"... thinking over Sunday"

I've never been crazy about Sunday. It seems that, since childhood, I've always been too preoccupied with the fact that the dreaded Monday would follow to enjoy the traditional day of rest. I am, however, mad about the 1926 published "Sunday," the first hit for Jule Styne, who, in those days, was spelling his name differently. I like the song's chord changes and upbeat melody; "Sunday" is a very good vehicle for improvisation.

Music and Words by Ned Miller, Chester Cohn,
Jules Stein, Bennie Krueger

I'm blue ev'ry Monday, thinking over Sunday –
That one day when I'm with you.
It seems that I sigh all day Tuesday, I cry all day Wednesday –
Oh, my! how I long for you!

And then comes Thursday;
Gee it's long; it never goes by.
Friday makes me feel like I'm gonna die.

But after payday is my fun day;
I shine all day Sunday –
That one day when I'm with you.

Playing "Sunday" this Sunday evening, I thought of an interesting anecdote involving the song, in
Rhythm Man: Fifty Years in Jazz, guitarist Steve Jordan's autobiography:

The 1973 Chiaroscuro album Buddy Tate and His Buddies was recorded on a Sunday because of me. Producer Hank O'Neal called to say that Buddy Tate wanted me for the date with Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Mary Lou Williams, Milt Hinton and Gus Johnson. But the only night off I had from a regular gig in Washington was Sunday, and I told him it would be tough for me to take it and, anyway, there were a lot of good guitar players in New York. "No, no, Buddy wants you, not anybody else," O'Neal told me. So, the date was scheduled for a Sunday, and six prominent jazz musicians had to rearrange their schedules to fit mine. That was nice of them and good for my ego. That's also the reason why the old standard, Sunday, is on the album. After we had finished recording the special tunes for the date, a new piece by Buck Clayton, two by Buddy, and one by Mary Lou, we had time for one more. I suggested Sunday simply because it was a Sunday and because I knew it was a tune all these jazz veterans knew and would be comfortable with. Or so I thought. Mary Lou, a veteran of countless jam sessions and one of the best pianists of the swing era, insisted she didn't know Sunday. I couldn't believe it. Nor could Roy. "Everybody knows Sunday," Roy kept telling her, "Mary Lou, I know you know Sunday!" But she said she didn't, and when we decided to go ahead with it I wrote out the chord changes for her. And if you listen closely to the lengthy solo by Mary Lou on the recording I think you will notice that she doesn't play the melody of the song. I guess she really didn't know it. But it's a marvelous solo, anyway, as her solos always were, and conceived only from the chord changes, a kind of conception all good jazz players are able to achieve.

Both of us having read Rhythm Man, my mom and I one time discussed this story. I expressed my amazement at Mary Lou's not being familiar with "Sunday," but, like Roy Eldridge, Mom insisted that the pianist could not have not known the jazz standard. I like my mother's romantic theory – that "Sunday" held for Mary Lou some unpleasant association and, for this reason, she wished to avoid playing it. We'll never know, I'm sure, but this does seem a plausible possibility.

Having heard this treatment of "Sunday" since initially reading the amusing tale, I have to say that I am certain that Mary Lou's hesitation to make the recording had nothing whatever to do with a lack of acquaintance with the song. Jordan's right – she doesn't play the melody; she does, however, dance around it here and there, and her paraphrases, though brief, are close enough to indicate that she knew the ditty. Besides, she followed Eldridge who stated the melody in the opening chorus; any jazz musician would have taken off after the song was introduced. Maybe Mary Lou just wasn't especially fond of "Sunday." You'd never guess this, though, from the way she goes through the jaunty tune, tinkling brightly and throwing in the occasional modern alternate chord. Only Jordan's story would arouse your suspicions.

Ok, we'll imagine that Mary Lou didn't really dig "Sunday." Surely, though, she, who became an extremely religious person, loved Sunday. Me, I'm just the other way around.