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Alone Together (1932)

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Origin and Chart Information
“...One of the definitive readings of the tune.”

- Noah Baerman

Rank 89
Music Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics Howard Dietz

Jean Sargent introduced “Alone Together” in the Broadway musical, Flying Colors, while Clifton Webb and Tamara Geva danced. Flying Colors opened at the Imperial Theater on September 15, 1932, produced by Max Gordon and directed by Howard Dietz. The reviews were mixed, and it ran for 188 performances. The Harms sheet music from that era lists “Alone Together” as the top song, followed by “A Shine on Your Shoes,” “Smokin’ Reefers,” “Louisiana Hayride,” and “A Rainy Day.”

 

More on Jean Sargent at JazzBiographies.com
 

Regarding “Smokin’ Reefers,” one may wonder what a tribute to marijuana is doing in a Dietz/Schwartz musical. The song includes the phrase, “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Marijuana was not illegal in most states at that time and was probably a subject of great interest due to its popularity with jazz musicians and the ongoing effort to ban it at the federal level. The government finally succeeded in passing the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, with the state of Louisiana leading the way in these efforts. Another song from this musical, “Louisiana Hayride,” is purportedly a phrase meaning political corruption.

“Alone Together” moved onto the recording charts in late 1932, rising to ninth place with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra (Frank Luther, vocal), a group which Jerome Kern called “the String Quartet of Dance Bands.”

 

Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954
 

Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz were extremely prolific, writing over two hundred songs each. Of their many dozen collaborations, “Alone Together” is the most enduring and most often recorded.

 

More on Howard Dietz at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

More on Arthur Schwartz at JazzBiographies.com
 

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages


(Author/educator Forte devotes six pages to the song’s history and an analysis of its musical content.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Described as “haunting,” “remarkable,” “urbane,” “sensual,” and “a gem,” its brooding minor-key reflects the novel lyrical contradiction of “alone” and “together” as well as the conditional nature of the lovers’ strength. The lovers are portrayed as interdependent, clinging individuals who, despite a deep love, feel strong only as a pair in seclusion. -JW

Musical analysis of “Alone Together”

Original Key D minor
Form A – A – B – A
Tonality Primarily minor
Movement This tune is primarily step-wise, interspersed with skips no larger than a third. “A” rises and falls in a graceful arc, while “B” uses a sequential descending pattern from the song’s upper range; long, sustained notes.

Comments     (assumed background)

This Dietz/Schwartz ballad has the same dark, romantic ambience and slow-moving, graceful melodic lines as their other well-known work, “Dancing In the Dark,” but the tunes are very different in harmonic construction. This tune has a simple I – V7(b9) – I progression for the first eight measures, until the V becomes minor, turning into a ii of iv as the piece changes key temporarily (A7 – D7 – Gm in the original). This new key soon drops a minor third, however, leading into an unusual, but pleasing, harmonic sequence with a descending inner voice that makes it work from a voice-leading standpoint. In the original key, this is (from measure 9): Esus4 – E7 | Gm7 – C7 | Fmaj7 – Bbmaj7 |A7| Dmaj7|. On a keyboard, it will be noted how the suspended 4th of the initial E chord begins a line that descends in an exotic mode–one note change per chord change, this is A – G# - F – E – D –C#. “A” also ends on the “picardy third,” a parallel major chord.

“B” changes key to G minor by way of the dominant turning minor and thus into a ii7 of the new key (actually a iim7(b5) in which the b5 becomes the b9 of the new V7 chord – in this case, D7). The fifth of the new key of G minor drops a half step, turning it into yet another ii7 of the chord one step below (in the original F major.) Since the melody note is A here – the third degree of the key of the moment – a smooth common tone modulation is easily created by raising 5 and lowering 1 a half step. Because few melody notes land on chord extensions, jazz players have added many exotic harmonies and used different chord substitutions to this piece over the years.

K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
Musicians' Comments

I believe a more proper description for the structure of the piece would be “A-A-B-C” since the last section lasts only 8 bars instead of 14, does not end in major mode, and the melody ends in higher tension than the A sections. The song’s lyrics are very interesting from an interpretational point of view: Because they don’t indicate explicit sadness or happiness, the song can be sung with many different approaches.

David Benini, jazz composer and vocalist


I’ve probably played “Alone Together” for the last time, but the last time I played it, I forgot entirely about those extra bars tacked onto the A sections--the major-minor thing. It’s one of those tunes that fascinated me for a long time and then suddenly I lost interest. Maybe I just thought I liked it. Looking back, I don’t think I ever did!

Jessica Williams, jazz pianist www.jessicawilliams.com


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Soundtrack information
“Alone Together” was included in these films:
  • Hotel (1967)
Reading and Research
Additional information for "Alone Together" may be found in:

Philip Furia
The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Paperback: 336 pages


(2 paragraphs including the following types of information: lyric analysis.)

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages


(1 page including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages


(6 pages including the following types of information: history and music analysis.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 568 pages


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: summary.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Pantheon
Hardcover: 736 pages


(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)
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Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Soundtracks
Reading & Research

Getting Started
CD Recommendations
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By the Same Writers...

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Jazz History Notes

The late Artie Shaw had impeccable musical taste. He was an obsessive perfectionist, and his clarinet playing and the bands he led performed exceptional, quality music. Many of the tunes he selected for his big bands of the 1930s and 40s became standards years after he recorded them.

Shaw was the premier jazz musician to record “Alone Together.” The first reading was with his standard “reeds, brass, rhythm” band in 1939. He recorded it again in 1940 with a group including strings and with a different arrangement. Although both versions lean towards the smooth, instrumental, dance band style of that era, it’s Shaw’s brief clarinet expositions that reveal the improvisational potential of the song.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Artie Shaw
1939 Vol. 1
Classics 1007

Artie Shaw
1940-41
Classics 1167

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Alone Together.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

“Alone Together” is a very versatile tune. It is often performed as a hard swinging tune with a medium tempo, as demonstrated brilliantly on Stanley Turrentine’s 1960 recording with Gene Harris and the Three Sounds (Complete Blue Hour Sessions). Jim Hall and Ron Carter, meanwhile, demonstrate how the tune can be played in a looser and more interactive manner on their landmark duo recording from 1972 (Alone Together). The song’s more traditional context, that of a ballad, is wonderfully demonstrated on Hank Mobley’s ballad feature with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from a live performance in 1955 (At the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 1).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie Story
1994 Savoy 177
Original recording 1950
Gillespie’s first recording of this tune is noteworthy in part because the tune’s bridge had earlier provided the harmony for Gillespie’s tune “A Night In Tunisia.” Johnny Richards’ string arrangement is somewhat distracting, but Gillespie’s playing offers a classic example of how this tune can be interpreted in a ballad context.
iTunes
Miles Davis
Blue Moods
1991 Original Jazz Classics 43
Original recording 1955
Davis offers a relaxed version of “Alone Together” with a Latin feel on the melody and a slow swing groove on solos by himself, vibraphonist Teddy Charles and bassist Charles Mingus. Trombonist Britt Woodman and drummer Elvin Jones round out the unorthodox quintet.
iTunes
Jim Hall With the Ron Carter Duo
Alone Together
Ojc
Original Recording 1972
There is great interplay and tremendous melodic invention on this, the title track from the first of several duet collaborations between guitarist Hall and bassist Carter. This is one of the definitive moments in this great partnership and one of the definitive readings of the tune.
iTunes
Joe Williams & Harry "Sweets" Edison
Together/Have a Good Time
Blue Note Records

Williams offers a sly, assured rendition of “Alone Together” with swinging accompaniment by Harry “Sweets” Edison and his sextet.
iTunes
Stanley Turrentine, Three Sounds
Complete Blue Hour Sessions
Blue Note Records
Original Recording 1960
Pianist Gene Harris and his trio, the Three Sounds, match tenor saxophonist Turrentine’s prodigious level of swing on this delightful performance.
iTunes
Lee Konitz
The Lee Konitz Duets
1991 Original Jazz Classics 466
Original recording 1967
The fifteen minute “Variations on Alone Together” takes the duet concept to another level. Konitz switches between alto and tenor, and begins by using electronics to play “duet” with himself. He follows with duets with, in order, drummer Elvin Jones, vibraphonist Karl Berger and bassist Eddie Gomez. The exhilarating track ends with all of these artists joining for a driving quartet exploration.
iTunes
Art Blakey
At the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 1
2001 Blue Note 32148
Original recording 1955
“Alone Together” provides saxophonist Hank Mobley with one of his great moments as a ballad player on this tender, searching performance.
iTunes

- Noah Baerman

Jessica Williams
A Song That I Heard
Hep Jazz
1994
Pianist Williams subsequently recorded “Alone Together” several times as a solo. In this 1994 rendtion she engages her sidemen, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Dick Berk, to help pull some rabbits out of the hat for this playful reading.
iTunes

- Sandra Burlingame

Kirk Lightsey Quartet
Everything Is Changed
1995, Sunnyside1020
Original recording, 1986
Pianist Lightsey takes “Alone Together” uptempo with Jerry Gonzalez flitting around the melody on muted trumpet for the first chorus. Santi Debriano on bass and Eddie Gladden on drums have a dialogue under Lightsey’s second chorus improvisation.
iTunes

- Ben Maycock

Pepper Adams
Conjuration: Live at Fat Tuesday's Session
1994, Reservoir 113
Original recording, 1983
Joining the baritone saxophonist on this lazy version of the song are Kenny Wheeler on trumpet and flugelhorn; Hank Jones, piano; Clint Huston, bass; and Louis Hayes on drums.
iTunes

- Jon Luthro

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz

Year Rank Title
1932 89 Alone Together
1934 235 You and the Night and the Music
1931 257 Dancing in the Dark
1929 753 I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
1937 827 By Myself
1948 880 Haunted Heart
1937 902 I See Your Face Before Me

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