Playing Bacharach charts on the piano is similar to discovering Bach for the first time – there is an immaculately thought-out structure that appears oh so simple, yet sophisticated and complex in it’s harmonic and melodic structure. There is little doubt that Bacharach and his most frequent collaborator, librettist Hal David, carried on the great American Songbook tradition of Gershwin, Rodgers, and Porter with songs such as The Look Of Love and I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.
Bacharach had an exceptional musical pedigree, studying with giants of the 20th century music Darius Milhaud, Henry Cowell, and Bohuslav Martinů. Although Bacharach didn’t pursue a future in the musical avant garde, we can imagine what he may have learned from such study through works such as Close To You, which centres around a single note before finally providing a musical resolution towards the very end of the song through a series of clever chord progressions. Bacharach quotes Milhaud telling him “never be afraid to be melodic”.
It’s also worthwhile to imagine what Bacharach picked up whilst serving in the army during the Korean war, performing and conducting dance bands. Bacharach wasn’t the only figure in the ‘Griffyn American Songbook’ to have performed music whilst in the forces…
Griffyn first explored Bacharach with an eerie version of Walk On By for dulcimer, voice, and alto flute, and reinterpretations of songs such as Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and the Elvis Costello/Bacharach God Give Me Strength.