps you’d care to meet me at the railroad station…

...where Mister Bob White is Trav'lin’ Light
and dustin’ his shoes to The Blues in the Night.
Down on Skylark Lane, past Early Autumn Hill,
he’s boardin’ the last train to Mercerville.

Where Laura rides too on that train passin’ through.
On each train I caught, John, I Thought About You.
You were just Too Marvelous for Words at least until
your words charmed all the birds in Mercerville.

                  On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,
                  they know Something’s Gotta Give.
                  But the Mercer Line runs great 
                  and tonight I’ve got a date
                  to Accentuate the Positive.

And isn’t it fine, Come Rain or Come Shine,
to ride that old friend to the end of the line.
Ah, The Summer Wind, The Autumn Leaves that spill
across the track that takes you back to Mercerville.

(whistling interlude)

Watch her glide alongside the Moon River,
and Dream when you’re feelin’ blue,
where Fools Rush In
lovin’ the spin that they’re in
And the Angels Sing a Tin-Pan Alley hymn for you.

Well, that’s how it goes, and, John, these phrases I chose
fit Hoagy and Henry and Harold and those
the Old Music Masters who gave us a thrill
with jazzy strains aboard those trains to Mercerville.
I was born old fashioned, I’m Old Fashioned,
I love the moonlight, still. 
I’m just insane about that train,
a-hoo-wee-de-hoo-wee, to Mercerville.

                 Hop on board. Take a trip on a train, hop on board.
                 Day In, Day Out, 
                 That Old Mercer Magic has me in its spell
                 and Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home, Goody Goody,
                 The Days of Wine and Roses, Tangerine,
                 Jeepers Creepers, Time to Hit the Road to Dreamland,
                 and in The Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,    
                 I Remember You.

Music & Lyric © by Lee Charles Kelley
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP) 

Piano: Janice Friedman, Vocal & Whistling: Lee Charles Kelley

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It Was Just Like Love

Several years ago I saw a young actress on an entertainment show. She was asked about the rumors that she had been romantically involved with a famous actor. "No, we're just friends," she said. "But it's one of those friendships some people have, you know, where it's almost like you're in love."

Hmmm, I thought. There might be a song there...

(click on title to play tune)

It was just like love,
without the aggravation,
a rich blend of
warm friends, cool conversation
plus the thought
that rain or shine you've always got
great company.
That sounds a lot
like love to me.

It was just like you
to keep my engine purring
while guys you knew
were the same bad dream, recurring.
I still don't know
what made you feel you had to go
through all that fuss 
when it was so
much like love with us.

I guess I should have understood
the rules of the game,
should have used those tools of the game
that make hearts dance.
But sad to say I'm like those wayward
fools of the game
who'd rather wait for one true love
than waste time on romance.

Yeah, it was just like me
to fix what isn't broken.
To late I see
some things should have stayed unspoken.
But in a blaze
of reckless honesty our days
of fun were done.
I spoke one phrase
and watched you run.

(solo, repeat bridge)

It was just like bliss
that couldn't clear the runway.
At last we kiss,
though not quite in the fun way.
It's all gone bust,
yet as we kiss goodbye I trust
you'll share this toast.
"Wasn't it just like love almost?"
'Cause it hurts just like love almost...

Words & Music © 2006 by Lee Charles Kelley 
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Recorded at Birdland in NYC during a Tierney Sutton singing workshop.
Christian Jacob (piano), Trey Henry (bass) & Ray Brinker (drums). 
Opening piano by Janice Friedman. Vocal by Lee Charles Kelley

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New York in the Rain

Last summer, I was in the back of a taxicab headed up Central Park West. It was a cool rainy day. As I looked out the window, at the city, and at the people huddled under their umbrellas, I thought, "I love New York in the rain," then thought, "Hey, that might make a good song title."

I wondered what the story would be, then saw an image in my mind of two people meeting on a rainy day. A phrase popped into my head, "Under an awning, in the cool summer rain..." And I was off to the races.

Musically, my goal was to write a simple double eight-bar structure. But I also wanted to have a key change in the middle of each eight-bar section. Ironically, I thought about "The Warmth of the Sun," by Brian Wilson. I tried the same basic key change for me it was going from C to A to see if it worked, and it did.

In fact, it worked really, really well.  Thanks, Brian!

"New York in the Rain"

Some folks fear the weather man.
They don’t like to get wet.
I once feared the weather man
until the day we met…

…under an awning,
in the cool summer rain.
I’d just missed my bus, you just
got off the train.           
We talked and laughed
till coulds cleared up above.
            In a week or two
we two were deep in love.

And although we parted,
while springtime was new,
when I hear raindrops fall I
still think of you.
            And I wear a secret smile
I can’t explain
            except to say that I love
New York in the rain.

Words and Musix © 2010 by Lee Charles Kelley 
West Sixty Ninth Street Music (ASCAP)

Piano: Janice Friedman  
Vocal & Whistling: Lee Charles Kelley