Jan 25

The Look of Love

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Ursula Andress – the 1st 007 James Bond Girl (Dr. No 1962)
and Burt Bacharach’s inspiration for ‘The Look of Love’

“The Look of Love” was released today, January 29, in 1967 – 54 years ago! It’s a popular song composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and originally sung by English pop singer Dusty Springfield, which appeared in the 1967 spoof James Bond film Casino Royale (definitely not to be confused with the 2006 version with Daniel Craig.)

It received a Best Song nomination in the 1968 Academy Awards and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. According to Bacharach, the melody was inspired by watching sex symbol Ursula Andress in an early cut of the film. I agree with Bacharach that the song works great simply as a stand-alone atmospheric instrumental, as you’ll soon hear.

WARNING! Music theory discussion ahead! Proceed with caution!

Thoughts on jazz improvisation. Talking about instrumentals, many of the songs that I’ve been recording are pretty ‘straight’ without much melodic improvisation. However, in the second verse of this recording of ‘The Look of Love’, I’m improvising using a jazz theory that I’ve recently discovered by George Russell called the ‘Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization’, first described in 1953. It describes a general music theory of harmony based on jazz rather than European music, and postulates that all music is based on the tonal gravity of the Lydian mode.

Russell suggests that all of music has a unifying theory, and it’s organized and tied together with the Lydian scale, which simply moves the fourth tone of the scale up one-half step. He doesn’t differentiate between scales and chords but simply refers to chord-scales, enabling a much broader melodic palette and which is also conceptually easier to understand and implement.  Of course, a certain aspect of improvising is instinctual, but his theory is very compelling.

His theory was started in motion by a question he put to then eighteen-year-old Miles Davis: “What is your musical aim?” Davis responded ‘I want to learn all the changes (chords).” [No kidding!] As Russell puts it:

“His answer … was somewhat puzzling to me since I felt – and I was hardly alone in the feeling – that Miles played like he already knew all the chords… I became mindful that Miles’ answer may have implied the need to relate to chords in a new way. This motivated my quest to expand the tonal environment of the chord beyond the immediate tones of its basic structure.”

Two milestone (no pun intended) albums were especially influenced by this theory, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (the best-selling jazz record of all time) and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Bill Evans was also among the jazz musicians for whom Russell‘s theories provided a harmonic background and a path for further exploration.

His Lydian Concept has been described as making available resources rather than imposing constraints on musicians. I had been searching for a melodic improvisational structure because I had become somewhat bored at the instinctual method to which I had arrived, that was simply informed by outlining the actual notes of the chord with some passing tones.

My basic summary of his concept: You’ll notice in the second verse I am mostly only playing single bass notes.  The chords are implied by the notes of the Lydian chord-scales (and their variations) that are suggested by his theory. Basically, (and believe me, I’m just into the basics so far), here are some of his  improvisation guidelines as I understand it:

1 – For major chords: improvise with a Lydian ‘chord-scale’ starting on the root of the chord. E.g., for C major, play notes in C Lydian scale (all white notes but with an F sharp, not an F)
2 – For minor chords: improvise with a Lydian ‘chord-scale’ starting on the minor third. E.g., for Dm7, play notes in F Lydian scale (all white notes – yay!)
3 – For seventh chords: improvise with a Lydian ‘chord-scale’ starting on the seventh. E.g., for C7, play notes in B flat Lydian (figure it out yourself!) (OK, all white notes with a B flat.)

A shortcut for me.  As a keyboardist, I’m used to making sense of things in the safe C major scale. So, a mental trick that I’ve come up with to learn and remember how to play the various Lydian scales is that once I figure it out, I then visualize how the scale would be played (up or down) on the keyboard starting with a C. So it becomes a matter of pattern recognition rather than having to remember the notes of an unfamiliar scale.

For example, I probably wouldn’t be able to remember quickly enough how to play a D flat Lydian scale, but when I figure it out and visualize it starting on C, it’s usually a pattern that I am able to remember, in many cases because in the past I had already instinctively arrived at the sound of that particular pattern but had not known what it was or what to do with it. I wish someone had shown me this book 40 years ago! I hope that the above thoughts may be of use to any aspiring musicians out there.

Anyway, enough talking (for now). Have a listen.


Dr. Weiss

COMING UP SOON: What’s the current science on masks and which type should I be using?

Some information taken from Wikipedia and Russell’s book, Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization.


Bosendorfer piano sound – For this recording I’m playing a Yamaha Clavinova – which has the same keyboard action as a traditional acoustic piano, but there are no strings. Pressing a key activates (in this case) a sound which was sampled from a Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand piano. Try listening to it with a good set of headphones! It sounds better than any piano I’ve ever played!!