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If You Could See Me Now (1946)

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Origin and Chart Information
“If You Could See Me Now” was written specifically for vocalist Sarah Vaughan.

- Sandra Burlingame

Rank 127
Music Tadd Dameron
Lyrics Carl Sigman

Tadd Dameron was one of the most influential composer/arrangers of the bebop era and wrote such standards as “Hot House,” “Good Bait,” “Our Delight,” and “Fontainebleu.” He wrote charts for many of the great bands--Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Billy Eckstine, and Dizzy Gillespie. He was also a pianist, although he considered that a sideline, but he recorded a few albums, including John Coltrane’s 1958 Mating Call for which Dameron wrote all of the compositions.

“If You Could See Me Now” was written specifically for vocalist Sarah Vaughan, for whom Dameron had worked as an arranger. She introduced it in 1946 with lyrics by Carl Sigman, and it became one of her signature songs. In 1998 her rendition was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Mel Torme recorded a memorable version of the tune in 1995 with Canadian trombonist and bandleader Rob McConnell.


More on Carl Sigman at JazzBiographies.com

More on Tadd Dameron at JazzBiographies.com

Oddly, “If You Could See Me Now” is rarely included in the lists of Sigman’s work because so many of his compositions and lyrics for songs such as “Ebb Tide,” “Ballerina,” “Enjoy Yourself,” “My Heart Cries for You,” and “Where Do I Begin” (from the film Love Story) fell into the popular, chart-busting category. However, his lovelorn lyrics for “If You Could See Me Now” are well-suited to Dameron’s complex melody and poignantly describe the feelings of a ditched lover:

If you could see me now you’d know how blue I’ve been
One look is all you’d need to see the mood I’m in
Perhaps then you’d realize I’m still in love with you.

The song never made the charts, but it was embraced by jazz instrumentalists and vocalists alike. As with most of Dameron’s compositions, “If You Could See Me Now” has been recorded by a wide array of musicians from bop heavyweight Dizzy Gillespie to bop-oriented vocalists Sheila Jordan and Mark Murphy. Dameron himself recorded it in 1962 (The Magic of Tadd Dameron), and pianist Barry Harris included it in his album Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron. It was picked up by pianist Randy Weston, saxophonists Phil Woods and Lee Konitz, trombonist Kai Winding, and drummer Paul Motian. More recently artists such as trumpeter Tom Harrell, drummer Winard Harper, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and vocalist Andy Bey have recorded it.

- Sandra Burlingame

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “If You Could See Me Now”

Original KeyEb major
FormA1 -A2 -B -A2
Tonality Primarily major
Movement Section “A” is based on an upward Eb major arpeggio, followed by a descending chromatic scale, then rising toward the end. Section “B” moves primarily by step.

Comments     (assumed background)

The I -IV7 harmonic progression in mm. 1 -4 of section “A” gives this piece a “blues” flavor, although this tune is not a “blues” in the technical sense. The progression in mm. 5-8 of section “A” is noteworthy in its use of the embellishing F#m7 -B7 cadence in m. 5. A simple I -V7(+5)/IV ( Eb -Eb7(+5) in the original) would have worked just as well. The changes Dameron chooses at this point are also heard in the final measures of a later Miles Davis tune, “Four.

It seems as if there should be a false key change in mm. 1-5 of section “B.” The piece never quite settles on a new tonic here, however. The apparent tonal center changes again in m. 5 of “B,” this time actually resolving to Bb major. This is the dominant key of the original tonic, so modulation to that key is a simple matter.

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

It was a coincidence that I had two Tadd Dameron tunes on this one record project. It shows how much I love his writing and how varied the scope of his creativity. “If You Could See Me Now” does it well on all levels. Even without lyrics, the melody and changes stand up as an instrumental. From the melody alone you can almost imagine a deftly told story of lost love, heartbreak, and longing to rekindle the romance. This expression of timeless themes is always relevant.

Amanda Carr, jazz vocalist/pianist

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Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

Pianist/arranger Gil Evans’ all-star session from 1957 included a smooth, lyrical trombone solo by Jimmy Cleveland on “If You Could See Me Now.” A veteran of Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra and of many recording sessions, his playing is clearly influenced by J.J. Johnson yet retains its own character rather than being imitative.

On his last session for Riverside Records in 1958, trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker performed an engaging, lean rendition of pianist/arranger Tadd Dameron’s tune.

Scott Hamilton, the marvelous anachronistic tenor saxophonist, takes the tune down a different path by playing it at a nice, medium bounce in his recording session from 2000. Pianist John Bunch gets a nice bit of solo space on Scott’s recording.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Gil Evans
Gil Evans and Ten
Original Jazz Classics 346
Original recording 1957
Chet Baker
Original Jazz Classics 1135

Scott Hamilton
Jazz Signatures
Concord Records 4939

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

Sarah Vaughan’s original 1946 recording of “If You Could See Me Now” (Ken Burns Jazz), with an arrangement by composer Tadd Dameron, is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song, and among vocal versions that is almost certainly true. Pianist Bill Evans recorded the song over a dozen times in different configurations; his 1962 recording (Moon Beams) is the first under his own leadership and is a lyrical masterpiece. Meanwhile, the important collaboration between pianist Wynton Kelly and guitarist Wes Montgomery experienced a highlight with their 1965 recording of the song (Smokin’ at the Half Note).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
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Sarah Vaughan
Ken Burns JAZZ Collection: Sarah Vaughan
Polygram Records
Original recording 1946

Vaughan elegantly interprets “If You Could See Me Now” accompanied by a string-laden Tadd Dameron arrangement. Freddie Webster, perhaps best known as a formative influence on Miles Davis, provides some excellent trumpet work.

Yusef Lateef
Original recording 1959

Multi-instrumentalist Lateef sticks to tenor saxophone here and offers a remarkably full-toned and lyrical reading of the melody, eventually passing the baton to Lonnie Hillyer for a trumpet solo.

Tadd Dameron Orchestra
The Magic Touch of Tadd Dameron
Original recording 1962

This gentle, lush performance allows composer Dameron to present his seminal tune under his own name. Otherwise obscure vocalist Barbara Winfield does an excellent job here.

Bill Evans Trio
Moon Beams
Original recording 1962

This trio recording with Chuck Israels and Paul Motian is a stunningly lyrical interpretation of “If You Could See Me Now.” Evans offers up some double-timed lines on his solo as well, with disarmingly soulful results.

Wes Montgomery, Wynton Kelly
Smokin' at the Half Note
Original recording 1965

Pianist Kelly provides a lyrical and heavily embellished reading of the melody to “If You Could See Me Now before giving way to a remarkable extended solo by guitarist Montgomery.


- Noah Baerman

Ranee Lee
Dark Divas: The Highlights
2000 Justin Time 144
Original recording 2000
On this wonderful track vocalist Lee does an exceptional job of evoking the spirit of the great Sarah Vaughan without imitating her. Her vocals are rich, eloquent, and handled with the utmost care.
Joe Lovano Nonet
52nd Street Themes
2000 Blue Note 96667
Original recording 2000
A well-arranged and well-crafted little big band version of the song takes advantage of each member of the group. Saxophonist Lovano leads with obvious deference to the source material and the musicians who came before.
Andy Bey
Ballads Blues & Bey
1996 Evidence 22162

Vocalist/pianist Bey has an extraordinary way with ballads. On this offering his rich, smooth voice conveys a melancholic longing that is impossible not to feel.
Winard Harper
Come into the Light
2004 Savant

This live date features a trio on this cut. Drummer/leader Harper plays some interesting tricks with the time while bassist Ameen Saleem and pianist Jeb Patton meet the challenge.

- Ben Maycock

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

Tadd Dameron and Carl Sigman

Year Rank Title
1946 127 If You Could See Me Now

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